Emit, for those few that don’t know, has been around, painting and switching’ up styles, since the late 80’s. He pioneered the DF crew with fellow artist Sub not long after, and has garnered a tremendous amount of attention, both individually and collaboratively, over the last few decades for his vibrant large-scale works and productions, and his trademark clean, textbook, metropolitan b-boy style; always legible, always packed to the brim with texture and detail, and always clean enough to eat off of.
The more I admire his work, the less I am surprised to have learned that Emit the artist was forged in 20th century Connecticut. When the razor-sharp street bombing in the (Northeast) major metropolitan areas turned to piecing and producing, Emit was there, cutting up his signature style alongside NYC greats, becoming CT royalty, and establishing himself among those true turn-of-the-century East-Coast burners.
With the millennium at-this-point long past, Emit hasn’t slowed down. He still gets up, on the streets, online, on the road, always on, and from streetside to awards, Emit has established himself as a living legend. Both on the East Coast (Represent) and internationally, and we at Bombing science were fortunate enough to catch up with him here.
Let’s be unassuming and tell our readers who you are, what you do, and what it is you do best:
I’m Emit One. What I do best? Not sure I have an answer for that… maybe sarcasm, and I’m pretty good at Ping Pong.
But like.. just how good is “pretty good”? Forest Gump good? Christopher Walken in Balls Of Fury good??
Well….. Maybe not Christopher Walken good. Let’s just say above average, ninja pong pong good.
And off the table, you’ve also made quite a name for yourself as a graffiti artist over the last some-odd decades, writing primarily with the DF crew correct?
Main crews are DF, ATT, IMOK, and RTD
Care to break down the acronym for us?
DF is a crew I started with Sub in 1991. At the time it was “ Diabolical Funk”, since then we have used dozens of various acronyms. Sub is the current president as of Sept 2016, because my team lost at bowling…Ugh. Originally DF was meant to be a crew that mainly did production walls while IMOK crew was a bit more focused on bombing. It’s not really documented anywhere, but Sub, Gaze, Kaws, Tdee and myself were on the forefront of the production era that took off in the early 90’s. The History of American Graffiti book mentions Sub painting productions with FX and Kaws painting with FC but that was a couple years after the DF walls were getting published in magazines. DF kinda got skipped over…
Yes.. If Mother Only Knew. Eroc and Cromag RIP. These guys took Gaze and I out for some crazy bombing missions in NYC. They introduced us to highway bombing in Manhattan.
So did IMOK come before you & Sub started DF?
Yes, IMOK was first. Started by Core2. Gaze and I were introduced to the crew by Eroc. He was a great guy, a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I wish I could go on another mission with him. When we met, he rolled up on us under the 238th street bridge acting tough. He acted as if he was gonna jack us for our paint, and pulled a “just kidding, we should hang out and paint sometime”… so we did.
Where are you living these days?
Been in Colorado for over 20 years.
What do you think of the graffiti scene in Colorado?
Love it.. great weather and nice to have a few DF crew members here such as East, Jive and Vogey, as well as Denver RTD guys.
Born and/or raised?
Born and raised in Connecticut, but really learned about graffiti in the Bronx, then took it back to Connecticut to practice and change it up.
Anything in particular you like about being from Connecticut?
It was great to be so close to NY, Boston, and DC. Lots of places to paint and an assortment of talented writers to motivate and influence you. I think CT was a real breakout state that really changed the face of graff in 90’s. Gaze, Cycle, Jive, Eros, Brat, Eroc, Sket, Wink, Sad, Ouija, Ges, and myself. Connecticut is a bit of unrecognized hero for 90’s influence with new styles and wall concepts. CT really influenced the whole east coast graffiti scene… again something that went undocumented in the history book, while states with very little impact had sections in the book. Not sure what happened there…. Did I go off on a tangent?
So having painted in so many different places over so many years is there a graffiti scene in a certain place that you would say you like best?
Well, the bigger cities are always exciting, but the midwest is always fun because people are just mellow. People just like to chill and paint… doesn’t matter what crew, or skill level. It’s always just a mellow spray-cation type vibe.. no one fighting for the best spot or taking all the paint when paint was sponsored or donated.
Do you prefer painting on home turf or getting it in on the road?
Traveling to paint is always fun. Typically meeting writers in other cities is cool. We’re all pretty connected with mutual friends and interests.. and we’re all crazy, so we have that in common..
Is there any advice you wish you had been given before starting out in graff?
If I could go back in time, I would have documented things better and probably keep in touch with people I knew in the 90’s. Unfortunately a lot of those friendships fell off.
What do you think separates a common teenage tagger from a graffiti legend? Anyone can grab a marker and write on a sign, what characteristics does(or should) a good/great writer have? How can you tell them apart?
