UK Hip Hop: Artists & Discographies
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Skam One :: Mad Ethnickz
Skam - Peace For all that don't know please introduce yourself and let the readers know a bit about your crew the Mad Ethnicz, i.e. who was in the crew? There was some major names like Coma and Foam 2. What are / were the areas you paint / painted?

The Mad Ethnicz was a very loose cru. Every member came from a different cru, or were solo writers. It was mainly a clique that hung out along the big/lil Met line and Laylow in the mid 80's. The main members were Cazbee, Rio (ink 27/Justice), Foam 2, Hate 1, Ream, Viodski, Coma, Seize, Kis 42, Chrome, Crame (Demo), Rite 1, Magic, and me. Those were the main members of the clique.

As individuals what do you write? What are your tags?

I started of writing Tag 1 and Grand Slammer, Which got shorten to Slam. A Puerto Rican called Johnny Vee gave me the name Skam as I was always scamming things. I like the name and letters and it has stuck with though out my life.

How old are you guys now?

I'm 35 now. I was one of the eldest members of the cru, but we were all near enough the same age..

What was it that got you into graffiti and when do you think it was that you would have started drawing on paper, maybe keeping a pad?

The 1st Graff I ever saw was by Future 2000 under the Westway in my neighbourhood, but we was tagging a few years before that. We started of writing P.F.P. (Powis Funk Patrol) in the late 70's. It was more of a gang thing, just getting our gang names up, like peeps would do with their football team. I once got caught tagging P.F.P. and the Police made me clean it off the wall there and then lol. But it was seeing that Future piece that got me going. 

What was it that got you onto the next level and actually throwing up on walls etc?

After seeing Future paint under the way, the following day I went straight to Woolworth and racked, started racking paint…

When and where was your first piece? What was the feeling you got after putting it up? Was it what you expected?

The 1st piece I painted said KREW, which was the name of our crew. 

So, you must have done a whole load of pieces. Which one was your favourite piece? Where was it and when would it have been done?

I think my favourite was orgasm in Denmark 85. It wasn't no way near my best piece, I just had a real mad fun that night and a real good adventure.

What has been your craziest or worst writing experience?

Craziest? That's a hard one, it was all mad lol. My worst would have to be when they tried to pin up with the train steaming stuff what was massive in the mid 80's. I had 7 charges of robbery and was guilty of none! 

Are there any other crews or artists in your area who you know or whose tags you see all over?

Far to many to name, it was like every kid would write back then. But as for nowadays, I would have to say Fume, he reminds me a lot of what we used to do. He's got that old style you know, very clean, stylish and colour coordinated. Not too wild or anything, just nice and simple.

Can you break down, for a bit of perspective, how graffiti filtered into UK culture? I mean who would have been the first people to bring it over from the US, or developing native artforms that already existed, maybe stemming from Punk etc.?

It was Clash who brought Future 2000 over here, I guess I was lucky enough to grow up around here and be exposed into Hip Hop in the early years. 

OK, for a while there, as the popularity of Hip Hop grew in the UK, so did graf. Can you tell us a bit about some of the big names who got over? I can think of the Artful Dodger and some people may not know, but Goldie started as a graffiti artist didn't he?

You had loads of big writers back in the day making a name for them selves, but I used to notice everybody would be copying each other. I mean it was like every one was on the candy stick colour schemes. I used to hate that so much. I knew AD, Pride, Mode 2, Snake etc., but I wouldn't see those peeps riding the lines and stuff. I still have a lot of respect for them and have worked with them in the past. But for me it was peeps like ICE 3, Demo, Coma, Cast (Haze), Set 3, Kis 42, Tilt, etc. The Met line peeps, they were the ones getting up in the early days before 85… Oh yeah, 3D from Bristol was nice, I remember seeing a piece by him when I went to dance for the Wild Bunch back in '84. It was a wall piece saying, No Great Crime. It was a real dope burner for time. I also like Inkies stuff from Bristol as well, and it's nice to see him still painting today.

Skam - Foundations Do you remember the Weetabix advert with the graffiti? When was that? It was amazing to me that at one point the whole thing was so accepted and embraced by the mainstream. Who did that advert and can you think of any other high profile things like that?

Artful Dodger did that piece, I think it must have been sometime in late '85 from what I remember.

 Did anybody from the UK gain international recognition at this time?

Just before that time I was living in Denmark dancing and piecing getting a name for myself over there and I also made a few visits to Amsterdam to see my homies rhyme and rome. Mode 2 and Bando was doing the same thing over in France.

And, during the time you were painting, internationally who were the artists you took note of and followed?

