The Cool Five



Sade (Bio)

Sade TC5 Bio

63274_108818892512283_3907879_n“When did you start writing?” After having been asked the question so many times I do wonder exactly when was the instant when I started writing so-called graffiti. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment but I do remember that I started to be fascinated by the writing on the hallways of my projects when I was in the 5th grade. This was in 77 just before the big blackout. I remember that the king of the hallways in the McKinley Projects Building 905 on 161st and Tinton Ave was Jug2. He had the prerequisite looping tag with the Roman numeral 2 and he always did the character with the ski goggles like Tracy168. I remember Staff 161 was allover my hallways as well but I had no idea who he was so he was just another name to me at the time. Staff 161 used to do tags on the ceilings with lighters that at first had me puzzled how they were done. At first I just used to look at them and marvel at the size and style. I didn’t know what style was but the different shapes and colors and impressions of different tips that were being used to make these marks struck me. I never shared this fascination with anyone it was just an activity for me every time I walked down the stairs from the 12th floor. I used to make my best efforts to make my notebook look like my hallways I looked at. I think that the first piece I ever did was in the 6th grade when I fell in love with a girl who called herself “SUGAR”. I thought that doing a piece for her was the way to her heart. Funny.

At first I experimented with many names like everyone else. My first name was “GANDO”. This was the name of a New York Knicks player that every time he drove to the basket the fans and sportscaster would yell “GAAAANDO” and so I picked that name. I played around with GEE-SKI using the G from my first name and the “SKI” suffix everybody was using at the time. This playing around with names used up a lot of notebook paper and lead to a lot of pencil and EL Marko marker tags in my hallways.

In 1979 I was attending JHS149 in the Bronx with my friend Richie. I didn’t know it at the time but Richie was RUSH MPC. At first I didn’t pay it much mind when he spoke about what he was doing because it was just talk. You know how teenagers all get together and boast about all that “they’re not really doing” ha ha. Richie used to have these huge markers that used to bug me out. I used to badger him to tell me where he got them. My sheltered ass couldn’t understand anything he was saying to me. Then one day I rolled up on him on the steps of the school and he’s taking a tag. He says, “take a tag”. I never wrote with a big marker before. I had been experimenting with a new name “KANACTION” and so I took that tag. I guess that technically, that was the minute I started writing. Thanks a lot RUSH MPC you fucked up my life! Just kidding…

By now I was taking the 2 and 5 train to and from school. At first I was looking at the trains but I really didn’t understand what I was seeing. I didn’t understand what I would come to understand as an underground culture with levels of status, fame and unwritten rules. By 1979 I started “getting it”. I would buy EL Marko markers from the bodega telling my mother I was using the money for baseball cards. I played around with KANCTION, KINGKAN, and KRAZY KRYLON KAN (KKK). I would take motion tags on the trains I rode back and forth from school everyday. One day I’m sitting in English class and I look out the window and I see KAN2 on the mailbox on the corner of WILLIS ave. By this time I was starting to be up on what was going on and I knew that Kan2 bombed with Presweet, Geeski, Flasher and G-Man, names I had come to see everywhere at the time. So that pretty much killed my fantasy of writing KAN. At the time me and my cousin Manny who would later start writing CRYPTON and then DUNE and my friend Andre who later wrote FANE had aspirations to be a rap crew like the COLD CRUSH Brothers and the Fantastic Five. We called ourselves THE LA ROCK 3. My m.c. name was SHADE SKI so I started writing SHADE. By now I had met a bunch of writers. This was inevitable being that I grew up in the South East Bronx and that my Junior High School was down the street from Fashion Moda. I still was only up to taking hallway and street tags at this point but I wasn’t done yet.

Starting High School I met BOE174 and a kid Diamond from 174th st that used to do jackets and hung out with “TAPE MASTER”. For those that don’t know who tape master is, before HIP Hop went public if you wanted a tape of a ‘jam” with the Cold Crush 4 or Fantastic Five or Treacherous 3 or DJ Breakout or Master Don and the Death Committee or DJ Baron etc…you had to go to TAPE MASTER! Diamond taught me how to do jackets with acrylic and how to mix fabric medium into the acrylic so it wouldn’t crack. I used to ride the train with M.C. TIP SKI who was partners with Trigger Vic and MC’d for Mene Gene. Now that’s real hip-hop history for you so-called hip-hop historians! I also rode the train everyday to 14th from the Bronx with Geeski TR. I used to always listen to all the graffiti folklore that he had for me being he ran with two of the prolific street and bus bombers of the day PRESWEET and FLASHER. I used to always show him the latest and greatest outline I had for him to critique. One day he said to me, “Yo you gotta drop that ‘H” it messes up the flow of your letters. Because I looked up to him I didn’t give it a second thought and so I had the name SADE.