I guess the main difference is the drive to master all aspects of graffiti. In some cases the younger cats want to be famous on day one… For the older guys it took years and years of practice to master the craft. It was also much harder 20 years ago to get fame because people mainly saw your work in the streets. Now a days you can paint one thing and you can get thousands of views on social media. One fill-in can get you attention while in 1992 you had to do 100 of them. As far as telling them apart.. hopefully you’ll just know.
I’ve heard it said that if it’s not clean it isn’t worth painting, and I’ve heard people say that they respect any artist who takes the risk of getting up. Do you think there is a quality vs. quantity issue? Would you say you agree with either of those aforementioned perspectives?
I prefer a clean surface.. it’s always nice to hit a spot first. I don’t think it changes much for the end product, it’s just a preference. With quality vs quantity I think it’s just a balance. I do respect anyone taking a risk to get up, but it can still be wack. Illegal doesn’t automatically get you a king of the Yakkity Yak yard pass, and bombing next to a legal wall or hitting dumpsters doesn’t make you a sick bomber. I have always been a fan of high profile street, highway, and roof spots. When you do that, you get respect for sure.
How would you best attempt to describe your style?
Well, It has evolved a bit over the years,.. in the early 90’s during the first wave of 3d graffiti, Sub and I were also doing variations of 3d graffiti. Traditional NY graffiti has always been very appealing to me, so I always incorporated an actual outline. I moved forward with elements that made the piece look as if you could grab it off the wall. Shadows, 3d with lighting effects and overlaps, fill-ins that overlapped the letters. I like concepts and designs, but nothing that overpowers the actual letters. Clean lines have always been important to me. I have been told my pieces look like a sticker.. I guess that’s a cool compliment.
Why do you think it is that you ended up writing graffiti? Were there any specific moments in your adolescence that sparked an interest?
Always enjoyed being out late sneaking around causing trouble. Once I combined that with writing on things, I was hooked forever. No more setting things on fire… I had found graffiti.
Do you have any particularly resonant stories about your first attempts at writing that maybe didn’t end so well?
Lots of dumb stuff. Paint on good clothes, ripped jackets and sweatshirts climbing fences. Unfinished work from being chased.. and a ton of shitty work because of crap paint and no skill. I used to copy cartoon characters on the wall like Spy vs. Spy for example… It never looked very good. Present day, I see a ton of people doing awesome renditions of cartoon characters. Apparently I have no future copying old cartoons..
Has graffiti gotten you into any trouble?
Been arrested a couple times. Had a gun pointed at me before.. that sucked.
By an officer?
Yes.. he thought I had a weapon or something cause I had my hands in my pockets… he was a bit shook and seemed panicky since there was a bunch of us. Luckily that did not end up as a news story.
You’ve been painting since the late 80’s correct?
I started in 1989. Yes, that means I’m old.
Have you noticed graffiti becoming more culturally accepted over such a span of time?
Yes of course. I think that transition to cultural acceptance started in the late 80’s and has progressed ever since.
Is there anything the world of graffiti today lacks in contrast to a previous era? I mean, i know I’ve heard the 90’s called “the golden era” of graffiti. Is that accurate as it was in the world of hip hop or is it just a millennial mind trick like the rampant nostalgia of all things “90’s” ?
I think the golden era is the 80’s… 90’s was more a transition into pop culture. Both eras have had many, many, innovations that everyone just repeats in today’s graffiti. I’m sure there are writers out there painting concepts that originated in the 90’s and they don’t even know it. Plus graffiti today lacks the grit of the good old days. Everything is easier today because of the people that paved the way. Newer generations need to recognize that.
Why do you think it does lack that grit? Legal walls? The internet? Haha.
Yeah basically. It was a much smaller group of writers painting, and it was harder to get recognition from your peers. All the acknowledgment was from the streets, so you had to put in work, and it had to be good. Plus shit was getting buffed so you had to keep going out.. a lot. There were far less legal walls, so most of what you painted was illegal. Learning to do a piece was all illegal, at night, in the dark.
What, if anything, would you like to see make a comeback in the world of graff?
Printed magazines.. and maybe Video Graff.
If you could get up right now anywhere in the world on any surface, what would it be?
I would paint some old dirty, rusted, abandoned factory. Old tile is cool to paint on, not sure why, I just like it.
Any wise words for our youth before you go?
If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.
Last but not least, I like to get a short playlist submission from each artist. I think it tells more about a person than words ever could.
If you were going to paint right now, would you mind giving us a 5 song soundtrack to an Emit piece?
This is by far the hardest question… I tend to find songs I love and play them on repeat till I have heard the song way too many times.. Here are 5 songs that I recently played a lot…. don’t judge me.
- Ras Beats – Wit No Pressure
- Spark Master Tape – Tenkkeys
- Phantogram – Cruel World
- Policia – Kind
- Calibre – Eschaton
Well there you have it folks. The thoughts and reflections of a master-class artist. Thanks again to Emit for talking with us and thanks for reading.
Interview by Dillon Beck
Web – www.thedfcrew.com
Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/emitdf