My favourite homie was Zock (2 Bad), he was no doubt the king in Copenhagen at getting up. He never used to piece just write, but he was everywhere. Where ever you went in that city you would see his name. My Danish writing homies back then was Joy, but I pretty much hanged out with everyone from Cres One, Freeze, and Dimmer, Rock and Ree, Kyle (Whap Gang) etc. I still keep in contact with Sketch from over there… I used to love Amsterdam, we had this Amsterdam and Laylow link up with Rhyme and Rome from over there. They would come over to London to hang, chill, get up what ever, and would we do the same over there.

Conversely, whilst all that was going on, how was the underground developing? Who were the unpublicised artists that other writers would respect?

In the London it was the train writers, like Demo (Crame/Cade), Ice 3, Rio, Set 3, Tilt, Gunja (Rel), State Of Art, Cane 1, Hate 1, Rio, Cazbee, Fuel, Phome 2, Seize, Coast 2 Coast's Rich and Rage, etc. 

Away from your own spots, what were the spots that would get hit? Were the tube and trains favourites as in the US, or were skateparks and walls more popular? Going on holiday back in the day I remember seeing a fair bit of graf from the Picadilly line on the way to Heathrow..

Trains, buses, walls, etc. everything used to get hit, writers would be getting up all over the city. You couldn't be a writer and not travel. How could you get up, and get paint if you didn't travel? All of getting up is travelling.

What do you make of the whole stickering phenomenon? Do you think it is just another way of getting over, or do you think it is a bit of a cop out?

The sticker idea is cool, it's just another means of getting up.

Why do you think that Graffiti artists are so demonised in the media? OK, you have to admit what you are doing constitutes criminal damage, but often times you are brightening things up and you aren't hurting anyone.

Writers don't care what the media think, it's not really about them is it? They can think what they like at the end of day. A writer may get loads of hype if his/her piece or name appears in a news paper; it's just another means of getting up lol. A writer thinks about painting, not the media. Your mind is focused on creating a nice piece, getting paint to paint that piece, traveling, drawing outlines, getting up, partying, going to court, etc. A writer is always busy, you don't have time for anything else. 

Similar to the stickering, what do you think of Etching? Is this connected to graffiti in your eyes, or does it give more conventional spraycan artists a bad name?

As said about the whole sticker idea, it's getting up. I believe the king of New York in the mid 70's was an old bag lady who used to write Jesus save and pray. She had hit her name up in every phone both throughout New York in the 70's. Any person what could do that has to be a king or queen in their own right.

Did you hear about Enzo having to go on the run after there was a major campaign about him in London?

 Yeah I heard some stuff about it. I think it's way OTT the way they treat writers, it's not like they are hurting anyone. Most writers are cool and chilled out, but they get treated like hard core criminals. If you think about it, a train is just a piece of steel looking like a white canvas that move across the entire city. It's not like it's part of nature is it. The train is still doing it's job taking people from A to B. What would you rather see on a dull grey Monday morning, a nice bright burner in a dull grey city or just the dull grey city full peeps looking down on the floor in fear of making eye contact? 

And then there was the other mad story, where apparently some graf artists plucked a guys eye out after a fight on a bus. I'm sure the publicity was distorted, but anyway you look at that it is not good…

Skam Well you good peeps and bad peeps. Most writers don't want to attract this sort of attention upon themselves.

What do you think of the zero tolerance policy many councils are now having on graffiti, will this make graffiti artists lives more difficult?

I think they should be more concerned with crack houses, and finding places for people to live in. If anything they should work with the writers. Things used to be nice in the early 80's. They should be letting writers paint murals on those dull grey buildings. Everyone likes a nice burners.

I ask everyone about politics, because I think it is important that we have knowledge of what is going on. Do you have anything to say on that? Any issues you think people need to open their eyes too?

I wasn't into the politics of writing, I mean it was all about having fun, adventures and hanging out with your homies. But I do have strong views about this world we live in.

If you could change something about society, what would it be and why?

Everything, I hate social engineering that we are exposed to from when we first go to school that makes society what it is today. Capitalism is now dictatorship.

Are you at all concerned by the way George Bush is carrying on? We just had the war with Iraq and it is a bit worrying that Bush seems to be picking on one country after another. What is your perspective on this?

It doesn't matter who it is in power, it's all the same. We are only given the rights to vote to make us think we actually have an option. So if there were somebody else in power, I guess we would still be going to war.

Overall then, do you have an opinion on whether the graffiti scene is getting better or worse? And why?

I think at the moment writers of today are pretty active, just take a look a look at the lil Met. The insides are pretty hit and there are fewer writers now. But what I have noticed about most writers, is when they get really good it's time for them to retire due to their criminal activities.

Would you consider doing legal pieces and getting paid for your work? Sometimes artists who do this are frowned upon by the underground artists… 

Yes, why not. It's better to make money from what you enjoy doin'. Paint a wall or work in some office where your boss has you on lock down.

