ORIGINAL SOURCE: 50MM Los Angeles
Moms always said It’s the little things in life that count right? But who would have thought that statement could apply in the world of graffiti where it’s the highest spot, the biggest letters, the wildest styles, and the fattest fat-caps that get the recognition. Witness the so-called “lowly” slap-tag. Faded and peeling, found on the backs of don’t walk signs, on bus panels, or eroding in chaotic arrangement on the lids of newspaper stands…
Sure, slap-tags have been around for years but one person, in particular, has become synonymous with the medium by obsessively, compulsively, and consistently slapping this city silly on seemingly any possible stick-up-able surface. Whether you dig slap-tags or not, Serch is one of those names that register high in the graffiti memory bank because quite simply – Serch is up…
50MM: “Big Serch!”
SERCH: Word up man. This is Serch One from UTI SFE RTDK TBK… I’m reppin’ them crews in L.A. Been writing since ’86. Got really seriously seriously into it around ’89 ‘90… Got mixed up in some tag-banging bullshit for a number of years… Got stagnated… Came back to my senses around ’96… Didn’t want to go to jail…
50MM: What transformed you into a tag-banger? And what brought you back?
SERCH: Just the love for my homies that we had for each other being down with each other… always being with each other became more than just writing. It was about us you know? So if anybody’s trying to hurt us it was like “Fuck that.” That’s how it just went from merely writing on the wall to full-fledged bangin’ and shootin’ at fools. I mean…there are always crews like that. For every hard mother-fucker there’s gonna be more hard mother-fuckers they’re still around. It comes with the territory with certain crews. But it’s not as rampant as it was back in the early ‘90s. More of the real shit is comin’ back I think.
I just woke up one day and I was like I ain’t got that much hatred in my heart. -SERCH
I went through that beef shit and I just woke up one day and I was like I ain’t got that much hatred in my heart. This is not why I’m doing graff. I just came to my senses one day and just went back to what I’m good at you know? I was like “Fuck this” and went back to writing. Tried to settle as much beef as I could… Not everybody but a lot of fools gave me respect for coming back and trying to make amends for my ways in the past and shit. I got a lot of respect from cats that I had beef with before. Now I see ‘em on the street – handshakes, smiles, and hugs and shit you know? It’s just been so many years that after a while it doesn’t even matter anymore. It’s like we went to school together we knew each other’s homies and was related to other fools and shit…so it just got stupid after a while.
50MM: Tell me about being from UTI.
SERCH: Oh man… I’ve always wanted to be in UTI ever since I started writing. They were my first influence! “Under The Influence.” That crew was always known for dope shit. Phixer and Thanks brought me into the circle… They brought me to a meeting one day and they were talking… I had no idea I was going to be put in. I was shocked… what do you tell them “No?!” (laughs) Serch UTI…Word! I was happier than a pig in shit. That was like a dream come true. Really!
50MM: So what’s the deal with slap-tags man? What’s going on here? Looking around the pad here I see you’ve got thousands, probably tens of thousands of postal stickers, promotional stickers, record label promo stickers… all sitting here in organized stacks… Thousands already prepared and still thousands more waiting to be transformed. Your books are filled front to back with stickers and it’s all meticulously organized… it’s literally insane.
SERCH: Yeah into tens of thousands at least… I’ve always been up into my books sketching and shit. I wanted to get back into writing but I had my son who was just born and I didn’t want to get caught. So I started fucking around just doing stickers for the fuck of it just playing around… and within the month that I was doing them people were telling me that they’d seen ‘em. I don’t know it just felt good doing it again… getting out there fucking around. I really didn’t want to get caught out there bombing.
I don’t like heights, so ain’t hanging from no bridge. It’s not that serious to me. I ain’t got shit to prove to mother-fuckers I’m 31 years old. But still I like writing on buses…for all you mother-fuckers that say writing on buses ain’t shit fuck you because that’s where L.A. graff started. Not everybody has a car to drive around with they homeboys to jump out and catch spots. We took the bus where we had to go. We got out and walked back. (laughs) That’s how I do it. That’s how I get around. I ain’t had a car in my 31 years.
50MM: Just looking at your books and your work kind of made me want to go out and make some stickers. Do you see people up with slaps that you’ve influenced like that?
SERCH: There are a few fools who’ve told me that. One guy who is a hell of an artist is Jaka…J-A-K-A from FA2HQ. He does stencils. My boy Charm does ‘em. I can’t say that I met Charm and he started doing them. He had came out and started doing the stencils and at first, I was like “Oh here we go we got somebody else tryin’ to bite and shit.” Then I started liking some of his fonts and him and I met. Charm was real cool. I said to myself fuck it… You can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… Not saying that I can’t beat him I’m not saying that I can… Fuck it.
