Graffiti Glossary

hit: To tag or bomb a surface

bomb:To apply graffiti intensively to a location. Bombers often choose to paint throw-ups or tags instead of complex pieces, as they can be executed more quickly.

Subway Art: a collaborative book by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant, which documents the early history of New York City’s graffiti movement. Originally published in 1984, it is known by many as ‘the bible’ of graffiti. Subway Art quickly acquired the dubious accolade of becoming one of the most stolen books in the United Kingdom.

Style Wars: an American 1983 documentary film on hip hop culture and its American roots, directed by Tony Silver and produced in collaboration with Henry Chalfant. The film has an emphasis on graffiti, although bboying and rapping are covered to a lesser extent.

write: to graffiti

tags: A stylized signature, normally done in one color. The simplest and most prevalent type of graffiti, a tag is often done in a color that contrasts sharply with its background. Tag can also be used as a verb meaning “to sign.” Writers often tag on or beside their pieces, following the practice of traditional artists who sign their artwork.

piece: A large, complex, and labor-intensive graffiti painting. Pieces often incorporate 3-D effects, arrows, and many colors and color-transitions, as well as various other effects. These will usually be done by writers with more experience. Originally shorthand for masterpiece, considered the full and most beautiful work of graffiti. A piece requires more time to paint than a throw-up. If placed in a difficult location and well executed it will earn the writer more respect. Piece can also be used as a verb that means: “to write.”

get up: To develop your reputation or “rep” through writing graffiti.

heavens: Spots that are challenging to graffiti but in highly visible locations with heavy exposure. Billboards, freeway signs, and tall bridges are potential examples, but the object itself does not determine whether or not it offers a heaven spot, as factors such as the amount of civilian and law enforcement traffic that passes within view of the target as well as the physical dangers inherent to reaching the spot in question generally must be present to qualify. A billboard in the middle of rural region poses little challenge even to many novice graffitists, while one in a busy part of a major city requires careful premeditation to pull off successfully. Graffitists pursue these spots for the increased exposure and notoriety they provide.

run: The length of time graffiti remains up before being covered or removed. If a piece has been up for a year, it is said to have “run for a year.”

crews: A crew, krew, or cru is a group of associated graffitists that often work together. Crews are differentiated from gangs in that their main objective is to paint graffiti. Any group of friends can quickly and informally form a crew if they are interested in graffiti and want to start conspiring. Often crews will recruit new members over time in order to maintain their relevance. There is a smaller risk of being held responsible for crew works if a single member gets arrested. From a legal point of view, the name could have been painted by anyone in the group.Tagging crew names are usually three letters, but can be two to five letters long. The letters are abbreviations of the full crew name.

WCA: West Coast Artists, a crew formed by Rival (RIP), Miner and P-Jay in 1985 which came to include Pyro, Risk, Design9, Coozie, Rak, Sel and Sed.

MSK: An infamous Los Angeles based graffiti crew, Mad Society Kings, Main Street Killas known for their blockbusters, billboards, large pieces, and the mark they’ve made on graffiti culture over the years. Members of MSK are REVOK1, AUGOR, RIME, RISK, REYES, AGUA, NORM, STEEL, CEASE, RETNA, ZESER, HENSE, CHUNK, SABER


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