San Francisco has often been referred to as the N.Y.C. of the West Coast, having such a dense concentration of writers within a 7 mile urban area. Standing out in a city full of talented writers is no easy task. It takes years of persistent, dedicated bombing with a distinctly different style. KRK (aka Kick Rocks) has worked hard to blanket the streets of the Bay Area with his trademark bubble and simple but fresh handstyles. His knack for clever taglines and sticker motifs has helped him stand out in the sea of vandals and gain recognition as one of the most prolific street level writers the city has seen. He’s earned his seat in the upper echelon of Bay Area bombing greats like Twist, Adek, MQ, Ques and others. His work ethic is evident by the immense amount of work left behind. KRK was kind enough to take a moment to chop it up with Bombing Science and discuss how he got here and who impacted him along the way.
What first drew you to graffiti and what locked you in and turned you into a dedicated writer? What about it keeps you involved?
My first immediate memories of graffiti were just tags and literal markings I’d see around Ft. Lauderdale and Miami where I grew up. Skateboarding brought me a lot of places via the street, so lurking around
I would just notice folks would write on stuff and never really thought much of it. It wasn’t until I met other skateboarders that were into actual graffiti that I started to take a little interest. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in 1999 when I took a more direct interest into street graffiti. I came here and skated Pier 7 and met a ton of writers who for a long time didn’t even know who they were as a writer but was seeing these guys up a lot already. I met ADEK around that time thru skateboarding and didn’t even know it was him for almost a year. I was hanging out with ROSE, CAJUN, QUARTS, MELO, and some other locals that I had met hanging out at the Pier. It was dope because shit all came together thru skateboarding and graffiti was just an added component to shit. So in hanging out with these guys obviously I took more of serious interest into tagging and started taking markers and making black mops, and Griffins were still available at that time at few places. I have to say a good amount of why I still am involved has a lot to do with the early years and the simplicity of folks I crossed paths with and friends I made. There was no dick riding. If you were cool then you were cool. Years have passed and today in 2017, What keeps me involved is the strict sport of it. Run the Marathon. Fuck Short Distance Sprinters.
Can you tell me a bit about WKT, how you got down and what it’s about?
WKT was born in San Jose and through the care of GUSALEN (Peace 2 Gawds) grew into all of California and now in other states in the Midwest and East Coast. We’re just a graffiti crew. We paint. We put Stickers up. We Vandalize. We do Legals. We paint Trains. We paint Streets. We paint parked cars. We Stay Up. My friend YESM put me down in WKT. I remember the exact day. It wasn’t no special meeting or anything. We were hanging out on a basketball court skateboarding. He told me he saw a lot of my graffiti up and wanted me to rep his crew. He was mad cool and we kicked it a lot so it made sense. I miss my friend YESM a lot. I could go into detail about this and that, but I won’t. He was down for me. He was down for my friendship, for my graffiti, down to fight with me/for me. He was my friend.
Did anyone mentor you early on and if so, how did that affect your growth as a young writer?
In South Florida I wasn’t mentored but I’ll always remember seeing CROOK and CROME up. Like it didn’t matter if you were into graff or not, them dudes had tags everywhere and everyone saw it. When I moved to SF and got into graff more, my initial influences and cats who actually took me out to the Ghost Yards of SF, PGE Building and various yards at the time were QUARTS, RUSH, ROSE, ADEK, CAJEN THRIST, and YOUNG. Those dudes put me on and into SF graffiti-period. That’s who I wrote with in the beginning. After them I started meeting more cats- MELO, SOSO, CREAM and BST- a lot of early TKO-GUER, ODDS, BROCK77 ,KERSE, FLAIR from Seattle…a lot of folks..
Can you tell us a little bit about the scene in the Bay and how it might be different from other places?
I came to San Francisco in 1996 on my first skateboarding trip- SF at this time was the Skateboarding Capital of the World and you could pretty much say the same for the Graffiti Scene at that time.