He’s cool he’s down on the team. Hey look I said… I’ma make a stack with both our names. Here you put ‘em up on that side of the city I’ll put ‘em up on this side of the city. So we formed an alliance. That’s one of my few partners. Shouts to my partners out there! Smear, Charm, Sight, Spuna…and my boy Modok. Those are basically the heads I go out and write with. I make stickers for them as well and they put ‘em up all over the city. As far as the stickers go it became fun. Somewhere I forgot how the idea for a stencil came up… Obviously, I’m not the first person ever to do a stencil and I’m not the first person ever to do a sticker but I’d say I was the first one to do a stencil on a sticker. You can start going all-city like that. Mine are not computer-made either. There are a lot of biters out there though… At first I used to get mad but then I thought to myself I guess I started something.
50MM: I’ve seen you actually peel stickers off light poles. I don’t know if you want to talk about that but… (laughs)
SERCH: Nah I’ll talk about it…The ones that I peel off are the ones that are hanging off and shit. If somebody puts a good sticker on a stupid surface I’m taking it. I’ll be honest with you… I don’t take it down to crumble or rip it up… I’ll put it in my books. For everybody that knows me and who has seen my books… you guys know what I do. I’m not taking them down to hate. I’m taking them down because I want it!
50MM: I guess that makes you are a graffiti archeologist (laughs.)
SERCH: I’m kind of like that (laughs). You know I want a piece of that so I can look back and be like “Yeah…I was there for that part of time, and I remember this.” People be talking about “You remember when…?” And I’ll be like “Look I can show you!” That’s why I’m into collecting shit. Whenever I meet cats, I have them make stickers and shit. You never know when cats pass away…like Smek (R.I.P.) who died this year. I got him up in my book before he passed away. Or fools go to prison and never get out and shit like that. You never know when fools are going to stop writing or get killed. So I’m gonna try to get a hold of everybody for as long as I’m doing it. That’s why I’ve been into collecting the books. As you can see I’ve got a number of books.
50MM: You have whole separate books for tags, throw ups…
SERCH: Throw ups, tags, and outlines – All the pages are in order. I keep the bubble letters with the bubble letters I keep the straight letters with the straight letters and I keep the crews with the crews.
Today’s toy will be tomorrow’s king. Everybody’s got to start from somewhere. I give everybody the same respect that I’d want.. -SERCH
50MM: The first time I met you you grabbed me and a stack of blank stickers and you put me to work! I was a little surprised.
SERCH: Yeah man. I remember hearing of your ass from years back man. You’ve been around a long time Unit. Mother-fuckers don’t know… I was surprised to meet you I said Oh Made You Look! Word…I’ve been wanting to meet you for years… I know what’s up with MYL… I pay attention to everything. Even though I never really went out there to the valley I knew what was up… STPs and NSRs Soar and Sace used to kill scribes on the buses… Magic Ultra Bruno Fail… Simple from NTS… Wasn’t Grem and Plex from out there? I tell you old fools don’t remember Grem and Plex man.
50MM: And you’ll get everybody in there… it doesn’t matter as long as they write?
SERCH: Yeah… I don’t hate because you never know. Today’s toy will be tomorrow’s king. Everybody’s got to start from somewhere. I give everybody the same respect that I’d want. So the next time I see them they’ve got love for me. They let me in free to a club or hook me up with free supplies or something… free herb or some shit or kicking me down because I’ve shown them love before. I mean I don’t walk around like I’m hot shit or anything. People tell me I’m humble. I just keep to myself. I don’t sit around and tell you how dope I am I let you tell me yourself if you think so.
50MM: You are meticulous to an obsession…
SERCH: (Flipping pages) All those black spaces in the book are all those cats that didn’t listen to me when I told them “Just catch one spot – just catch one spot in the book…” Yeah, a lot of fools wrote over more than one and shit.
50MM: Maybe its because I’m stoned but this shit boggles my mind…
SERCH: (Flips more pages) You got…Jimer Onik Ser and Wisk on that page. Ware up in it and Sleez right there at the top. Trigz… Cappucino’s crazy ass is in there. Those long, skinny letters he’s got… That’s Slash from Guns and Roses on the bottom-right corner…the skull and crossbones with the top hat.
50MM: What do you have to say about people that say that slap-tags aren’t graffiti?
SERCH: Well I could say the same thing about wheat paste. They say the same thing about legal piecing. They say the same thing about bus mobbing. Everybody’s got their niche and what they do. If you don’t like what I’m doing hey you ain’t got to look at it! Unless you do something better… Don’t be mad because you didn’t think of it first. (Man, I got cottonmouth like a motherfucker!)
50MM: Does it matter how you get fame?
SERCH: However you can get your fame just be consistent… just be true to yourself and do what you do. If all it is that you want to do is just tag then do that shit. If all you want to do legals then do that shit. If all you want to do is do characters or just do heavens whatever your niche is and you’re comfortable in that element shit that’s you! Mother-fuckers are talking shit but obviously they’re noticing it. Obviously, they’re seeing that shit. You know? …Stickers are easy to do you just walk up and slap it up. It’s really easy when you can get ‘em made on your computer, and get ‘em made at a print shop or something… go into your dad’s pocketbook and have him pay. Shell out a hundred bucks for a stack of ‘em… All of my shit is made by hand.
