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WILD STYLE;  I don't live by anyone's rules, but my own.



I was there from the very start!

I was born on Valentines Day in 1958.  When I was growing up I spent 3 days in Manhattan with m
y grandfather, who was Puerto Rican, which makes me Irish, Italian and Puerto Rican.  The other four days I spent up in the Bronx, in Highbridge.

   In Manhattan I grew up on the same street as the 136 STREET BOYS, you know, guys like: POLLO 136, CRAZY CROSS 136 and JOE 136, those dudes were killing the neighborhood.  Back then, before I was writing graffiti, when I traveled back and forth on the 1's and 4's,  I used to get off at 155th street.  I remember when Malcolm X got killed. 

     I was a little white kid trying to get on the bus when people were like "the buses aren't running 'cause Malcolm had been killed and shit was about to explode in a riot".  So my grandparents, who didn't have much money, let me take a cab (and back then if you were poor, taking a cab was like throwing your money away).  On the way, I remember seeing an original LATIN KINGS tag.  During that time, there wasn't really any graffiti as we know it today.  But the gangs got big;  The Black Spades, Ghetto Brothers, Savage Nomads - these were few out of hundreds of gangs.  I didn't become a part of a gang because I rolled as an individual.  But later I did do the colors for them 'cause I needed the money.

      I guess I started writing graffiti in like '69 / '70, in the Bronx.  We all started at the same time, for example me and FJC 4.  There was like a group of us that just came out of nowhere and started tagging.

  Back then, if you were a writer you had to be strong to survive on the streets.  You had to be good at racking up paint, and you had to be fast enough to run away with it.  Even more importantly, you had to have style, which I always had.  Mostly you needed a name; So what did I do?  I picked the most dangerous name of all; TRACY, my own last name.  It’s an Irish word meaning bold and courageous, a leader of men.  I’m from a long line of TRACY’s, my grandfather's mother's maiden name was Tracy, so that makes me a double Tracy.  I lived on 165th street but liked the sound of 168, so when choosing my name I added it at the end.

     At the time many writers were grabbing numbers, like the streets they lived on, and placed it at the end of there names.  This was necessary because there were hundreds of Dave’s and Frank’s; The numbers helped make it unique, so that no one could make a mistake of who you were.  Cops used to ask me my name all the time, and I was like: "Bobby O'Shea, or Michael Duggan." 

  I couldn't say my real name, because it was too dangerous.  Over the years, I'd put up other names like HAWAII 5-0, SEVEN - 11 and LOVESTER.  First we started on buses, a bunch of psychopathic kids from school hitting up our names during lunch, not realizing what we were doing...until we started hitting the trains.  We were like flower-power kids acting out of rebellion to things, like the Vietnam war.  Some writers got drafted to the war.  It was a scary time!  I remember a time when me and FJC 4 were tagging in between cars, in 1970 and I thought to myself...

    "There's no way I'm ever going to see this shit again!"  However, the same day, about 7 or 8 hours later, I got on the same train and saw our tags.  It was amazing, I mean it was fucking unbelievable!  Our stuff started reaching out to Brooklyn, and that's when I was like “WOW"!  We had a line of communication, and the media played no role.

 ~~ The primitive years of piecing ~~


    Eventually it became a competition thing between  me and FJC4, but we remained united. We lived on the D and 4 lines, but they painted the D's pretty quickly so our tags didn't stay as long as the 4 trains.  Remember, that before '72 all the trains were painted red, that's how you could tell a real old school writer. Some of the writers on those lines were: KOOL MOE TR, LEE 163, SUPER KOOL 223, HULK 62, COOL CLIFF 120, BARBARA and EVA 62.  

 Now this was becoming my line 'cause I was hitting' it every day. Around that time, I was going to Sacred Heart High School on 168th Street and Nelson Avenue.  We had writers like CLYDE, FJC 4, CHARLIE 158, SANTOS 108, RC 162 and CHI CHI 133.  Clinton High School had so man writers like LEE 163, LIONEL 168, SWEET DUKE 161, PHASE and other guys that I can't recall. Washington High School had STITCH, SNAKE, C.A.T. 87 and those guys, Writer's Corner.  So we wuz in competition, to see who could make their names the biggest, fastest, highest, and most colorful.  

    In 1972, anything we could think of, is what we did.  I was one of those guys that helped take it to another level with piecing, and I helped make that shit work.  We would  spray our names one letter at a time, just filling in, and outlining each one.  That's how primitive the shit was; but I was always a good artist, so my work stood out.

