JAMES TOP INTERVIEW
©1999, 2003 @149st Do not republish without permission.
What got you into writing graffiti?
What got me into writing graffiti was just like a lot of kids growing up in the projects. I grew up in the Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn and everybody was doing it. At first I was sort of resisting it, you know writing graffiti. Then I started and when a lot of guys quit I kept on. The first guy that I used to write with,the guy that really got me started writing graffiti was a guy named CHEER ONE We used to write together for a long time in my early days. He doesn't write any more, but he actually got me started.
What year did you start ?
About 1973, summer of '73, started writin' graffiti. Basically in the projects, in the Pink Houses and in Cypress Hills Projects in East New York.
What was your first train experience?
Well My first train experience was in the A Yard and the C Yard. They were connected. They were right across the street from the projects Pink Houses underneath Linden Plaza in EAST NEW YORK on Linden Boulevard. My first experience doing pieces was like everybody else's first experience doing pieces. It didn't look good, but you knew what it said.
It was a good feeling, but it wasn't till many years later that I felt a real feeling of euphoria and a real feeling that I was really meant to do this. You know being in the yard one day alone. Going in there with a bag full of paint and gettin' down to those last little scraps and being the only person in the yard and lookin' around and seeing there was nothing else I could hit and...that was a good feeling. And that's when I knew that I was really meant to do this, and do it for a long time.
Who was the president of The Odd Partners Crew?
I'm the president of T-O-P. TOP was formed by MICKEY TO TOP in 1974 and 1975. Currently I'm the president of T-O-P. I' m one of the last original members TOP. Although there is a lot of members and although there's a lot of affiliations right now I'm the president of T-O-P. We're sort of having a resurgence right now. Just like graffiti general is having a resurgence and I get a lot of requests from people wanting to be in T-O-P, but T-O-P. is really a closed sort of organization Not only are we T-O-P we are T-O-P Incorporated... meaning that all of all our work is really incorporated and you know what I mean, it can't be copied or reproduced. That sort of thing. Being a member of T-O-P is a privilege and a lot of guys worked a lot of years to become a member of T-O-P. It is one of the true graffiti organizations. We are like royalty is what I'm tryin' to say. T-O-P is like graffiti royalty and I'm just so happy that I'm a member of T-O-P. It's the only organization that I ever wrote for. Ya know what I mean. When ever I wrote my name, weather it was JEE or weather it was JAMES; T-O-P was on the other half and I always write it.
How did you meet MICKEY, HURST and DONDI? What was the story behind that?
Well I met HURST first. He was the one that put me in T-O-P. There was only about five of us at first. Myself, MICKEY TO TOP, IN, another guy named IO, po 137, ya know we were the original members of T-O-P. Throughout the years you seen a lot of guys write T-O-P like JESTER, DEAN, TEE, VINNY, IZ a lot of guys throughout the years wrote T-O-P, but we were the original members. HURST put me in T-O-P and introduced me to MICKEY and introduced me to IN ONE. DONDI became a member of T-O-P in our later years. We were already a little bit of stars in graffiti and DONDI was young. You know an upcoming graffiti writer, but I could tell he had a whole lot of potential. I could tell he had what it took to be somebody really big. I actually put him in T-O-P. The other guys were hesitant to put him in T-O-P, but after the summer of 1977 I put him in T-O-P.
Tell us about the places you would hit. Like the J Yard, the LL Yard, Grant.
Well I hit a lot of different places, mostly the A Yard. The A being my home line the 2 yard New lots yard. That was another good yard. The way we became all-city and were up on so many lines is because see where we live at in East New York, you got the IND Yard which is the A yard you got the BMT yard which is the J yard and you got the IRT yard what is the 2s and the 5s which is the New Lots Yard and they were all in our neighborhood and that's pretty much how we sort of dominated the city. The best place that we used to write at and especially for the BMTs was Atlantic Avenue on the J line and that's how we dominated the Js and Ms in the summer of '77. I don't think there was a graffiti crew that ever dominated a like we dominated the Js in the summer of 1977. We used that line as our own personal toy.
We would climb up the poles on the elevated tracks, this way we wouldn't have to pass Atlantic Avenue and go to the next station so this way nobody would actually see us come in. A lot of people thought we was hittin' the Js from the J yard, but that wasn't true we hit 'em from Atlantic Avenue all the time. The person who actually thought of hittin' them there was MICKEY TO TOP. He was a genius when it came down to writtin' on the trains and where to hit trains at.
When we was hittin' Atlantic Avenue, there was just one train there, but you had both sides on the train and basically we would hit a train once a day. So through out the course of the summer, hittin a train once a day you catch everything. And we caught everything! What we would do is we would get up in the morning, MICKEY would come get me. We would make our way to Brownsville racking up coffee and beer in the bodegas. We'd meet up with HURST, do the same thing, finally get to East New York on Pennsylvania Avenue, hang out there. We'd sell our coffee, have some money in our pockets.
Then we'd rack up some paint usually right there in the Strauss that was on Pennsylvania Avenue, and we we'd go up on the elevated track and weĠd just bomb. We'd hit that whole train up. Weather it was six cars or weather it was twelve cars. That one train there going the long stretch we'd bomb all up man. They didn't know where we was hittin' it at. We made sure that we was very careful not to really over bomb lamp posts and things like that. I think they were looking for us that whole summer and didn't know where they was hittin' em at. And ya know we lived up there and we actually seen the city go out on the elevated tracks. The blackout of 1977, seein it go out it was one of the greatest experiences of my whole life.
Back to The Odd Partners page
| Home | Artists | Crews | History | Links | E mail | Glossary |