Vice magazine recently edited an interview about the living legend from the NYC streets: Skuff of YKK crew.
VICE: How old were you when you first noticed graffiti?
SKUF: I was born into it. I’m the youngest out of four siblings. My older brother was a breakdancer and at that time hip-hop and graffiti was basically all one unit. I remember hanging out with my brother in the train station and his friends and peers pointing out what they saw. OE3 and P13 were like the gods. I was really young, I’m talking eight years old, and understood the concept.
Coming from a neighborhood, an oppressed community where there’s a lot of poverty… [graffiti] gave people pride, gave them a superhero feeling, like, You’re very important now. You’re not just this kid from the hood trying to be something. [Graffiti] took everything away and made what was going on around you disappear. It could make you a king. I wanted to be that; I wanted that escape route.
How did you pick your name?
[Style master and graffiti legend] STAK FUA gave me the name SKUF in ’91. The name that was handed down to me; I never chose it. It’s funny, though. Eventually art imitates life: I ended up getting all these scars and getting cut up in all these major beefs, so it’s like I’m really scuffed up now.
How important was graffiti for you to survive in your neighborhood?
It wasn’t. It was totally at the bottom of the totem pole where I came from. It was laughed upon. I came from a block where people hustled a lot. Big time. Crack made its assault on the neighborhood and the reality is my cousins and people I grew up with were the ones involved in it. So they were like, “Why are you doing this? Come on, let’s get this money, let’s hustle!” I always had a hustling spirit and I always thought about how to make a dollar out of 15 cents. I was raised that way. [Graffiti] was frowned upon. I kept it secret. It’s strange because for people from other communities, graffiti was at the top of the totem pole. “I’m a graffiti writer! I’m cool!” But where I came from it wasn’t. It was like, You’re gonna get into a beef over this?
Do you still feel strongly about some of the beef you were involved in with other writers?
Not at all. I can’t picture myself caring about beef. I’m a grown man, I have a family to feed. I know what I’ve done in life. If somebody has an issue with me, that’s their problem, they need to go talk to a psychologist about it and figure it out. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not gonna let anyone put their hands on me, that’s just ridiculous. And I’m not gonna let no one try to belittle me in any way, shape or form. But I’m not gonna be the one looking for it.
I’m a dad now. My child looks at everything I do and he’s like a sponge. Picture me, I’ve got beef, it’s like the silliest thing in the world. But again, I keep my gangsta in my back pocket when needed. That’s just where I’m from, who I am.
Check out the complete interview after the JUMP.