Are there more opportunities for legal work these days, or have those days gone and in fact the council provided walls are coming down?

Yeah there is, what I can't stand is that sometimes you see shop fronts painted up in a graffiti style by some fake arty media window dresser. I don't know if you saw what they did to the window in Selfridges a while ago lol.. 100% art school wackness.

How do you feel about the connection to Hip Hop and Graffiti? Is Graffiti an element of Hip Hop, or like so many graf artists do you think that Hip Hop over the years has largely ignored graffiti and therefore disown the connection?

That's a hard one, I think graffiti is a New York culture like Hip Hop is a New York culture. You can't tell me peeps like Taki 183 was into Hip Hop back then, but then peeps like Phase 2 are. Writing is writing, it's about getting your name up, end off. You don't have to be involved in Hip Hop to be king do you? If you are getting your name up, it's still in context. I think Hip Hop has taken graffiti under it's own wing, which has helped graffiti survive over the years.

How do feel about the graffiti on the web? Do you have your own website?

The web is kool, just spend too much on there lol…

In General how do you view the Internet? Do you think it is a way for the small man to have a voice, or are there too many idiots too willing to spout a load of rubbish with no control over them?

It's up to the person, you can use it for a source information or u waste your time in chat rooms.

What do you think about the graf in other countries? Sometimes it seems like it is a much bigger thing and is more accepted in foreign lands…

I think graffiti is nice where ever you are. I mean I've seen nice pieces from all over world.

Where do / did you get your paint? Do you keep it real and rob that as well, or do you buy it?

We used to get up well early in the morning and travel all over the place to find new paint shops which wasn't hot, we would even travel aboard for paint at times. You know how it was back then, the UK had wack paint. Sparva's used to be my favourite paint.

Skam - breaking
Skam - breaking
Do you have a favourite brand or colour? Belton seems to be popular, but then maybe there is a cheap Halfords can that'll do the same job?

Back in the day it was really hard to find good paint, my favourite for outlining was U Paint, but the when they stopped making that stuff most writer would use Hams to outline with… Bunts, Beltons, K Sparys was my choice at the time. 

Back in the day there as all the talk of 'fat caps' and trying to get hold of them. What was that all about, and is it still a problem today? Do writers have a collection of caps?

We would rack caps from other products or make our own, u know sticking pins into the caps to make them wider.

Do you have any tips or techniques you want to pass on, like how to get even coverage, or avoid drips?

Just practice, take your time, never rush things, get your feel for it, and don't bite.

How can people learn to do this? Are there any instructional books or websites?

I think it's best just to teach your self, this way you develop your own skills and styles.

What books would you recommend if any for people wanting to check out the art and the history. I used to have those books by Henry Chalfont - Spraycan Art and Subway Art, they were pretty important when they came out.

Definitely, I've got to give Henry massive props for putting those books out. One of the best books what you can read on writers would have to be Craig Castleman's Getting Up. 

Do you still write at all, if not, what made you stop, and if so, what keeps you going?

I've stopped writing for a good few years now, but once in a while I would hook up with my crew and maybe bust a stick up or do some tagging. Nowadays I break and make beats. Breaking is a massive part of life and has been since 1981 I could never give it up till I die.

Have you planned out your next piece, and if so what is it going to be?

Haven't really given it much thought. But I would like to do some wall stuff in the future.

What is going to be keeping you busy over the next few months?

Breaking and music.

Do you see your work in the future moving into other artforms, maybe films, animation, calligraphy, or cartoons etc?

I have been working graphics, you know the computer 3D modeling stuff.

Which writers and/or artists most inspire you?

Future 2000, Brim, Bio, Skeme, Min1, Jon One, Phase 2, Ken, etc. 

What do dislike about the graf scene?

Toys and biters.

What are the things that you like to do when you aren't doodling or tagging? Do you like sports or the Cinema for example?

Well, my life has been pretty much breaking and Hip Hop. I love all the true elements of Hip Hop and has been the major impact of my life.

Any shout outs?

Yeah to all peeps in Foundationz and the Ethnicz, NCK, DJ Harry Love, DJ MK, DJ Kuku, MC Flexs, Leacy, DJ Sky, Dexter, No Half Stepping and Bboy Crazy, Mr Steen, Sketch, Joy, my old 1 shot partner Wez, Rhyme and Rome, The Cash Crew, NSO, Born 2 Rock, Pete from the original Deal Real records, Pride, all of my homies in the Laylow Latinos. Marco, Frank, Pedro Luis, Jose C, Kama, Kate and every one who knows me.

Thank you very much for your time.

Thanks for interviewing me… peace Skam 1.

Intro Early Doors:
False Dawn:
Underground Years:
The Renaissance:
1995- 2000
The Future:
2000 & Beyond
Artists &

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