Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Interview With OJAE.

     1986, A young kid who was clueless and afraid of the world and everything in it. Ojae was born in the 70's to a mother who was a junkie and a post traumatic stressed farther who was in Viet Nam. The common denominator between the two was heroin. In return this determined the future for OJAE, or did it? Well your about to find out...

     1982, OJAE was taken away from his mother on B'way & 78st. by the cops and he had no clue as to why. He was placed into foster care due to his mother and father being junkies and not being able to care for him. This was the start of it all, a long road through hell and back. A road that would strip him of every comfort & security he knew, to only later build him self back up into the man he is today. 

     Graffiti for some has changed their lives for the better and for others, it has changed it for the worst. This interview with OJAE is rare. So you will be privileged to a one of a kind post/interview from me about someone who is not only a True Old New Yorker like my self, But one of the last of a dying breed so enjoy.

OLDNYC76: So, what does graffiti mean to you, how did you become involved and at what age with graffiti?

OJAE: Graffiti means the world to mean in some aspects, but in others it don't mean shit. I try not to get my self tangled in all the drama that there is. At this point I have a life and responsibilities to take care of first. But the love is always there.
     Graffiti peaked my interest in the 1980's when I had returned from living in a L.I. foster home. I came back to the UWS where I was originally from to live with my mother. For that first wk being home, it was a major overload of  information and visually mind blowing and the one thing that caught my mind the most was the graffiti on the trains. When I saw it, I knew at that moment I wanted to be apart of that world. At the age of 10 it was kind of hard to find out about it. Plus I knew no one.

OLDNYC76: Wow that's a little bit crazy, When you say visually mind blowing, what were you talking about?

OJAE: I can remember in the beginning of the return to my mother, I was not in school that first month so I went everywhere with my mother. I spent a lot of time around the Bellevue Hospital area because my moms went to a methadone program there. So on the bus ride down there I would see all the ill stores and theaters on B'way going through the 40's. I just couldn't understand all the titties on the marquee's. I mean I was 10 and seeing tittes was a big deal.
     Taking the train was my most favorite experience being back with my mom. I use to love the way the lights would turn off on the 2 going express. The train felt like it would rocket through the stops and being surrounded with the graffiti made me want to rebel like a mother fucker. I was very intrigued by the griminess, the noses and lights of the subway system. Its ultimately what lead my to write graffiti.

OLDNYC76: I can definitely see the appeal. How did the name OJAE come about and does it mean anything to you?

OJAE: After I was home for about a month, I started the 3rd grade at P.S. 87. My mother wasn't fully clean but in some what good health standing. And because she still got high, the other kids knew this, so I was an outcast sort of. The bad kids is who I wound up hanging out with and the older kids in the area as well. There use to be a ShopWell supermarket on 78/77st and B'Way. I met this Kid named Brian who at the time wrote CHOOCH 156, but goes by MENT TVS now. As I began to hang with em, He would put me on about graffiti and he would take me down to the freedom tunnels to paint and hang out. It was a wild place in the 80's. All kinds of trash, burned cars and all sorts of odd shit. CHOOCH was also the first to take me to do tunnels and to the Ghost station on the 1 line.
     Through out the year, I played around with other tags but the only thing to stick was the OJ. Thats what it was originally, Just a O and a J.  A year after I started getting involved with graffiti, I became involved with skateboarding. There was a wheel company called OJ's so I chose to keep the name OJ. It holds a lot for me through the skateboarding, because of the people I know in that community as well. Ive made some really good friendships through skating.

OLDNYC76: How do you manage to go out and paint at such a young age and how did you get paint?

OJAE: Well, like I said before, my mother was getting high. It came to a point when she would be passed out all night or I just didn't care what she said, I mean, I saw it as she's doing what she'e doing and that aint right so who was she to tell me I can't do what I want to do. Life was hell and I just didn't care.
     My mother was the ill con artist and booster/shop lifter. Her main scheme was Older men, she use to swindle them for mad cheese. And when she went to sleep, I would peel a $20 bill out from her stash. To get paint, I wasn't old enough, so I knew some pimps that lived over at the Bellclair Hotel on 77th and B'Way and what I would do is by em a 40oz so they could get me paint. I spent all my money on paint until I learned how to rack paint. I remember once my mother gave me $100 to get some ice skates, I made it all the way out there to Wollman Rink to only turn around and go all the way back to my hood and spend it on paint.

OLDNYC76: Can you tell me about the first time you went bombing in the streets, what was that like and who were you with?

