When having a discussion about the advent of graffiti as an art form, which sprung from the ghettos of the South Bronx and the other boroughs around New York City, it’s hard to not talk about graff pioneers DAZE and CRASH. These two Brooklyn natives are among the first generation of artists to take graffiti downtown to be observed by the mainstream eye. DAZE and CRASH also had supporting roles in the Hip Hop cult classic Wild Style as members of the grafiti crew “The Union.”
More than 30 years later, the dynamic duo is still very active on the walls, as well as the television screen, contributing the backdrop art in the Netflix series The Get Down, which is directed by Baz Luhrmann. The Source caught up with DAZE and CRASH, and discussed their origins in the graff game, why their legendary status is just important to Hip Hop as DJs and emcees, and why some people may say why that graffiti started in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Source: What was the name of you two crew that you started off with?
CRASH: There is so many.
DAZE: C.I.A.(Criminals Invading Again), C.Y.A.(Crazy Young Artists), O.T.B.(Out To Bomb).
CRASH: I’m drawing a blank, there is so many.
Being that you guys are legends in graffiti and being that graffiti is the original pillar of Hip Hop, how do you think you two are recognized as opposed to other legends in Hip Hop such as DJs and MCs?
DAZE: I think that each one of those different elements rarely ever crossed over, at least from the art point they didn’t cross over very much. Guys that are musicians, that are involved in the musical aspect of it really recognized our contribution to the whole culture and a few of those people actually wrote graffiti themselves and I wrote with them and later on they became famous. They never forgot it.
Do you want to add on to that?
CRASH: The word “legend” is kind of wrong because we’re actually representing the guys that came before us, so whatever we do goes back to the guys that came before us in ’51 or’52, the guys that broke ground and showed us how and where to go. So whatever we do to this day it’s honoring them and remembering what they did and their contribution. So to me, they’re the legends, but if you wanna carry that message that’s okay, but I always think I’m here because of them.
For those who may not be familiar with graffiti and the graffiti world, who are some of the people that are forgotten about from that era?
CRASH: There is so many.
DAZE: I think that some guys, MITCH77, NOC167, were like an example for me. In some ways, PHASE 2. There are guys like TRACY168 and other guys that if your going to discuss that, you should know their names, you may not know their whole history, but you should know their names to some capacity.
CRASH: PADRE2…there is so many and whatever we do, we carry that with us and we don’t forget it. Some do, but I don’t. Like you said, the original pillars. We grew up in the ’60s.
A little covert argument as to whether graffiti started in Philadelphia or New York. Wanna weigh in on that?
CRASH: It doesn’t make difference. If there is a six month difference because Philadelphia said they started in ’68 and New York said we started through ’70-72. They were going back and forth through Amtrak. So whoever did it first does it matter? Whether it was CORNBREAD or TAKI183 in that point in time it didn’t really matter. maybe to them, but most of it does not.
You two did the backdrop for a few episodes of The Get Down so how did you two get with Baz Luhrmann?
DAZE: Well, he reached out to us, because he realized that in terms of the musical aspect of the show he had consultants that covered that part such as Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and I think Nas was involved in some way. He had that aspect but he didn’t have anyone representing that particular era which was from the mid 70s on and he realized that was an important part of the show as well. At that point, he reached out to us through a scriptwriter that wrote for the show.
How would you two compare how you were approached for Wild Style in comparison to how it went down with The Get Down?
DAZE: It was totally different, I’ll give you a good example when we were filming Wild Style, it was almost like we were just doing a favor because we had no idea if anyone would like it. It was almost like a burden. We had no idea how big it would become. It was like we were doing them a favor and we were glad to do it, but no one knew it would become this big, not even the director thought it would be this big of a deal, so we just look at it that way from a real homegrown perspective. Like yes, we’ll do you a favor. We’ll act, paint, we’ll do whatever you need us to.