   The art grew fast...styles and designs. One thing that was very important was making mistake.  We had to be willing to take a chance, going to the yard and painting without being afraid of what will come out of it. Sometimes a mistake could be a great thing.  I was known as the first cartoonist on the subways, because when painting a masterpiece, and adding 3-Dimensional designs' and everything is almost done, I felt something else had to be done.  

    That is when I  created a cartoon to enhance my name.  I used cartoons  because, if you remember, cartoons never die.  They live forever!  So, cartoons are really establishing the fact that my name will live forever.  I guess we were all looking for immortality.  In the early 1970's, my name was on every IRT train that pulled into a station, I was ALL CITY.

    I was hanging out with Bronx writers and Brooklyn writers like SPIN and STOP 700 (whose real name was Ronald Cooper).  We found a lay-up to be very important in the graffiti movement.  It had a catwalk, in Brooklyn on Kingston Avenue, and it was a gold mine.  What made this a gold mine was that you had ten trains (which is about a hundred cars in length), and they ran with the windows painted and all. 

     They only ran during rush hour, so it was a sure thing that they would run the next day, without being buffed.  The TRACY 168 and RC 162 is proof of that.  At first that car was a mistake, I started adding colors on to it, and it turned out to become the first flame piece.  Bronx writers used to bug-out, because they didn't know which yard I was hitting!  They


 couldn't believe that I was out in Brooklyn doing pieces.  Who would go out there?  At the time the OUTLAW and TOMAHAWK'S street gangs were running rampant over there.  It was something like the movie "The Warriors". 

So we became kings instantaneously.  The art grew fast... styles and designs.  Again, the thing that was very important was to make a mistake.  You had to be willing to take a chance without being afraid of what will come out of it.  That is what it is all about.  Sometimes a mistake could be a great thing. I also did the first shadow.  Again, it was basically a mistake I made.  It had happened to me and PRIEST 167 were doing a piece.  

    I had an orangey thing going on with a back to back 3-dimension.  I dropped the 3-D behind the name, but didn't cut the edges in the angle of the three dimension.  And it looked like it fell behind the piece.

  The sun was so bright that day that somebody went, "WOW", because it looked like a shadow was cast behind my piece.  So they came to me to tell me that they liked my new "Shadow Piece".  I said, "yeah, that's what I did."  Many of the things I did were told to me from other writers; I had no fuckin clue what I was doing, I just knew it looked good.  The reason why I kept it basic with the two or more colors is to show the lettering.  

I find that if you don't have a real talent for doing letters, or if they are just not correct, using more colors is just a way to camouflage mistakes.  So, basically its trying to cover up a fuck up.  It's like putting garlic on bad fish.  There were many times I'd walk in a yard with no idea what the fuck I'm going to do.  Regardless, I always changed up my letters. The D yard was my yard, no one took over that place like I did.  It got to the point that I started doing pieces on top of the trains, and shit got so crazy.


 By 1974 Lonnie, (PHASE 2), had started the IND's.  They were very talented.  So now I was hitting up IND's and 3YB which was CLIFF 159's group.  Me and CLIFF were writing together a lot then. I had met CLIFF in the early 1970's when he was hitting up garbage trucks with that bubble style tag of his.  I always thought he had talent but he didn't really care if he
did or not. 

 He and I hit a lot of bombing together, rows of thick pieces that weren't too complicated.  As a result, we were able to do 20 cars a night.  We accomplished this by checking out the yard the day before and then go back with IN.  While he was doing his throw-ups we were doing nice pieces and CLIFF started getting better as an artist.  I did a lot of work with CLIFF, who was a master writer and even went ALL CITY.  One of the most famous top-to-bottoms we did together, was the one we did inside and out.

 I think it was brilliant.  That night we just finished doing a whole car top-to-bottom on the outside, when at the spur of the moment, we came up with an idea to do a top-to-bottom whole car in the inside facing our work from the outside.  We did it so the passengers could see it during rush hour.  It was  still wet when the train departed from Kingston Avenue, so every

body had to stand.  That was the first whole car, inside and out.  A funny story with the inside piece is that LSD 3 boarded the train after one of his taking–tab-sitting-down-

getting-high-all-day-all–night-trips.  He told of how he walked in the train, and saw my name and Cliff’s name in the whole entire car.  I remember him saying that he couldn't understand how he could see through the train.  He said, “I would look at the train, see your piece, and couldn’t understand how I was seeing your piece through the outside.”  He didn’t understand it was the inside. It fucked him up so much that he thought the acid was just really good.  My first writing partner was FJC 4, then there was SANTOS 108, PROSOUL 165, RC 162, CHI CHI 133, and then I met P-NUT 2 and KING 2. 

