StayHigh 149

As a tike, I ran the streets of the South Bronx tagging “Rex 2” on park benches and school bathrooms –fear of electrocution kept me out of train yards. But StayHigh 149 (aka Wayne Roberts) with his Saint stick figure smoking cheeba and ExVandals affiliation was a SBX graffiti God. This past June he died at the age of 61. This interview originally appeared on the late graf icon’s site, The author was not attributed. -RK

Who were the writers that influenced you?
Taki183, Superkool, Spin, Phase 2. I remember see their names when I started. I think we all started around the same time. Also, some Manhattan writers like Joe182, and Barbara and Eva62.

Why do you write graffiti?
I find it beautiful that’s why I do it. But you’ll always have critics who don’t like it. It’s a form of art, self expression. But it gets a bad name when you put it on other peoples property. Writers today should try and do more permission walls to help beautify the city.

What do you think of New York City graffiti today?
It’s just not like it used to be. Different breed now, but the legacy goes on.

What crews do you represent?
Ex-Vandals, that means Vandal with Experience.

Why did you start writing Voice of the Ghetto? Was there a social message behind it?
Being from the ghetto, the ghetto has a voice, the voice has to be heard. You have to listen to them speak. The ghetto has a voice and it has to be heard. I listened to music that had messages to it, The Last Poets, they had a message, a group called W.A.R. They had a song called “The World Is A Ghetto”.

What was your favorite paint to use?
Krylon, Red Devil, Rustoleum. Icey Grape, School Bus Yellow, Forrest Green. Those were crazy colors.

When did you realize that you were starting to get fame writing?
Once they did the first story and write up in New York Magazine. Before that though “The Faith of Graffiti,” that book was the shit when it came out! I got to get a copy of that!

What about fame around the hood?
Back then it wasn’t a fame thing, it was just notoriety. People today, people see me, and they ask are you that guy from back in the day? I say yes that’s me, but once you see yourself in a magazine or book, that to me was the first taste of fame.

What about the break you took?
I took a 20 year break, starting around about 1980 to 2000. Then in While You Were Sleeping, Freedom wrote an article and wrote “Graffiti King Returns After 20 Years”. When I quit back then, I felt I was too old, and I had personal things going on, getting in trouble, a lot of shit comes from “staying high”. A little incarceration, a bunch of things, just had to chill out for awhile.

How did you feel when you came back and were embraced?
People thought I was dead, Mare and Kel had Voice Of The Ghetto Productions, when I came back they were like “we were just paying homage”. I was surprised to see how many people were looking for me, I really didn’t know how much of an impact I had.

Many people claim you were the first to adapt a corporate logo, and make it into your own thing. Do you recall seeing any other writers do this before you?
I believe that this is the case, I was the first to take a logo and adapt it into something of my own. I remember doing it at the time, just because I thought it was cool. I made my stick figure with a joint in his hand because I stayed high, and I made mine crouching because he is getting ready to jump up and take off! After me I remember LSD3 added the “OM” symbol to his tag (example), and from there on I think other writers would try to add various symbols to their tags. But yeah as far as I can remember I don’t think anyone was doing any kind of symbol with their tags before me, at least not anyone that influenced me.

via  Questions & Answers.

The History of American Graffiti by Roger Gastman