I moved here in 2000 and it was still cracking as ever- ADEK, KERSE, NEKST, SMOKE, QUES, JADE, ODDS, BUK50, YO-GEE,MQ, S.I., TOPA and IGNI, SUFER, AVISO, KRAFT, KOKES(JENKS), ABHOR, DEATH, KUK Crew, TKO’s,- shit i know im forgetting a whole gang but SF streets were just non-stop hitters lurking when i was coming up..these names were so normal to me cus it was all i saw skating around..shit i even met a gang of these dudes without even knowing they wrote from just being around SF and the Skateboarding Scene. In 2017 its changed but alot remains the same- Outta Towners put in work and a good amount of Local Kids get upset and talk about days of past have tons of respect for SF history but i present time is what counts today. Nobody is concerned with days of yesteryear or Al Bundy Stories.- also a good amount of Local writers killin shit and keepin 100- KHY Crew, MENIS and the whole KGM crew, OBM, BST, US Crew ,SH crew, TDK,..alot of SF talent out their keepin their city on the Map.
What motivates you to bomb so hard and why such a focus on street bombing and less piecing?
Thru out the years things take different reason but as time passed I put my street bombing into a individual sports perspective- In middle school and high school I wrestled and it was an individual thing- if you fucked up it was on you- no team- I look at street bombing the same- you gotta condition and learn your surroundings- your speed and agility- your precision and working in a timely and efficient manner- and if shit pops off – it’s on YOU- atleast if you Bomb alone- i was taught to Paint streets alone as much as you can. I paint 99.5% of all my bombing alone. Anyone who paints streets knows you come correct and the best when alone.
How did you get your name and what’s the meaning behind it?
KRK is short for Kick RocKs- a great friend pretty much came up with it one night when I was practicing the letters. Personally for me, I love the letter “K” in graffiti. It’s my favorite letter, especially for bombing. NYC developed one of the best K’s if not the best “K” in the history of street bombing.Some of the best K’s in the game- KEL, ADEK, SAKE, KR(King Razor), KATSU, SPEK. Some of the best rock “K’s.”
What major differences do you see in the graff scene between when you started and now?
Social Media- when I started you just did graff and niggas would have to go outside and see it. Today nobody goes outside to see shit, it’s posted for you so you don’t get a lot of the surprise shit you would see just on a walk or skating around. If you got flicks of graff, they were really actual hard copy flicks.
Also, a lot of folks put barely any actual work in and can go catch a fill next to a real hitter and overnight become someone because they got a flick with someone who’s got clout. That shit right there is a gang of writers today. And the bar scene has always been something I never took seriously. The nigga who drinks his face off and then proceeds to write on everything and claim they killed. It’s easy to write on shit intoxicated, try doing it sober after hours.
What areas outside of graffiti inspire you the most and how does their influence show up in your work?
I think more my love that I had for just graphics and bright colors thru skateboard graphics is what helped me connect with street bombing. There are tons of things to touch base on such as color combos, fonts, letter structure and placement. I apply both to each other and have had a lot of success in projects and small things such as sticker design and apparel design. For me they both balance each other at this point. I used my street bombing to help me fuel other projects that don’t really have anything to do with graffiti really. I like to feed off the energy of getting off a spot successfully as a platform of motivation to push more fresh sticker designs, skateboard designs, and apparel designs as well.
What kind of lessons has graff taught you over the years?
Actions speak louder than shit talking words- wanna beat the masses of folks who stay behind keyboards in today’s society- GO OUT AND STAY ACTIVE. Period. Fills count- Words don’t.
What would be on your painting playlist today and why?
Man that switches up nightly. Sometimes i don’t even bring music out and really just try to tune into the sounds around me. Car engines and getting to know how far and when a car is coming, what type, folks in windows talking on phones or in a dark corner- just putting your ear to the environment and sharpening senses. But some shit I be bumping ranges from Company Flow, to Westside Gunn and Conway, to all Metallica, to Madball, to George Michael and Duran Duran and a shit ton of Jazz sprinkled on that. Bachata and Cumbia beats, we love it all.
