Rate NLS is a Bulgarian based graffiti writer who has been a part of the scene since 2003. For the last 5 years he has been working with his partner Edmon NLS to create some fantastic writings all around Cyprus. His designs are bold and beautiful, full of cool perspective shots of his lettering with a lot of complimentary colors playing off one another. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about some of his work inspirations and what its like in the Bulgarian graffiti scene.
Alright so what is your story? Who are you and what crew do you represent? How did you get involved in graffiti?
Hello everyone, I’m Rate, Bulgarian graffiti writer representing the NLS crew and ZNC. I started doing graffiti in 2003 in my home city Dobrich at the age of 14. My best friends in the neighbourhood (now Stun and Otep) had already done few tags and bombs ,so they were my first influence. Then they told me about older guys from the hood doing graffiti, of course after they took me there and I started sketching my first letters…somewhere around that time I did my first bomb.
How important is it to you that you have a crew to run with? Would you say thats the heart of graffiti? Would you still be doing it if it wasn’t for the people you collaborate with?
Back in those days the crew was everything for us, from 2003 till 2008-09 we were still living in the same city, hanging out every day and night…I think that was the period that created steady bond between all of us. Over time things changed, some of us went for studies or work around the country and abroad, it was getting harder and harder for us to collaborate like before. I’m sure that thru the years, the collective spirit protected the crew, most of the members remained active , so yes I can say that’s the heart of graffiti.
How would you explain the graffiti scene in Bulgaria? Is there a long history of graffiti from where you are from?
I think that the Bulgarian graffiti scene is among the youngest in Europe…for sure some older writers got more info and knowledge about it than me, but here is what i know.
Pioneer crews were LBC (Targovishte),UGS (Plovdiv),DRS (Dobrich) and some individual guys in Sofia,the years are 1994-95.LBC were the monsters of the trainbombing in the country(Scum,Funne,Simone R.I.P),UGS were with strictly classic graffiti taste and DRS were the first Hip Hop and graffiti crew in the country.After few years another emblematic crew came out-NTN (Nast,Ndoe..) and changed the whole thing. The styles were so artistic for that time, they just broke the standards…Somewhere there they organized and the first big events,which putted the foundation of the Hip Hop and graffiti underground movement in Bulgaria. Almost each city in the country had graffiti crew and small local scene…You know,in the era before internet took over, the only way to see new pieces was to travel,so we did. In 2004-05 a big influence for me were also Esteo and SZC (now Arsek Erase),they were the first writers to give us a hand,to collaborate with us on bigger walls.In the early years it was really hard to find graffiti supplies, there were no shops, we were mostly using HitColor(in the best case), for first time i touched montana in 2005..From there and on the movement in the country took its natural direction, new crews were coming and going, some of the older guys gave up, new “stars” replaced them and so on…known names thru the years are also UNL, USA94, Xpome, CMS, GoodGuyBoris, 140 ideas, Dilom, KBS, MSC, INK, Blayz, Vapski…sorry if i’m forgetting someone.
Your color transitions are really striking and very beautiful, I’m wondering if there is anything in particular that inspires your color selection for your pieces? Is it just pure experimentation or do you find yourself influenced from various things in your day to day life? For example the colors on sneakers or the way a billboard looks…etc
Thanks! The truth is that i spend more time in brainstorming, than painting on the wall.I get my influences from nature hahaha 🙂
I never got educated in art,but lately i started feeling more of the colors, perspective and shapes,because I got some tips from a friend of mine Ivo Vazkresenov-tattoo artist and art teacher.
Adobe Illustrator also played big role with unlimited arsenal of colors and shapes, that I can experiment with almost for free.
When you were coming up was there any particular exercise or discipline that you incorporated into your black book that helped you grow as a writer? Is there any practical advice you can give to aspiring writers/artists?
You know, times were different 15 years ago, especially in Bulgaria…i never had a proper blackbook, i was doing colorful sketches rarely, because i just felt it that way, I knew how to proceed on the wall. Plus in the beginning, as i said earlier, we were using HitColor, about 10-12 colors in the small garage shop…so no point of colorful sketch. As an advice to the younger graffheads, I can say push on your own stuff, no matter how ugly it is, with time and the dedication you gonna get there.
What does your day to day look like? Is this a full-time gig for you?
Here I have to start from a bit far away…in 2011 I moved to Cyprus, where I started doing bar and restaurant job for few years, 2011 was the worst for me with only 1 piece.Step by step i got in touch with graffheads, I started being more active. Now I’m out from the “shitty jobs” and with a friend and crew mate Edmon NLS we started upgrading studio and graffiti shop in 2015.Our team also got involved in the organization of local festival and took it to international level.So my “day to day” became 100% graffiti related ever since.
How often do you travel, where have you been and where would you like to go? Is there any famous location you would love to tag but wouldn’t dare to?
Unfortunately i don’t travel really often, something that i want to change soon. Until now i have visited USA in 2009, i spent 7 months there and painted in Washington DC, Philladelphia and NY. In 2013 i visited Spain, where Kotk NLS were based and for a month we did couple of walls in Alicante. This year I also visited Hungary for Meeting of Styles, which was my first participation at big international graffiti event.
There is no famous location I would love to tag or bomb, but i really want to kick walls in big European cities and visit more events.
What does graffiti mean to you and why do you think its important that it has a place in your life or in society at large?
Hm…graffiti basically formed my life the last 15 years…it also builds my personality, the circles of people i meet, it gave me my best friends and crew mates from NLS. Now it’s also given me the bread i’m eating and the opportunity to get better every day ahahah 🙂
Is graffiti still graffiti if its on a canvas? I see you have a big cartel page in the works, will you be selling any canvas pieces or anything like that?
Graffiti is still graffiti when its done by graffiti writer, with graffiti style and background, no matter if it’s on canvas, airplane or the opening of the Olympic games, this is my opinion.
My big cartel is a joke, i’m now working on some more serious ways to start selling my graffiti.
Any shout outs you would like to give, where can people follow your work? What can people look forward to see from you next?
First of all i want to thank the entire NLScrew for being the best crew in the world, to Cros, Esteo, Erase for giving us a hand in our early years, to Naste, who was and will always be my favorite Bulgarian artist, to Pose 2 for taking me around the States, to the team i’m working now with at our studio 2C Designbox and to my family for being always behind me.
Big up graffheads!
You can follow Rate NLS on Instagram.