In conversation with Zomby

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The Saatchi show features major American names like Dondi, Keith Haring and the Beastie Boys alongside London heroes like 10Foot, Tox, Jamie Reid and Malcolm McLaren. Is this London getting its dues?

Yeah, it showcases that London is an important city when it comes to graffiti and street art. It runs back to the 80s. All the old names – Rocksteady Crew and the UK stuff like Malcolm McLaren, Goldie – that’s when I got into the culture.

How did you get into it originally?

Through breakdancing, rap music, Subway Art and documentaries like Style Wars and Beat Street. Subway Art changed me a bit. I looked at it and thought: this is what I want to do with my life.

When you got into UK graffiti, the scene’s poster boys were people like the Chrome Angels and Goldie. What was the typical look?

We had paint on our clothes and just wore what we had. That’s from my perspective because I didn’t have much money when I was young. The graff I saw on clothing back then was on the back of denim jackets. Some people had the [name] belt buckles and the [adidas] shell-toe trainers – the B‑boy look.

Who was doing the B‑boy look?

The older generation – I must have been about 14 or 15 then. The ones that were 17 or 18 that used to go to Covent Garden in the belt buckles, Kangol hats and trainers. Some of them had Ghetto Blasters [boomboxes]. You would get on the Tube, and they’d be playing music on the train. Everyone wore a bit of adidas – the trainers, the tracksuits. It was one of the brands related to hip-hop.

Has adidas been a part of how you dress as a graffiti writer?

Yeah, I’ve always worn a bit. Even from the late 80s, I had the ZX 8000 Torsions. I try to mix it up. It’s usually trainers or T‑shirts or tracksuit bottoms. Now, you see someone wearing a red adidas tracksuit walking down the street with big adidas trainers – it’s a hip-hop statement that says you know about the culture.

What does the exhibition say about London graffiti?

It shows the graffiti scene is growing. Back in the 80s and 90s, people thought: This is just a fad, and it will just die out. They’re just vandals.” But it’s shown the world it’s more than that.

You have played a pivotal role in London’s graffiti crew, DDS [Diabolical Dubstars]. When did it begin?

Around 93, 94.

Did they have a look? Was adidas part of this?

It was a bit of a strange one because there was a lot of members from different parts of London – north, south, east and west. Different colours, different shapes, different backgrounds. Everyone was quite individual. We looked like a strange bunch. Yeah, adidas has always been part of people’s wear, even if it’s a jacket or trainers – someone will always be wearing adidas.

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