If you’ve been paying attention to graffiti for more than just a short moment, you’re sure to be familiar with Chip7’s work. He’s a well established veteran of the culture, coming up painting with such greats as Nace (r.i.p.) and Rime. He’s carved out a spot in the upper echelon of graff royalty by creating a totally unique, organic and unmistakably “Chip7” style he appropriately refers to as “techno-organic.” He was kind enough to take a moment and chat with us from his current home in Bangkok, Thailand.
What first drew you to graffiti and what locked you in and turned you into a dedicated writer? What about it keeps you involved?
I first got into graffiti from my brother and friends in my apartment complex as a teenager. I think I got locked into it immediately. I really wanted to spend most of my time doing it. I think the dedication came over time and (the increased) amount of stuff I actually painted. I still paint 22 years later because it’s still fun. It’s the connective thread to my youth and still a way to say “hello.” I can’t imagine myself not doing it in some capacity.I ‘ll probably be making stickers as long as I’m around.
Can you tell me a bit about the crews you push, how you got down, and what they mean to you?
Absolutely. The main crew I push is M.A.Y.H.E.M. I founded it in 1997 in New Jersey. Kemos was the first person I asked to push it, who is still an active person in the crew 20 years later. M.A.Y.H.E.M. has had many meanings including Men Attacking Yards Hitting Everything Metal., and Misunderstood Artists You Hate Even More. Longtime contributor and overall ace, Eye came up with May All Your Hopes Eventually Manifest in more recent years. As a believer of speaking things into existence myself, I now lean towards this meaning. I saw the second issue of Clout recently and MAYHEM had an interview in it. Nace had already been tragically killed by a drunk driver at this point. In the interview there are jokes about us having an ”in-house death pool.” We used to bet who would leave this world first. It really sent chills down my spine that 2 other friends have left the planet since then. Regardless of who pushes the crew or what people’s perception of us may be I will always push M.A.Y.H.E.M. Those friendships and experiences changed my life. Rest in paradise to Nace, Sace, and Nekst. We miss you. Thank you for the fun times. Shoutout to everyone from the crew, Past/present/future-Thank you gents. I got down in CBS crew around 2000 with Nace. Bleek and Anger had came out to New Jersey from Los Angeles and painted some stuff with us. The first graffiti magazine I ever saw was the Can Control issue that was in memory of Skate1. I had gotten it at a comic book shop near my apartment complex. It had an impact on me and I’ve been hooked on graffiti since. Congratulations to Bleek for bringing the long history of Can’t Be Stopped to the big screen with his documentary (Out this year).DethKult and Mayhem have a lot of shared membership. Navy8 was a long time painting partner of mine and just an overall great person. False, Hert, Atak, Gable, and Merz are all down with both crews. Dimensions30 is another massive crew I’m down with. Shoutout to Resq, Reke, Wyse, and KC1.
Did anyone mentor you early on and if so, how did that affect your growth as a young writer?
I wasn’t really mentored in a traditional sense. I was rather hard headed and I wasn’t trying to be seen as a clone of another writer. I really wanted what I painted to be original and an expression of my personality. That being said I probably should have asked writers like Nace(r.i.p.), Rime, and Kemos for some assistance. I painted a lot of very ugly pieces trying to find my voice. Nace definitely mentored us by his actions in New Jersey. We miss him.
Can you tell us a little bit about the scene in Thailand and how it might be different from the states?
I love living in Thailand. It is a very beautiful and friendly country. The difference is in the states they were trying to put me in jail for what I do and here they gave me a podium.
Your friend TRE recently passed away. Can you tell us a little bit about him, the type of guy he was and what he meant to you?
I had just recently spoken to Tre right before his passing. I hadn’t talked with him in years and we talked about collaborating on something. Jay was a gentle soul who was a very dedicated graffiti writer. I had a lot of good times painting and partying with him around 2004-2005. He used to drive down to New Jersey and we would often break night painting and share some jokes goofing around at Dunkin Doughnuts at 6 am, before going back to get day flicks. My condolences to his family and all his friends around the globe.Tre was a rare writer that could pump “Blue Jeans” by the Promise Ring on the way to paint clean trains.
If you had to describe your lettering style to someone who has never seen it before, what would you say?
What’s the logic/thinking behind how you develop/create your letters? It’s constantly changing per drawing. I guess “techno organic” fits for some of it. Whatever you call it, even wack know it is a reflection of me, and not something I saw on IG.
What major differences do you see in the graff scene between when you started and now?
Biting is pretty much accepted if the aesthetic pleases the viewer.
What areas outside of graffiti inspire you the most and how does their influence show up in your work? How do your music and painting output correlate? Are they connected at all?
When it comes to anything I do, from abstract painting to stickers, graffiti to rapping it is all connected. I am trying to sincerely convey ideas and feelings of the moment. I put a lot of energy into this and am trying my best attempt at honest work and expression.
What kind of lessons has graff taught you over the years?
Teamwork, trust, and friendships. To never lay in the box society makes for us.
What would be on your painting playlist today and why?
Raekwon and Ghostface’s classic “Criminology.” It never gets old and brings me back mentally to an era.
If you could’ve told your younger self what to avoid and what to embrace within the graffiti culture what would you have said?
I’ve made a ton of mistakes but it was par for the course. Every slip up lead to growth. I would have gotten on the mic sooner to rap in public, but that’s it.
If you had to explain graff and why you do it to someone completely unfamiliar with it, what would you say?
Honestly, that is difficult. One thing I would say is it’s roots are illegal and if you never did that sort of thing it isn’t “graffiti.”
How important do you think it is for newer writers to learn about the history of the culture and those who came before them? Do you think the newer generation has the same respect for the founders of the culture that maybe you or I had?
Yes, sadly the toys rarely listen. Graffiti is very much about ego.
As you’ve gotten older, has your outlook regarding graffiti changed at all? How?
When it is no longer fun I’m done.
What do you think separates graffiti from other types of art? What makes it unique/different/better in your eyes?
It’s against the law
What do you do to stay original and keep your work fresh?
Doodle all the time and continue to paint after 23 years.
What writers/crews of writers out there do you think are doing it right and deserve some shine?
TGE, but I think folks know them.
Any last words/shout outs?
Thank you for the soapbox. Shout out to all my friends across the globe. Peep my music video on Youtube Chip7 featuring Zoe Coppen and Petchy Od1 “Palmer.” If you like, follow me on Instagram @chip7art, and please follow my Facebook page at computerchip7. Peace! Rest in Paradise Nace…he was killed by a drunk driver 16 years ago to this day. This summer we tragically lost 3 friends, and crew members from DKLT. I remember all the fun memories, will put there names on walls as long as I’m alive. Acne, Tre and 667 we miss you. Mayhem Forever
BY Paul Lukes