It all started in late summer 1982. School holidays just before Christmas. I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was school holidays and we were hanging out at the adventure playground, just a bunch of kids from Kambah. Some days up to crazy mischief, other days just hanging out. That was our place.
One day we were listening to AC/DC, the next day, we were listening to hip hop. It was that quick.
One of the guys brought down a tape with some hip hop songs on it and we were hooked straight away. ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash opened our eyes to a new world.
Then we started break dancing. This was before Buffalo Gals which came out in 1983.
There was no hip hop graf back in those very early days. If people were using spray paint they were painting punk symbols or political messages. We were all over the city teaching people how to breakdance and we never saw anything that looked even remotely like hip hop graf.
We were looking. We just didn’t see anything.
Hip hop graf in Canberra started with Devil. He was ground zero.
One day during the holidays he came down to the adventure playground with two cans of paint. One black, one yellow. He went into the skateboard half pipe and painted the word ‘Knights’. Yellow fill, black outline, very simple, basic style.
For me, it was a lightbulb moment. Something switched on. Nearly 40 years later it still hasn’t switched off. I asked him why he did it, why he painted that day.
“It had to be done.”
That was his answer.
That was the attitude of all of the first generation guys. It’s still my attitude now.
We did it because it had to be done.
Back then there were no concepts like king, or fame or all city. We had no knowledge of this thing. We had no information about it. We didn’t even have tags. Just a bunch of kids painting graf in complete ignorance.
We saw some pictures on record covers that said words like ‘justice’ or ‘children of the ghetto’. We thought that’s what it was all about so that’s what we painted. Words along those lines…
It had to be done.
Devil did the first piece, I did the second. We did the third one together and then some of the other guys had a go.
Par and Turk painted pieces at Pine Island. Devil painted an underpass near his house. No piece, just a city background with the text – ‘James Brown is king’. I sat there for hours just looking at it.
Paint was obtained from people’s garages. Everyone’s dad had a couple of cans of spraypaint in their garage. These were ‘borrowed’ and used for the early pieces. If we were lucky, someone’s dad would have some blues and greens.
We hadn’t discovered car paint yet, so it was all Dulux. Thick enough paint, but the nozzles were a nightmare. It was all we had so we used it.
Style in those days was primitive at best. Information was non-existent so we had to create it all ourselves from scratch. It was really basic, but everything is really basic at the beginning.
At this stage there was no real idea about things like style. Everyone wanted to create their individual version of graf, but we had no idea about style. It was organic, it was kids with no idea about letters trying to find their way and do something nice.
Competition was friendly. If your mates did something nice, you’d want to do something as good or better (if you could).
Devil, Par, Turk and myself all in friendly competition. No-one took a backward step and we’d try and find crazy spots just for fun. There were no crews at this stage. Just mates having fun.