MASTA ACE – THE GRAFFITI WRITER
KILLA KELA: You are such a versatile mc and you have such a legacy in Hip-hop culture. Besides MCing you were also into Graffiti, correct?
MASTA ACE: Yeah, my second album Slaughterhouse there’s actually a photograph of me doing Graff on the wall in one of the inserts. That same photo was used for an interview for a magazine and that’s kind of where people became aware that I was connected to graff, but the story starts a lot quite a bit before that.
KILLA KELA: What was the backstory to that Graffiti photo?
MASTA ACE: I’m out painting and that was the that one that was the day we were doing photos for the album for Slaughterhouse. I wanted to in some way to communicate that I was I was into graff as well. I brought cans with me. I’m like yo I’m gonna do this real quick right here on the wall and the photographer just started taking pictures.
KILLA KELA: Let’s take it back, how did you first start with Graffiti?
MASTA ACE: I was in high school and saw the documentary Style wars. For my whole entire life, I saw graff on trains but after that documentary and I just became intrigued with the idea of Graffiti. I had a notebook that I carried and every time I rode the train, I would take the notebook out and I would write any new names I saw whether it was inside the train or the outside. i had a list of must have been 200 names, I just wanted to document the different names that I saw from different writers and that’s how the passion began. Eventually, I decided to get my hands on some some paint and see if I could try it. I started out with just markers uh in the building where I lived in the projects I would write in the elevator and hallway walls and stuff like that.
KILLA KELA: What was your Graff name?
MASTA ACE: I was just doing little tags at first with markers and just trying to figure out what my hand was going to look like and what my letters were going to be. I fooled around with a few different names but, my first graff name was clein. i don’t know why I picked that name to. My first piece ended up being on train tunnel Brooklyn.
KILLA KELA: Were you ever caught?
MASTA ACE: I got caught writing by these undercover detectives. Me and Steady pace got shook up pretty good. We were walking around looking for store gates to bomb. We found one, it’s broad daylight by the way, as we’re writing on the wall this car pulls that comes directly at us and pulls up on the sidewalk like it’s going to hit us. These two undercover cops get out. They took the paint and one of the cops took a can of the white paint that we had he said hold your hands out and we held out our palms and he spray painted our palms completely white and he said now get the fuck out of here. He took the took the cans, they got in the car, and they drove off. Steady pace was like yo I’m done I’m never writing again; we could have gone to jail. and I was like you’re right. He never wrote again but it was still something pulling me towards it so I went home with my hands hidden in my pockets I went in the bathroom, and I must have been in there 30 minutes with soap and scrubbing. that was a crazy experience and it made me kind of step away from street bombing. because I knew I was I was kind of risking risking a lot at that point.
Years later I was outside of a Salt N Pepa release party, I was talking to some guys and the topic of graff came up, but he was like yo we write, so I said man I used to love writing but I left it alone when I got to college. One of regrets was I never really got to like really to bomb the trains or do any of that stuff. These guys bombed and did all that, I ended up getting his number, his name was lou 167. He took me out on my first true bombing mission. At this point I’m on my second album so it’s kind of crazy to be out doing it but it was it was something that I needed to do so I went bombing with them several nights in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
KILLA KELA: what do you think people what makes the likes of us want to do it?
MASTA ACE: I think I’m an artist at heart so creating is always going to be exciting and something that I want to do no matter what it is. but I think the thing that made me keep coming back to graff was because I didn’t feel like I had reached a point where I’m like yeah, I’m I pretty good. I wanted to get to that point where I could say look at look at what I did on the wall and go yo that’s pretty that’s pretty dope. It’s part of my story, it’s part of my journey and it’s funny isn’t it because you know looking at the slaughterhouse cover and taking that picture as the the reference point to what actually becomes this conversation now. that it’s almost like it’s a salute to the graffiti scene.