Domeshots & Fat Laces vol 1:Stay High 149

Writing Groups: EX/ VANDALS, WAR Main lines: 2, 5, 4, 3, 6, 7, 1, AA, and D ( ALL CITY )
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, times were hard. New York City was constantly bankrupt and business people were burning-down slums. The mafia was flooding the country with heroin, crime rate was really exploding, and prejudice was at an all time high. Gang life, in areas where no policeman would dare to show his/her face, had become a fight for survival. Graffiti became an outlet for young people living in New York, as a way to veer from the gangs and drugs. It gave youths like, STAY HIGH, a sense of self worth.
STAY HIGH, in 1969 was a nineteen-year old youth living in a suppressed area of the Bronx. He would ride the trains as a way of escapism. That is when he noticed writings such as “God loves”, “make love not war”, or “pray”, etched on walls, phone booths, trains and in subway stations. STAY HIGH, like many other youths, took the writings not just as a name that left an impression on others, but also as messages that he could learn from. After continually seeing all of these messages he became inspired and came up with his own name to use. As STAY HIGH started writing he added a stick figure of a saint with a halo, which came from the famous television show “The Saint”. He changed the format of the saint by incorporating his own idea. He turned the saint in the opposite direction and added a smoking joint that was perched on his name. STAY HIGH would call this figure “The Smoker” and the smoker is what was to be known!As a writer in the 1970’s, one not only needed to have the most hits ( tags ), but also needed to catch the eye from others, by using a trademark. Many writers used trademarks such as stars, arrows, swords and so on. STAY HIGH’s smoker became one of the biggest trademarks.

Subway outlaws? Wow, that’s who we were in the early 1970’s, Subway outlaws. I’m originally from Virginia and moved to Harlem, New York City in the mid 1960’s with my family, to look for a better life. The first time I noticed Graffiti, was on the walls of many buildings in the streets, during the late 1960's.I remember seeing many names that, I cannot remember off the top of my head. However, I do remember that TAKI 183 was a name that was seen everywhere and was very easy to read. His name was seen all over, especially on the upper west side of Manhattan. In 1969, when I was 18 years old, I started tagging around my neighborhood with the name, STAY HIGH. It wasn’t until later when I moved to 149th street in the Bronx, that I added the “149” to my name. As an escape from all the bad things going on around me, I got high a lot, so I wrote what I did; STAY HIGH.My career as a subway outlaw took off once I moved to the Bronx and saw “SUPER KOOL 223” all on the trains that were running. That cat truly inspired me to hit the trains hard. I was a child of the 1960’s who watched a lot of television. One of my favorite shows was a show with Roger Moore, which featured a Saint stick figure in the beginning of the show. I expanded on that idea by facing the character in the opposite direction,added the smoking joint and thus, the smoker was born. Whenever I took the train, I hung out in the last car to tag it up. At times, I would move from the last car of the train, to the very next car, and then continue on until I reach the front of the train.That's how I got to hit all the insides of the whole entire train. Working as a messenger, helped me hit different parts of the city, because I traveled the trains all day long. You know the saying, “have marker will travel”.
My first true writing partner was DEAD LEG 167. Wherever you saw my name, you saw his name. We did a lot of subway bombing together, and still, to this day, he’s my right-hand man. Being that I lived on 149th street, I hung out at a “Writers Bench” on Grand Concourse and met tons of writers there; cats like, STAFF 161, AJ 161 ( ALL JIVE 161 ), PEARL 149 , PHASE 2, COOL JEFF, TOP CAT 126, T-REX 131, BUG 170, EL MARKO 174, TABU 1 and many others. The train yards were very easy to get into back then. At times, we would bring food and drinks and stay there from morning until night. I have been to almost every train yard and train lay-up in New York City... I have climbed up fences, under fences, used bolt cutters on the fences, ran into train tunnels with bags of paint. You name it and I have done it! The number train lines are what I preferred hitting, but I also did the letter train lines, like the “D”, “B”, “M”, “RR”, and so on. Bay Chester lay-up was my favorite spot to hit. I went there with my partners DEAD LEG 167, PURPLE HAZE 168 and HANDO 1, where we competed to see who could do the most pieces.Each night at Bay Chester, I must have done at least 10 pieces. There where other spots I hit even harder, like the 4 train yard in the Bronx and the 3 train yard in Manhattan. That’s where I met JACE 2 and the 3 YARD BOYS.
I bombed so much that I slept, ate and bled Graffiti. I became an addict for it every night, painting in a train yard, lay up or some place in the city. The biggest high however, was seeing it run all through the city. There was nothing like it! I was up on the trains so much that the heat was coming down on me; the vandal cops found out who I was, so I needed to find an alias. Being that I was from the ghetto and wanted to be a voice of the people, I came up with the name, VOICE OF THE GHETTO.
I used to hit the inside of the trains with three tone uni-wide markers, and then hit the outside of the trains. The attention became so over whelming. I remember getting off the train at 149th Street, Grand Concourse and seeing a whole bunch of toys running over the bridge to the uptown side, just to ask me to sign their black books. Eventually, I got bored with it! I moved on to other things and just stayed away from that lifestyle. I find it ironic, that twenty-eight years later, in 2001, I ran in to BAMA, who told me that people had been looking for me. When I asked him, “what for”? He told me that the Graffiti movement had become bigger than ever and there were some people he wanted to introduce me to. Those people I met wanted to write an article about me, and they did, in a magazine called “While You Were Sleeping”. In it was a statement that read, “people have claimed and wished to be him”. I liked the sound of that!
However, twenty years earlier, in 1973 New York magazine had the 1st recorded article on Graffiti featuring a photo of myself and others like PHASE II, SNAKE 1, CO CO 144, NOVA 1, and several others.The name made an impact on that generation and remained my slogan, even to this day. I’m still painting, along with the OLD SCHOOL KINGS and many other writers. I have my own shirts, that can be found for sale on this site, along with my STAY HIGH collectables.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone that has supported me since I made my return back into the Graffiti world; guys like my man Gil, FREEDOM, TERROR 161, DANGER 59, THE TATS CREW, BAMA, DEAD LEG 167, TRACY 168, ZEPHYR, FLINT… and ZOO YORK.

The Dynamic Hamza 21®

Hip Hop since 1982.

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