If you could’ve told your younger self what to avoid and what to embrace within the graffiti culture what would you have said?
Avoid Graffiti writers- Embrace being in the dark and staying unknown virtually.
If you had to explain graff and why you do it to someone completely unfamiliar with it, what would you say?
Honestly, I wouldn’t waste my time explaining that to someone unfamiliar with it. It’s too frustrating and too many clichés pop up. if you don’t know about Graff don’t ask me.
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?
It is definitely something you want to do in anything you take up, anything with passion or that you feel strongly about. Learn about the roots of what you’re doing and understand the different levels to things you learn. For graff, it’s important so you don’t go out and do dumb shit that can kill your street game before it even starts. Like going over folks that are in the same sport as you. Know the playing field and who’s on it and who used to be on it.
The graff scene is full of drugs and addiction. How do you maintain the straight and narrow and keep a level head?
Man, in San Francisco, and seeing this questions a lot of shit runs thru my mind. Mainly my two amazing friends YESM and KEEP. They were my real friends, not graff friends, real friends who did graff.
I miss them and they fell victim to drugs and addiction. They tried their hardest and ultimately we lost. Not them, We lost because we didn’t say enough or do enough to help in my eyes. We live with that for the rest of our days. I have no anger towards anyone who is battling addiction and trying. I have anger towards those who shun and humiliate folks fighting this shit. In short, I don’t care how many times my brother falls off a bike, I’m going to help him get back on and push again in hopes that he doesn’t fall off. All you can do is give real support and love. I love you Andy and Otis.
What do you think separates graffiti from other types of art? What makes it unique/different/better in your eyes?
Graffiti stands alone from most because of the many constraints that come with it, but it all depends on the Graffiti artist if you will or Graffiti Vandal. Both very different and very different motives.
One has a lot to lose and the other doesn’t due to the permission factor. I mean, the definition of Graffiti are writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted illicitly on a wall or other surface, often within public view. Most of the time without permission. That is Graffiti, if it has permission in my eyes it’s Art. I’m drawn to it first thru my time skateboarding. The individual aspect of it. It’s just YOU at the end of the day. Doesn’t matter how big or who your crew is.
What do you do to stay original and keep your work fresh?
I’m a professional graphic designer with a huge emphasis on print production. What keeps me motivated to keep bombing is my everyday life and things that inspire me and I find entertaining. From pop culture and staying up on current things to Era’s such as the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Some of my favorite decades. Visually there was so much going on in these times. I tend to go back to a lot of books, TV shows, movies, magazines, and art from those times. My comfort zone.
What writers/crews of writers out there do you think are doing it right and deserve some shine?
Writers that do it right in my eyes that I take from daily
-all my friends and crew
-WKT’s, AMCK’s, 28’s, MSG’s, B50’s, EHC’s. Supreme Team.
-my dude BLAKE, CYA, CHAVE, FEDR, MELO-Chinatown Crew
-CAJUN, ROSE, QUARTZ, RUSH-my first influences
-YESM & KEEP 4EVER
Any last words/shout outs?
PEACE to everyone that I’ve crossed paths with in the streets that kept it positive.
PEACE to the whole WKT/AMCK crew.
RIP YESM and KEEP
Shout out to SOUTH FLORIDA BOMBERS
Peace to SAN FRANCISCO BOMBERS
Shout out to MESR (zee wkt amc) for making things happen and staying active on many levels.
Peace to all the Negative folks who I continually keep beating in life that want to see me go down.
Peace to all Artist-Period-All Mediums. If it’s something that makes you happy and doesn’t speak on any human negatively then run with it. Be better at life and being a good human. Fuck the Hate.
everyone else can Kick RocKs with that angry shit. Smile:) and condition yourself for the marathon. Thanks for the opportunity to let me speak my mind, brother.
Interview by Paul Lukes
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