Each stencil and each one of those stickers that touched the street has touched my hand. Each one has got my own personal signature on it. It’s not out of a factory… I’m the automated factory printing them out. It’s my shit and it’s not just one font it’s a whole bunch of different shit. I like the attention I get I ain’t gonna front. I’m a humble motherfucker but you know everybody likes attention. Everybody likes props being given to ‘em. I love the feeling that I get the response that I get from cats when I meet them. They do a double-take. They’re like “Wait a minute who?” I get that a lot… ”Not the one with the stickers!” “I didn’t know you was Black!” or “I heard you was Black and had long hair.” (laughs)
50MM: (flipping pages) Look at all these Obey Giant stickers…
SERCH: Yeah that fool Shepard Fairey sent me these (points to stickers in his book)… Three of those pages in there… I met him and his boy on Melrose as he was putting up that wheat paste shit. His boy says to me “Oh, you do graffiti?” I told him who I was. And he said “Hey, Shepard! Shepard! Yo, yo, come here! It’s Serch!” He comes down off the ladder and shit. He got my information and sent me a package.
SERCH: (Flips to another page) Blosom gave me that, and she did the LOD below it.
50MM: Who’s the uppest writer ever from L.A.?
SERCH: In L.A. of all time? I’d give it to Chaka… Give Chaka his due respect his due props. You see his name up on a lot of shit still to this day…old landmark spots. I remember seeing his name on a drum kit in a Nirvana video. He did his damage you can’t take that from him.
…I was scribbling in class and drawing Iron Maiden characters. I wasn’t really into hip-hop back then. It wasn’t really that ill to me I was a head-banger really. I was listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, and Sabbath, and shit like that. -SERCH
50MM: Try to think back to the first time that you even had an idea of just writing…The first time you wrote on something…You decided “I’m going to break the law and I want to write my name here.” Why? What made you do it?
SERCH: I was always into drawing. I came out here originally from New York in ’83. I was always looking at the graff but I was too young to do shit. By’85-’86 I was scribbling in class and drawing Iron Maiden characters. I wasn’t really into hiphop back then. It wasn’t really that ill to me I was a head-banger really. I was listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, and Sabbath, and shit like that. By the time junior high school hit I got exposed to other kids that got bussed in from other neighborhoods and everybody was bringing they flavor to school. Graffiti just hit … just got into it. I like writing on shit. I found my niche in this graffiti thing. I can do this.
50MM: Who influenced you in terms of graffiti?
SERCH: Hex Krenz Sleez Insane from UCA Dream Pasr and Paris rockin’ them buses … and as far as bus mobbing I’d give it to NTS crew. There’s so many heads that influence… I don’t want to leave nobody out you know? (laughs) There’s just so many of them…Mondo MAK and his hand styles… A lot of the TAC’s… The way the TNT’s use connected letters… KTL’s… Kisser 187… There’s a lot!
50MM: You used to be from C.U.L.T. That crew doesn’t seem to always get the recognition that it deserves…
SERCH: I think C.U.L.T. is a dope-ass crew. I love C.U.L.T. I put in mad years of work for the crew but I got out due to some disagreements about who was in the crew. Some fools were given the boot and I didn’t think that was right because I personally had put them in. I felt my judgment wasn’t respected or appreciated so I left. That was back in 2003. I still got love for the crew and everything. They kind of underground. I like that about the crew.
50MM: You knew SK8, gimme a SK8 story….
SERCH: You always heard of Sk8 and when you saw him he truly was a giant. But then you’d talk to him and he’d be like ”SK8 One CBS” and he would just talk all mellow and cool and shit. He looked mean but you chill with him and he was cool. But get him riled up and you better get up out of Aaron’s way though! Yeah that’s the guy to have on your side when you’re in a fight. Here’s my SK8 story. I don’t know if anybody ever did this before… I was with the CBS heads at the Belmont yard one day… Tren Bias Exist Crook SK8 and me… I think Krash was there too. You see I had always wanted to get into CBS but it never worked out…
Anyways we wanted to see what was at the end of the Belmont tunnel. So we all walked into the tunnel and it got so dark in there we couldn’t see in front of our faces. We’re all holding each other’s hands walking in single-file line like a bunch of fucking bitches (laughs). SK8’s in the front I’m right behind SK8 holding his fucking big hands and shit. I’m holding Krash’s hand and Krash is holding Tren’s hand and everybody’s holding hands walking in the dark and trying to talk and we’re 3-4 inches thick in mud and slush and sewage… Suddenly SK8 walks smack into the fucking wall and we all bounced into him…it just ended. So that’s my SK8 story (laughs) I walked into the end of the Belmont tunnel with SK8. (chuckles)
50MM: Any last shout-outs, and words of wisdom?
SERCH: Shout outs to all the crews that I rep… Y’all know which crews those are. I don’t have to say it over again. Word up to cats that I’m down with… Special shout-outs to Spuna Charm Sight Modok Smear Age Gas… There’s so many cats I’m down with I don’t want to leave out anybody… Everybody that I know that knows me. RTH crew…There’s so many mother-fuckers I don’t want to leave fools out. They all know who they are.