The first time I went into a layup was with BOE174 but we only went in and out. We ran around, kicked a few conductor doors open, kicked out a few windows and broke out.

Right about this time I met BEA and REVEN. Reven was already up on trains like I wanted to be. I only had motion tags at this point. One day Diamond invites me to do a gate for a store in 174th st. When I get there I’m introduced to them. After the gate we’re going home and I find out BEA and REVEN live in my neighborhood which explains their tags all over my hallways. I do a bubble letter SADE piece/throwup on the side of Woolworth’s on Prospect Ave and 161st and REVEN does a few tags with the leftover paint. That was my first spray-paint illegal piece and in broad daylight at that! I was on my way!…

In 1981 I met TRO. I was walking into the PS161 schoolyard late at night and this guy was taking a tag and I say, “yo what you write?” he in turn asks the same. After the introductions and a few tags we hit it off and we plan to meet up again. When we hooked back up I learn that he’s really cool friends with BEO and COSE TDS who were beginning to destroy the 6 line insides about this time with MACK, BRIM, SHARP DELTA, El KAY etc….The first time I went bombing I really didn’t, I just went with COSE, BEO and TRO as a lookout, when we came out the tunnel COSE took tags in the station and I asked him to put me up. He wrote SADEIZM with the “Z” and that’s how I got that extension on my name.

Things happened quickly by association at that point. I found out AGENT TNT lived behind my building in the same projects and I started hanging out with him at the bench. He introduced me to TRAP who I ran with for a minute. I met Bear 167 who put me down with TDS who I used to meet everyday at the bench for a while. He had me racking shit for him under the guise that he was teaching me the ropes! I was thirsty so I went along. He had me racking Aspirin that he then used to sell to the bodegas and hit me off with a few dollars. He got popped later on and wound up doing some community service at the group home I had landed myself in at the age of 15. He use to tell me the greatest stories about writers and trains, R.I.P BEAR 167! Then I met G-MAN PGA and it was on!! This guy was incredible. At the time, on crutches he taught me racking, bombing, layups, yards, buses, street bombing etc… I hung out with him almost every single day for over a year. He lived in the Patterson Projects where my girlfriend lived.

My first piece on a train was a SADEISM with the “S” on a panel and a half on the blue and silver 2 and 5’s in the winter of 81 going into 1982. I was in High School already in the 10th grade. My only proof is AGENT, Bear 167, GMAN, TRO, COSE and BEO who were with me. It was a beige fill, cherry red outline, sky blue flame cloud with a regal blue outline and white highlights. Even though I had gotten “up” on a train in a layup I consider this my first day of being official! The next day I was at the bench at 149th St with Agent, DEZ TFA and a few other cats I didn’t know, when my shit rolled in Agent came and roughed me up in a brotherly way on some old, “yea I see you sonny trying to come up” shit. Yo I’m not going to front I felt like I was the shit right there and then knowing all the shit him and Skeme had done and knowing who Dez was at the time.

I give G-MAN, TRO, COSE and BEO the most credit for teaching me how to do this shit we call “writing”. That’s not graffiti to me. They taught me how to rack ink, paint, what caps to use, where to get fat caps, how to grind keys, which tunnels to hit and when not to hit, where the best hatches were etc…a real education to this shit. Keep in mind that this was during the first true organization of a dedicated VANDAL SQUAD and the quickest buff ever!

From there I was off to the races. I picked the 6 line because that was the main line Tro, Beo and Cose bombed and Crypton (DUNE) lived on that line. I used to stay at his house and we used to go into the tunnel between 149th and 143rd hatch in front of R & S Strauss. I actually lived on the 2 and 5 at Prospect Ave. Tro and me formed a partnership we caught the tail end of the dirty 6’s and started killing the freshly painted 6 line when everybody else was scared to touch them. I remember I used to write these long sentences on the outside panels in price marking ink, “SADEROCKILLINIGGASUPEREALASTINGANGSTEROCTIY” that I had picked up from DURO and MIN. Then they buffed the insides of the sixes!! Oh my god…clean headliners…I lost my mind! The sixes were the first to go all clean on the insides in the eighties besides the 7’s. I remember MACK and BIO was smashing them along with us. We were among the first!! They can vouch for us and us for them. BAN2 made a quick comeback at that point too and caught the tunnels something awful!! DELTA went on a rampage too. I remember a kid that used to write WEE was also going off at the time. Good Times!

