“Stay High-149” R.I.P.

Yesterday on June 11th 2012 Wayne Roberts A.K.A.  Stay High 149 died. In the world of graffiti it is hard to put into words how important Wayne was to a culture which most people don’t understand. I’m sometimes surprised that stuff we did forty years ago has gone global and infiltrated everything including the corporate world. TV shows and movies have “experts” come on to their shoots and try and duplicate the writing from different eras. They usually fail badly. Meanwhile hundreds if not thousands of teenagers and kids all across the five boroughs tried to come up with a tag that wouldn’t pale in comparison to Stay High’s…Once again, most failed. Many people wanted to stop graffiti and the majority of the stuff one would see, was indeed crap. Stay High-149’s tag was art, buried like a needle in a haystack amongst the scribble scrabble of his younger fans. Wayne’s tag was never topped in almost half a century of attempts by what now may now be millions of guys and gals across this planet!

I was lucky enough to watch him in action back in ’74 and he made me feel silly for what I thought was a respectable tag at the time. His other tag “Voice of the Ghetto” while not as spectacular, was every bit as true as Stay High was. He was a voice for all the aspiring artists as they toyled with their black books, hoping to come up with their own iconic logos…

©Matt Weber

“Baseball’s Been Very Good To Me!” 1989

It’s way too early to make predictions, or is it? The Metsies are suppose to struggle and barely win 80 games and the Yankees are suppose to coast to 92 wins and at least a wildcard slot…I won’t be very surprised if the Mets overachieve and win 85 games, while the Yanks stumble under a thousand pitching changes (LITERALLY) and also win 85 games…


©Matt Weber

Hip Hop: A Cultural Odyssey

There’s a gigantic book available on the History of Hip Hop. The gatefold is a beautiful painting by Mike Thompson and as you can see, a photo I took of Lady Pink was a model. I am happy to have my pictures used in this coffee table book. The book is called Hip Hop a Cultural Odyssey  and it is huge and printed on the heaviest paper I’ve ever seen used. This is probably the most comprehensive book on Hip Hop ever published and I’m recommending it highly!

All Photos © Matt Weber

“Snake-1” & “Cay-161” Circa 1971 Tags

These tags were from the “First Wave” back in 1971-2…Snake-1 often tagged with Stitch-1. I think they were one of the first dynamic duos in graffiti. Others were SJK-171 & MIke 171, although I remember seeing Frank-207 with their tags most of the time. Then there was Moses & Patch 147 who bombed big time a few years later. Barbara & Eva 62 were the premier lady taggers of the early days. Can you recall ever seeing a Pillo-136 without a Pollo-136 right next to it? I didn’t think so…

All Photos © Matt Weber

ALI & MALTA! 1973

I only went to the lay-ups a half dozen times, but luckily Jack Stewart took this picture of one of my few pieces. To be on the same car as “ALI” was quite an honor. At the far left might be the outline of the “Pink Panther” but I’m not sure. It also is evident that I went over a Junior-161 tag and he was an important writer. Pieces did take priority over tags of course…

Brooklyn 2007

In the not so distant future, I can see some guys sitting in a bar or on a stoop somewhere, having a very silly argument. Whoever wrote this lovely tag in etching fluid, will be boasting how he got up big time in ’05 and all of sudden a couple of older guys with potbellies and gray hair will walk over and say, “You guys ain’t shit” Those older guys will have been writers from the ’70s or ’80s who actually wrote on the outside of trains, in grafitti’s heyday..

A parallel could be made by comparing the Vietnam vets who came home and found themselves being told by guys twenty years older, that their war wasn’t shit compared to the “Real War” (WW II)

All Photos © Matt Weber

“Up against the wall mutha fukka” 1990

When I took this picture in Riverside park they had finally painted the handball court’s wall. It had been covered with vintage graffiti by the local legends Barbara & Eva 62 who I’m guessing came from the Amsterdam projects just a few blocks away. There had even been a few Sharks & Jets tags from the 1960’s which were paying homage to the movie “West Side Story” Oh well…

Then I met this guy Frank, who was Irish and had bright Orange hair. He hung around the 79th Street boat basin with a couple of old-timers. They were gay and Frank was 66 years old. I always do the math in my head to know how old someone was in 1945 in order to surmise whether or not they might have served in World War II. I asked him where and what he did during the war. He said he was on the USS Missouri which fought in the Pacific. He had to load the sixteen inch guns and described handling these giant cartridges of gunpowder, knowing that if there ever was a problem, he’d be dead before he knew what hit him. When I heard he had died of AIDS soon thereafter, there was something very unsettling about a guy who’d risked everything for our country just withering away prematurely…

All Photos © Matt Weber

“No Lottering on Stopp” Harlem 1987

Literacy was one way to tell the economic status of a given neighborhood. For years Harlem’s schools had been left behind in terms of funding, but recently some of the better charter schools have been established in Harlem and other poorer neighborhoods. I wonder what it would be like to look at the headlines on the Daily News and see indecipherable characters. It must be very depressing. The things we take for granted…

All Photos © Matt Weber