I have written or painted with  some of the best writers in history, starting again with  FJC 4, RLM 2, PROSOUL 165, DENNIS 168, SUPER KOOL 223, COOL CLIFF 120, LIL HAWK 149, CLYDE, AJ 161 ( aka ALL JIVE 161 ) –  LAVA 1 & 2, KOOL BREEZE, CHRIS 170, BANANZA 1, LEE 163, MOE TR,

 LIL FLAME 1, KINDO, BIC 149, CHECKER 170, CLYDE, FDT 56, CHARLIE 158, SANTOS 108, SONNY 107, TAKE 5, JIVE 3, STONE HIGH, LSD 3, PHASE 2, RIFF 170, PRIEST 167, MASTER KOOL, ZEST, CLIFF 159, TE 163, PURPLE HAZE 168, TUC 2, FRUIT, PNUT 2, KING 2, HOY 56, WASP 1, FLICK 1, CAINE 1, TAGE 1, STAY HIGH 149, FUZZ (from Brooklyn, he use to Bomb with STOP 700) DEADLEG 167, TON 5, BUTCH 2, HI-C, BOP  BOP, LIL HAWK 149, BUTCH 2,

 CLANCY 120, HILT 505, STOP 700, SPIN, HS 575 (HOT SOURCE 575) BOMB 1, LIONEL 168, PEL, BOT 707, BILLY 167, STP 1, COST 170, TURK 62, SPENCER 1, ANT 161, BANET, HYDRA 1, OZ 109, CHECKER 170, IN, ALL 2, COKE 1- 225, JJ 165, VINNY, WICKED GARY, WISK 5, A-TRAIN.  There are so many to name.


With partners, you go through a lot of shit together and the next thing you know your hanging out with someone else. You might not want to write with that person any more because they're writing with someone else, or you find someone with more style. Most of the time you want to go bombing with someone who has balls.  You can't make someone your partner who's afraid to bomb or afraid to do half the things you're willing to do.  If so, you end up carrying all the weight. 

I was wild growing up.  A real dare devil type of guy, hanging off of buildings and jumping off all kinds of things.  Every day I needed to see the grim reaper, otherwise I wasn't alive.  I thought I'd never see 17 years old.  In time, you always want a partner to have another partner.  Partners were and still are very important.  A partner was always some one that would take their name to places you did not want to go, and always carried their own weight. They have much potential, so I would guide them .  I wasn't a teacher, I was a sensei. RC 162 was one of my first hard core partners.

  In 1973, he was playing around in a train when he fell out the back of the train with MG 1, and was killed instantly.  He was one the first graffiti casualties.  That was the day I realized we’re not playing a game here!  This is not like Nintendo, where you get another chance.  It was a real tragedy, a real trauma to me, especially as a child. He was not only my writing partner, but my best friend.  He was only eleven years old, and for him to lose his

 life to this art form ... I won’t let him die in vain.  Many must understand that we risked our lives for this art form, not for some geek to place it in a museum and then a bunch of phonies to make money on it. 

"WANTED" ...

  WANTED was the biggest group that ever existed.  We had about 72 members and took over the whole city.  CHI-CHI and I were on 166th Street and Hillcrest when we took this clubhouse from the Savage Nomads.  There was a whole riot behind that shit. So now we had this great clubhouse where all the great writers were hanging out, and I had to figure out a name for our crew.

      This shit took days, because it had to be the right name, it had to be strong and powerful and represent us to the fullest...WANTED.  What was more important then if you were wanted!  You couldn't beat that with a baseball bat.  I mean we had writers like: CHI CHI 133, LSD 3, CLIFF 159, JOEY OO8, CHI CHI 133, CLYDE, PEL, FDT 56, KING 2, ZEST, LIL FLAME, LAVA 1&2,  PNUT 2, and BIC 149.  I’d go out and put writers down who had great style from other parts of the city.  

One particular instance, I remember was involving this one writer from Queens who wrote MINGO 1.  For a while this dude was killing shit and becoming a rising star.  I put him in the group and invited him to the Bronx to hang out with my boys at the wanted club house, but LIL FLAME was not happy about putting MINGO into the group.

 At the time LIL FLAME was writing MUCHO1 and felt that MINGO's name was too close to his own.  That is when they got into a big fight and a few of the other members jumped in. The shit got totally out of hand that I had to break it up.  I guess the dude blamed me for the fight.  But, shit happens!  Everybody wanted to hit that shit up and that became a problem, because we were no longer the best of the best.

