Alright so thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, can we get a brief rundown of who you are and how long have you been in the game? What crew do you rep and how did you get the name uncle ro?
I write Nero and sometimes Kush but most know me as Nero. I’ve been writing for 28 total years and 24 years straight now with no long breaks. I’m down with a bunch of crews, I’ll name a few, WritersBenchCrew, JHF, KMS, MDK, TMC, IMOK, 156allstarz, CWK and TFT among many others. I got the nickname Uncle Ro from a writer friend of mine, I walked into his job to hang out and he yelled out “Uncle Ro”! It was kinda funny and it just stuck.
You say you do art full-time now, is it from doing murals or freelance? Do you sell your work, if so where can people go to buy your work?
I’m a tattooist, that’s how I feed my family. Other than that, I’ll do some paid murals if the job makes sense. There’s no reason to be up on a lift for 12 hours a day if the subject matter isn’t interesting enough or the funding isn’t up to par. As far as selling artwork, I’ve done it and I occasionally participate in group shows or take on commissions that are traditionally in my wheelhouse. Having fun is the key!
Any crazy travel stories or collabs that stick in your mind that you would like to share?
Crazy travel stories….I feel like every graffiti travel experience is wildly similar in the fact that something bazaar is going to happen multiple times, someone’s going to lose something, you’ll wake up not sure what happened the night before, you’ll laugh a lot about your cheap hotel room and you’ll probably run from the police and not know where the hell you’re going.
I love your style, it takes me back to the early 2000s for some reason, that was in my opinion the golden age of hip hop and for some reason I can feel that in your work. What inspires you to do the work you do and to keep you coming back to the wall?
What inspired me at the beginning was the older writers I saw and me wanting to be as good as them. Over time I realized that graff was like medicine for me when I was anxious or life was kicking my ass. I think it’s still the same for me now, I go get lost in a piece for a couple hours when life gets stressful.
What is your favorite documentary or book that covers the history or major players of graffiti and why?
Style Wars is probably my favorite documentary but I think theirs been a bunch of books since then that have been more about writers personal experiences which have been great for the culture. I think podcasts will be the new way for writers to tell their personal stories without the need to publish a book. With that being said, nothing beats sitting down on the front steps with a writer and looking at flics and telling the back stories of the pieces.
I see a lot of throwback posts to 2009 on your page, was this a golden age for you when it was all just graffiti? I’m assuming it’s a bit different with kids now! Congrats by the way!
2009 was a good year, but I think my golden years as far as personal artistic growth was from 1998-2010, I was just painting and getting by. My real golden years were probably as a little kid in the mid 80’s in NY, seeing some pivotal stuff from streets to subways and schoolyards really set the tone for me. Now, I have 2 young kids so I’m pretty busy with them but I still get away to do a piece whenever I can find a minute.
I’m assuming by the way you talk about this that you do art full-time correct? How have you been able to change your passion into a career, what kind of advice would you give to those who want to go that direction with their work?
Yes, I do art as a job but it was never my intention, I was just looking to write my name on stuff. Back when I graduated high school in 1995 a career in art wasn’t pushed as a real option by teachers so coming back to it later in life as a job was sort of an accident. I never went to art school but If I could give any advice to a younger writer/artist, I’d say maybe consider art school, they won’t teach you how to be an artist but you’ll probably learn to be a better artist and some tricks to be more efficient. Also, be patient, it could take years to get where you want to be.
What’s your go-to hip hop artist to listen to while you’re working? Who would you say is underappreciated in either hip hop or graffiti that deserves more recognition?
My go-to hip hop artist to vibe off of would be Nas, Jadakiss and Master Ace. Or 90’s mixtapes like DJ Juice, Craig G, DooWop etc. My mood changes a lot so I can go hip hop to classic rock to 70’s RnB while sketching. As far as who’s under-appreciated, probably everyone. It’s not easy being creative in any medium you choose but I’ll pick a couple and say O.C. Black Thought and Master Ace.
What are the qualities that keeps someone growing as a artist over 27 years such as yourself? Thats a long time to be in the game! What do you think it takes to still be standing as a graff artist after all these years?
I think what keeps you still standing after 20-something years in the game is the same thing that keeps you growing as an artist for that long, and that’s determination. You have to be driven to go out and get it done and take those creative and physical changes. Keeping good company around you and always keeping your mouth shut are pretty solid ways to prolonging your welcome in the game.
Thanks again for taking the time out to chat, Any shout outs you would like to give? Where can people find you and your work?
First off thanks to you and bombing science for the interview. Shouts to my wife and kids. Shouts to all my crew mates and peers that helped me make all these memories good and bad! Rest In Peace to REM311, LM444, SPRE and all our fallen soldiers!