My favorite ink was price marking ink because it would leave a stain even after it got buffed and because the ink would come through people’s pieces! I like flo-master better than Marsh too but it was starting to get harder to rack at that time. COSE showed me how to make ink using oil-based paint and paint thinner. That shit stunk like crazy! But when it came down to it as long as it was ink and you was catching floods it was all good! Krylon was my favorite for white cars cause it dried so fast but it made a lot of fumes cause it dried in the air with a fat cap that would give you away when the train came by with lights in the tunnels especially with silvers. I liked Rusto better for dirty cars but the shit would take too long to dry.

One day we’re sitting in PS 161 park. By this time we had a pretty big crew but the majority was just street cats doing street stuff. The only writers were me, TRO, HYER, FANE, LEX and WOLFIE. TRO comes up with the name THE CRIME MATES and took credit for starting TCM. We rolled with that for a hot minute. One day we were going to the tunnels and my cousin is hounding me for a can. We never use to take him with us but I gave him a can anyways and we broke out to go bombing. The next day I’m walking down the street and I see these CRYPTON tags everywhere. I paid them no mind because they looked toy not realizing it was with the school bus yellow I had given Manny the night before. Fast forward, we take him bombing with us one day and he breaks out with a CRYPTON tag and we all bug out cause he was demolishing our area in the streets. So now the bombing squad was 7 deep. Eventually it winds up just being me TRO, FANE and CRYPTON. Later on I would fight TRO for TCM because he went bombing with BIO and the original TATS CREW and used my silvers to pull out T to B’s without asking me for the paint. After I took the crew I changed the name to THOSE CRAZY MOTHEFUCKERS! I mess with BIO about this to this day! Shout out to BIO, NICER and BG!

I think my raid stories are like everyone else that’s ever gotten away. I never got raided in the Ghostyard where I pulled out most of my best cars. The wildest moment and closest I came to getting caught was in the esplanade on the 2’s and 5s. I’m straddling two cars taking tags on the top of the tunnel beams when I look down and hear a door open slowly and see a DT creeping from one car to the next. The ball moved in the can and it clicked, the DT looked up and tried to jump up and grab my leg. I took off on top of the trains towards 180th. I panicked and just ran and forgot to tell CRYPTON to run. He ran cause I ran. My crazy ass jumped from the top of the train to the tracks at the end of the set and I’m lucky I didn’t break a leg. We ran south and climbed down where the el was real close to the ground halfway to 180th. Another time I was in the ZEREGA layup doing silvers when the window slid down and a voice said, “DON”T YOU FUCKIN’ MOVE!”. Shit he might have well said, “RUN” because that’s exactly what we did, then slid down a pole and ran two stations down where we took the train home.

DUNE got his name from me. At the time the book DUNE had come out and there were these posters on the trains. I admired the S and D combo of SEEN TC5 and DOZE, SEEN (UA) and DUST, SKEME and DEZ and SHARP and DELTA so I thought SADE and DUNE would have that same ring. I think it caught on because to this day when I meet new cats and say I wrote SADE they’re always like, “SADE and DUNE right?” We definitely had our own take on this writing thing and feel we contributed a little something.

It was a cool time and place from 80 to 85. All the big time cats were leaving on the gallery tip. More fell by the wayside to drugs and the street. There were all these toys including me that were training in the early 80’s coming on strong in 83, 84 and 85. Crack had exploded and the environment changed. Things were more violent and cutthroat. I personally became the TAX MAN because the racks were getting burnt and paint was scarce. So the drill was, “What you write?” and then “run your paint”. Nobody was exempt. I hear a lot of cats that were around then talking that real “rah rah shit” today. Bullshit! There wasn’t that many real “fuck you up and take your shit” cats that I was personally around and I hung deep from Brooklyn to the Bronx. The only cats I was around regularly that I wasn’t trying without a real good reason was my boy MACK, PER, T-KID, CEM, KEMT and JASE. I heard POKE was no joke and would give it to you quick fast…I’m talking about the knuckle game/ stick a knife in your gut quick fast action. The real shit, not that “woof, woof“ until someone backs down and walking around with a never tested rep like cats nowadays. Don’t get me wrong for not mentioning other cats but a lot of dudes were bullies that never got tested either because of size or never fighting one on one.

