For all of you that print t-shirt, do clothing brand of just like fashion, you should read the interview of Phade of The T-shirt Kings and should have a look around the book Phade of Shirt Kings: Pioneers of Hip Hop Fashion publish by our friends Dokument Press.
In reading the book, I was struck when you said that everyone around you seemed to be doing graffiti growing up. But then they stopped at a certain point. Why?
When they got to be 16 or 17, it was over. The guys who kept going, people would look at them and say, “Why you still writing dude? We did that when we were kids.” [laughs] I kept going and got ridiculed, criticized. But then I connected and found likeminded people, and we just fed off each other to keep going. In figuring out how to transfer the art from the trains to the shirts, I found a lane to make it a job.
How did you get your name?
[laughs] I would hear my brother and older guys talk about certain writers. I always took a mental note of those names. When the guys would be in front of the building with the Black Books tagging up, you would always see a Phase 2 tag. When it came to Phase, everybody would stop. “Oh, you gotta Phase tag?!” I was drawn to that respect and his mystique. No one knew what he looked like.
So I named myself after him. Phase 3. I tagged it everywhere until I got to high school and one of my friends let me know that I shouldn’t do that anymore. So I just changed it a little bit after that.
Tell me about this high school. It wasn’t a public school, right?
It was a specialized arts high school, and it definitely seemed kind of intimidating. I was forced to go take the test by a couple of friends, Kaos One and DJ Doc Larock. They showed me how to do acrylics on the side of the pants and jackets. They knew I had a love for it because I was always bothering them. [laughs] I remember I stumbled on to Kaos One’s Black Book at his apartment one day. We were DJing and I was going through the crates, and I said, “What’s this? It looks like a Black Book!” When I saw that it was Kaos One, it was like finding out your friend is Batman. I couldn’t believe this legend lived in my building
How did the music connect with graffiti?
Well, the music heavily influenced The Shirt Kings. We would listen to it, dissect and then take the most memorable quotes or circumstances and then create them on the shirt. K-Solo had a song called “Your Mom’s Is In My Business,” so I drew Bamm-Bamm [from The Flintstones]. He’s saying to Pebbles, “Yo, your moms is in our business!” [laughs] They had on Fendi and Gucci. It’s putting all the things you like together on a shirt. All your worlds. All the things you want to attain or aspire to.
Read the rest of the interview on the Redbull site here.