 In 1975, I decide to do some CIA shit, where we would have a group of the best writers in WANTED and put them down in a special crew with people with a similar style to mine.  

I was with RIFF 170, MASTER KOOL and ZEST when we were walking down 172nd and Walton that I came up with TRAGIC MAGIC and WILD STYLE, at the same time.  I took the guys I needed from WANTED and gave the crew to CHI CHI.  That's how WILD STYLE started! To me, it's almost like a religion or way of life.  It started as a series of interlocking mechanical letters that we did our pieces with. 

  People would see a TRACY or a PNUT piece and they'd have a little WS inside them,  and whether they could read them or not, they'd say "Yo, WILD STYLE!"  So it was not only a crew but it was also the type of style we represented.  Years later, when the media came around, some stupid Manhattan writers were like "WILD STYLE, yeah, that's me."  When it wasn't them at all!

  That's like me claiming to be SUPER KOOL 223.  We were all like diplomats; We came in all colors, and there was no such thing as color in this thing. We were all the same because we were all artists, and producing positive stuff.  It was a beautiful time.  We took these dull, boring looking subways and we turned them into something beautiful, like a rolling stock of rainbows.  It gave people something colorful to look at on a gloomy day in the city.  Whenever the mayor took his trips to Florida – there would be a transit strike or a garbage strike.  Everyone was just stuck, so we helped take their minds off the horrors in their life.  It was a positive thing that come out of a negative thing with the gangs.

The above photos are examples of how invigorating my work became.  The photo on the far left I give homage to PHASE 2.  The center image is a 3-D "TRACY" to show how colors mix and match.  This is Federal Safety Rustoleum (style of colors ).  At times it felt good to get new different kinds of paint.  We used a lot of Red Devils back then. The idea was to use as many different designs as possible. 

 There were a lot of drips going on in the letters; drips were very in.  I outlined pieces in black, which I found that if you just left it alone without an outline, it looked a lot better. Sometimes outlining would kill the piece.  The good thing about having five letters in my name was that I was able to stick something in the middle.  The A in the center photo could have had an Alvin and the Chipmunks A.

 It also, could have had Captain America's head (because he had an A on his forehead ).  I always stuck something in there to replace my letter A.  In the above picture, I had a star.  Sometimes I had a face, my famous TRACY face with the glasses.


TRACY 168, takes over the #7 line

 Another painter that I had great respect for, was CAINE 1.  WILD STYLE was everywhere.  We were up on the scoreboard at Shea Stadium, bombed the Staten Island Ferries and we were going out to all the lines.  Every line was easy to get to.

The only line that wasn't a regular line was the 7 line.  This is the Flushing - Shea Stadium line.  I lived in Yankee Stadium, and I don't want to be no traitor, but I'm actually a Mets fan.  My cousin, CUB 163 lived in Flushing on Holly Avenue where I would go out to visit him and my aunt.  On the way there I'd plan my take-over of the 7 line and felt I was the Christopher Columbus of that line.  

 I got bored with hitting the D yard because I was already ALL CITY on those letter lines.  I owned the 4's and was up on most of the IRT's, but the 7 line was an odd train.  It went across to 42nd street, and then only shot out to Queens.

It was an odd train line, and the colors were odd. When we got to that line there weren't many writers hitting up those trains, maybe guys like ROGER and CHINO 174 and a few tags here or there.  But there were no whole car Top-to-Bottoms, or colorful works. There was a background already painted on that line for me, Aqua turquoise (the color of the train). It was like a federal safety color, so all you had to really do was add a piece to it.  I went out there with CHI CHI 133 and we killed that yard in one night.  

 I invited P NUT 2 and KING 2, then took it over with colorful productions. We were pulling off so many whole cars which was never done on that line before.

Then there were a few up and coming artists with pretty good style from that line like, CAINE 1, FLAME 1, TAGE 1 and MAD 102 who started coming at us full force, which was kind of cool.   That's when I brought RIFF 17O, ZEST and PEL, all the masters from the Bronx, and went out there.  It must have blew there heads.  They were seeing styles that they could have never even imagined and could not even copy.  Around 1975, CHI CHI and I were in the fuckin' 7 yards, you know,

  where the weeds are as tall as you are and shit.  We were painting in one lane in the middle of the day when CHI CHI heard this hissing sound, so we stopped looked under the train and start walking toward the sound.  When we got closer we saw

some guys legs and shoes.  It was weird seeing this fuckin' guy wearing dress shoes in the train yard.  CHI CHI went over to him and asked him what he wrote, but he wouldn't tell us 'cause he thought we were cops.  We both caught tags and then he believed us. That afternoon we pulled out a crisp TRACY, CHI CHI, CAINE 1. 