I had quite a few incidents. The only beef I ever had where we got the fair one on was with DEZ TFA. Now mind you I was cool with Dez and was a toy around him at the bench in the early 80’s. AGENT introduced me to him and he even told me to put up TFA. I have a photo of me in front of a TFA tag before TCM. Anyways he rolled up on me at the 125th Street station on the 2 and 5. We was going down in the tunnel to paint so I had a big bag of paint and we was sitting by the big wooden bench that used to be when you first walked into the station past the turnstiles. Me, DUNE and a bunch of other cats were waiting for some other writers. DUNE and me were going to pull out married cars with SHAME125, SAK MBT and KC MBT. Long story short we got it cracking and they pulled me off the cat cause I was on a mission. He later that night does a DEZZIE blockbuster over the whole car that SAK said was the best car he ever saw me do. A week or so later we catch him in the tunnel and the rest is history or should I say “my story”. That’s the day he quit writing. I regretted that for years because he was my idol and I always imagined doing the S and D combo, SADE and DEZ car with him. SHAME wound up in beef with him too because he thought SHAME set him up since we let SHAME walk away when we caught DEZ. SHAME happened to be with him, but for the record SHAME had nothing to do with it, so we gave him a pass. It took 23 years before DEZ and I settled our beef. Can you imagine? Goes to show how much we love this shit!

Another story cats may not know is that I did all the first RE and DIPS MOG cars on the letters. They were both freshman in my high school when I was in my senior year in 1984. I rocked quite a few DIPS, DIPPER and RE top to bottoms and whole cars on the letters in exchange for paint. They set cats up for us to vic as well in exchange for me doing simple cars for them. Thanks to little DIPS for showing me around the Brooklyn layups and yards!! Sorry to RE for flipping on you and taking your paint…but you knew the rules!

The writing cycle went on for me until 1985. By then my non-graffiti street action was getting out of control and I was down to buying paint occasionally because racks were so scarce and toys with good paint so hard to find. I wound up getting caught for some non-graff related activities and found myself upstate. DUNE continued until 86 but then he quit. He was to me as true a writer as they come. At first I did his stuff but he watched and learned. But he never watched too closely. He had his own voice and went after that hardcore! He didn’t bench trains and didn’t do the politic shit hanging around other writers. He did it for himself more than anything. This explains how he progressed so quickly and ultimately wound up burning me. He had his own style cause he never clocked anybody else’s. Mind you he couldn’t draw to save his life but he could do a DUNE burner like no one else’s business.

I want to acknowledge the true old school, pre 1980, of which I became well versed and educated about well after the fact through the explosion of information on the internet. My favorite writers of all times will be the piecers. I respected the Brooklyn cats for their illmatic hand styles, shout out to SES, PEO, WEISER, BABY168, P13, OE3, NET, NEL, TRIKE GND and the list goes on. But near and dear to my heart were the guys who had style, that could burn you with 6 cans and a few letters or blow your mind with the illest whole cars. Guys like LEE, SLAVE, PESO 131, CHAIN, PART, KOOL 131, NOC167, KADE, TEAN, MEAN3, SEEN TC5, DOZE, SPIN, DUSTER, SEEN UA, ERNI (PAZE), KAZE, SPADE, TACK, AIRBORN, SERVE, SON1, SAK, DERO, KC, SHAME125, RAZ, BIO, NICER, BG, TKID, CEM, SWAN3, SKEME, DEZ, POEM, JON ONE, DONDI, ZEPHYR, FUZZ, MITCH77, WANE, WEST, BABY168, KEL, CRASH, DAZE, POKE IBM, SENTO ETC…those I left out please forgive me but they’re too many to remember and I missed so much. And last but not least I always admired the bombers because they did what I always wish I did which was get up like no tomorrow during my looking at train years. Shout outs to the bombers like BLADE, COMET, CAP, TERROR 161, PJAY, RUSH, REST, TATU, AERON, MACK, BRIM, COSE, BEO, G-MAN, PRESWEET, COPE2, POVE, QUIK RTW, MIN, KING IZ THE WIZ, RICH2, HAZE, FLASHER, DURO, BAN2, DUEL, CES157, SPANK, GHOST, etc… For those I left out keep in mind I inhaled just as much paint and marker fumes as you all did so my memory slips me sometimes and I didn’t ride or see every train.

Peace and one love to all before, during and after the trains but I want to leave you all with this one thought. My friend of 27 years NICER TAT said to me once that back in the day no matter if you was the king of the mail boxes, mail trucks, buses or whatever if you did bomb trains you couldn’t call yourself a writer. So if you never bombed NYC trains can you call yourself a writer? I don’t know if that’s right or wrong but if you ask me what I write I’ll say, “I write SADE TCM!”

Last words: The past defines the future and the future defines the past. To diminish one is to diminish the other. Recognize. All you young so-called graffiti thugs, fall back…it isn’t that serious anymore. All you old jacks re-writing or writing a new history for yourselves…show your flics or shut the fuck up!… Fuck keeping’ it real…keep it right!

Categories:   Sade