New York, without doubt, is the home of all the world’s culture. I must admit, that exploring a City like this as a journalist, is a privilege! But today I can show the younger generations an interview with an artist who is a legend in his own right, but who will leave much more behind him since he continues his life, and for me, well, that is a prize!
“I AM LUCKY, GOD BLESSED ME WITH A TALENT”
I did an interview with Tracy 168 during an event organized by his niece Judy Sahagian in a Brooklyn brownstone, a perfect venue for an intimate chat with the father of the “wild style”, an old school writer and well known as one of the kings of graffiti. An artist who has inspired several generations and who will go down as one of the great figures of a world which for many, is still unknown – that of graffiti, the streets, the crews, the rap and the breaking, but what this genre really wants, is to express to its audience, in a normal sort of way, its way of seeing things.
Michael Tracy, in a tête à tête interview, is a funny, profound man, with a great feeling for life and the wisdom of those who “admit they have lived.”
“FIND YOUR PURPOSE, HAVE YOUR OWN STYLE AND GIVE BACK TO THE WORLD WHAT IT GAVE TO YOU.”
Together we reflect upon his beginnings in the Bronx, how difficult it was to live in in the 1970’s, in a district which was a war zone, the events, or shall we say luck, which caused him to create this complicated style of graffiti, which is so difficult to decipher if you are not familiar with it, these “wildstyle” pieces, also known as “burners”, since the letters seem to be on fire. We also talked about legends and addictions, in effect an interview going right down to basics, spoken in a slang which I found difficult to understand, but, as he says, connection is between the soul and the heart and when people love this genre of art there is a common language, which goes way beyond race, social status and age. NEW YORK CITY SLANG IS THE MOST POPULAR ATRIBUTE THAT URBAN HIP HOP HAS TO OFFER.
He told us how the adrenalin rush in his body and the joy of seeing his name on trains is what motivates him.
“MORE PEOPLE SEE MY WORK IN THE TRAINS THAN IN A MUSEUM, THE SUBWAY MADE ME A SUPERSTAR IN NEW YORK.”
He was always wild, and he will always be wild. He has always broken boundaries, and he will continue doing so. He is always faithful and honest in his work and his motto is never to lose his integrity! I remember that he told me that one of his pieces was exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2006, but when he came by, he made some adjustments on his own canvas with a paintbrush. The guards called the curator of the exhibition, who insisted that he couldn’t change anything since it had already been photographed for the catalogue. So, this is Tracey 168, a genius who keeps behaving like a child.
“LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN, KIDS WILL ALWAYS TELL YOU THE TRUTH. THEY ARE HERE TO TEACH US. THEY ARE CLOSER TO GOD THAN WE ARE.”