He was an artist like me so we got along well. By the way CHI CHI 133, KING 2 and myself did the first whole ten cars ever.  That was our mission when we first got to the 7 line. What happened that night was that the cops came over us in a helicopter, and we took off just as we completed it.  They ended up breaking up those cars we painted, the next day. 

 CAINE 1 was not the first to do ten whole cars, as many think.  I stopped writing in 1977 to make a living on my talents, as an artist.  I did a lot of murals for storefronts in building's and shit like that.  At the time, there were no other writers doing that kind of  work so I would take a few rookies with me to fill in.  This one guy Julius, who went on to write T-KID, and another kid who wrote PADRE 2.  At the time these two dudes had no clue. T KID was more like a student of mine, since I had already

 mastered the "T's".  As a result, it didn't become too hard for me to guide him along the way.  I worked in an advertising agency designing Northern Bathroom Tissue, 

and Tanqueray gin designs.  Everywhere I worked, I ended up going back to work a second time.  I was always creating, so I knew the in's and out's because I worked under this professor, Jack Steward.  Jack Steward taught me how to copyright my name and designs, and he taught me to trademark everything.  He was like a mentor to me, and this guy was like "WHO's WHO" in Cooper Union, Boston School of Designs, Rhode Island, and more.  Basically, he taught me how to protect myself  by drawing a copyright, as well as introduced me to all the writers he knew.  

The Graffiti art form is now very important to Madison Avenue and is a billion dollar industry.  Therefore, I feel they cannot have a guy who grew up the way I did own something so important, so powerful.  That is dangerous to them.  I invented "WILD STYLE."  You see these people from Madison Avenue said, "That belongs to us."  One day  when this guy, Charlie Ahern and FAB 5 FREDDY (or FAB 5 FRAUD), approached me and asked me to do a low budget film.   People looked at FAB-5- FREDDY as some kind of hero in the Movement.  I started hearing from other writers that this fraud was passing himself around to newer writers as the original SPIN.  One day, I cornered him in a Gallery and exposed his avalanche of lies.  





 ................. An artist first, writer second .............

 When they approached me it was in a skating rink in the Bronx.  They were doing a film documentary on Subway Graffiti and Hip-Hop, so I said, "Okay I can relate.  That's sounds cool!" They said it would help children, more or less by broadening their horizons as well as others. 

 "When Charlie Ahern and FAB 5 FREDDY said they wanted to use the name "WILD STYLE", I said, "Okay you can use it, but I own the name."  There was not much money going into the film as it was a low budget film.  "If there's no money to be made, go ahead use the name,"  I said to them.  As a result, they decided to use the name for a title and it ended up making billions all over the world.  However, they didn't even offer me a dime.  Still to this day I am fighting this in court.  The political pull of this has me laughing; You got to  remember, I live in the slums with the real people, and these son of a bitches I'm suing, live across the street from the fuckin judge whose trying the case.

 As they say, this is rich America. They live up in Gooney-Goo-Goo- Ville, and we live down here.  But they're bending the law.  They called me a Vandal this week in the Law Journal.  Now I'm a Vandal they say, regardless that I've had my art work displayed in museums all over the world, and sold my art to some of the biggest companies around the globe.  I guess I'm not Keith Haring. 

 People really aren't educated on what the hell it's all about, on the other hand, they're being introduced to some thing that is very old.  It's like bringing an old record out... Listening to James Brown for the first time when no one ever heard of him before, "WOW, this is the greatest thing!"  Creativity is important, the truth is important; and the one thing I wont tolerate is taking this thing and changing the truth of it.  That is why I'm still here!  From the soul!  I'm going to walk the earth like that character Cain from that T.V. show "Kung Fu", exposing all the lies and fakes out there.  "Woo-Woo-Wild Style!"





 We at Subway Outlaws, would like to thank TRACY for sharing his history with all of us.


 Photos are property of Michael Tracy and cannot be reprinted without his permission!  Other photo credits go to FLINT..., BLADE, EZO 1, Chris pepe, FARGO 1, SAR 1 and the PC-KID.  And special thanks to INK 76 for introducing us to the Wild Style man.  Look for more Tracy in the future.  10 / 17 / 04


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