DS & FL VOL. 17: TRACY 168

Originally posted on April 6, 2006 5:38 PM

First I would to send my condolences to all of the family and friends of the David Tafolla aka DJ DE LA VIE who tragically lost his life this past Sunday. God willing justice will come those who perpetuated the crime of taking the life of a great DJ and man like David. May he rest in peace.

Now for this week's DOMESHOTS S & FAT LACES I am shining a spotlight on one of graf's legendery pioneers and founder of three crews. Michael Tracy, AKA ....


Countless top writers site him as being an inspiration. TRACY 168 started his career in the late 1960s when writing was in it's infancy and continued through several generations. His drawing ability and unique sense of color and style set him apart from other writers of his time. TRACY did numerous whole cars with detailed illustrations helping to establish scenery whole cars as part of the culture. TRACY always teamed with the best. He founded the crew WANTED in 1972. Tracy was a white kid who was so tough that he was allowed to hang out with the Black Spades (At its peak in the 70's "Wanted" had over seventy members.) In 1972 also he founded another crew named The EX (experienced)-VANDALS. The Ex-Vandals had grown substantially, however, they eventually disbanded because of problems with fighting gangs. The Ex-Vandals, though, lived on as legends in the minds of writers and influenced many other later graffiti groups. Afeter the break up of the Ex Vandals gave birth to yet another crew called WILD STYLE with writers like CLIFF, LSD, P NUT, KING 2, CHI CHI 133, LIONEL 168, SONNY 107 and ZEST. He is a true pioneer.

Michael Tracy better known as Tracy 168 is one of the original creators of the art form called "graffiti," studied at the institute of Higher Learning, better known as the Lexington I.R.T. His canvas was the subway car and his pallet various cans of spray paint.

"The best year for graffiti was 1973," he ruminates. "Styles were coming out. We got into this thing with colors. First it was two colors, then three colors, then four. What makes me a powerful artist, " he states, " is that my paintings are alive, strong and very bright. The color combos make it. Balance: each color as strong as it is enhances the color beside it, going back and forth. Giving style and balance and movement, that is what makes a good artist."

"After the colors," TRACY 168 continues, "the challenge became who could do the biggest piece, the wildest. Then it was top-to-bottom, whole car, whole train. We worked on clouds and flames. We got into lettering. Everybody was trying to develop their own technique. When I would go into a yard (train), the first thing I would do is look around and see who was good. That would be my objective. To burn the best writer in the yard, and I wouldn't leave until I did something better than him."

Because of these types of beginnings, most street graffiti was based on the macho culture of competition. How long will you take to do a car before you get caught? How big can you write your name? It was fueled by a rage against a society which didn't care about its kids. It was a form of communication and a way to gain recognition outside of community. It was perceived as the only way to escape the ghetto, and to become known and recognized in faraway places, like Brooklyn.

Wild Style writing was developed as a language - a cultural statement - and its home was the Bronx. To TRACY 168, one of the inner-city writers who created this genre of art, its meaning goes deep

Wild Style
is what you do in your life.

Whatever you do,
do it to the best of your ability.

If you're not the best,
then find your purpose and be the best at that.

If you're an artist, postal carrier,
plumber or salesman, just be the best.

TRACY 168Eventually, TRACY 168 became bored by spray painting trains as he felt he had no competition. He turned to painting wall murals in 1978 and his first paid assignment was the side of French Charlys Bar on Webster Avenue in the Bronx.

Regarding memorial walls for victims of urban violence, for which he is "artist of record" on many, he knows it is only a matter of time before there is another mural to be painted and another mother crying. "Like they said in the bible," he was recently quoted, "The dead will walk the earth. Sometimes I wonder if it started happening. The buildings are starting to look like tombs, and the people on crack are the walking dead."

His murals quickly became recognized for their individuality because of his need to give back to the community. He would ask people for their ideas and he would plan his mural so that it would have some message of guidance. For the kids, a positive message - no violence, no drugs.

It's time to start concentrating on the lighter, brighter side of mural painting. TRACY 168 feels his current work, which includes many cartoons, put people in a better frame of mind, and brings them to a better place. Many of his current pieces are commissioned by businesses who want to appeal to the locals and they have found his new approach to be vibrant, alive, colorful and playful. In TRACY 168's words, "this art form is what jazz is to music. A moment in time captured with the flair of the street people, most of all, alive!.....REAL LIFE!!"


For TRACY 168, graffiti wasn't just rebellion or a gimmick to be heard in a society where you felt nobody really seemed to care--it meant creating something visual, with beautiful colors, to capture the city's audience in a medium never before used--the side of a NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY CAR.

"No media propoganda, no manipulating political intervention. It came from the hearts of its people. Us. We the people...the tail doesn't wag the dog, the dog wags the tail. The first time in history that what a citizen says isn't edited, changed, nor taken out of context. Thank GOD for this Art Form. And My talent, to be able to be part of it..."


Next Week:

Graf Pioneer IZ THE WIZ

The Dynamic Hamza 21®

Hip Hop since 1982.

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