OJAE: Damn, I can remember it like it was yesterday, It was in 88. The night Mike Tyson knocked out Spinks. Earlier in the day I met this kid named KEV CM and he asked me if I wrote graffiti and I was like YESSSS! I was siked. He then asked me if I wanted to go bombing later that night and I did. Kev said meet up at I.S.44 school yard at 9pm. When I got there, There where a lot of people there to go bombing. It was KEV, his brother NICEO, STILE, WISH, WISE, BLASH, MEER, ARMOR and REEZ. we kicked it there for a few until everyone showed up then we took the C train to 14st. and got off. We were bombing everything like no one was out side, it was a free for all, just straight nuts! We walked up 10th ave back to the hood on the UWS. It was a night not to forget. After that night I was hooked.

OLDNYC76: Do you have any crazy bombing stories you would like to share?

OJAE: I have a few stories I can tell, actually I have enough to tell stories for days, but anyways. I can remember this one time I was leaving a club called Nasa downtown. I was trip'n on acid and when we got to the 1 train on Canal st, I started to bomb all the polls. As the train pulls in, there was a cop on it and saw me. When he got off the train he put KAZ and I on the wall. He started with me first, going through my pockets and he found my marker. It was a Sukura SG7 filled to the brim with some marsh ink. The marker was wrapped in tape, in a rubber glove and inside a potato chip bag. As the cop starts peeling the layers off, I keep saying "whatever you do, don't open it" and in my head I was like because it'll spill all over you. So it got to the point where he un-capped it and turned it sideways to look at it. All the black ink poured down his hand and into his sleeve all over him self. The worst part is this is when the cops were still wearing the light blue shirts so you could see all the ink soaked into the sleeve. I don't know why he let us go, but he looked at KAZ and told him he had 3 seconds to get out of here and then he was going to fuck us up. So we took off so fast and just jumped into a cab.

OLDNYC76: Wow! That sounds pretty crazy. Now that you are older, How would you say graffiti has affected your life?

OJAE: Graffiti in some ways have helped me through the hard times in life. When I was younger, graffiti was my escape from my problems at home and it work wonders. When I was a kid, I use to have bad outbreaks when I got mad and I would break and throw things. Graffiti helped me to control my emotions. It has also helped me express my self as an artist in my paintings as well in my adult life. Still to this day, It helps me in many ways. After all graffiti has played a huge roll in my life in becoming the man I am today.

OLDNYC76: Who are some of your influences as you were growing up?

OJAE: When I was first starting out, I use to ride the train from 72nd street up to 103rd on the 1 because I could go and transfer to the other side to back and forth. The 1st time I was at 103rd, I figured out they laid the 1's up in the middle track so I would sit there for hours looking at all the JON 156, SEPH TCW, CHOW, OMNI & PRAZE pieces on the train. So all the 156 crew played a big part, especially OMNI & PRAZE lived in the same hood. As far as hand style goes, I loved seeing REVOLT & ZEPHYR tags in the area and HANG10 tags too.
     My friend lived in the Bellclair Hotel and his mom hung out at the neighbors house so my friend Mark and my self would hang out there too. One day there a bunch of people over and I was scribbling on some paper and some dude asked what I was drawing, He saw and started to show me some outlines and tag style for me to learn. That dude was KEL 1ST and his brother MARE 139 was there too.  I wound up becoming friends with both of em not knowing how important they really were to the whole movement.
     Really the first to take me under the wing was TOST WOL & DOS TEK. My style and how to draw in the black books come mostly from TOST. As time goes on, you should naturally progress as you keep at it. Ive definitely have taken little things from an array of people Ive met over the years. 

OLDNYC76: Where do you see your self in the next 5 years with your art and or graffiti?

OJAE: Well I have several projects in the works and I have been focussed on producing paintings as well. Im pretty close to finishing up a book also. As far as the graffiti goes, Im kinda done. I feel Im too old to be fighting and beefing over it. I have done my thing so I have nothing I need to prove, not that I ever had anything to prove but thats that. Id like to focus more on some personal projects and live in peace. Graffiti can be a big headache so I have manage to cut a lot of that out of my life and Im  happier w out the drama. 

OLDNYC: Do you have any last words or anythings you want to say or share? 

OJAE: Hmmm, lets see? Be sure to check out that State Your Name 2 when it drops! ~> SYN2




  1. Reading your stories never gets old my friend.

  2. Extremely insightful... Thanks for sharing.


  4. Dope interview, old friend.