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The 25 Greatest Chicago Graffiti Writers

A Brief history of Chicago Graffiti


I. Old School to Middle School:
Pioneering Era (’72-’78)
The Old School (’79-’82)
The Middle School (a.k.a The drum machine era, ’83-’85)

Here we find the happenings in Chicago at a minimum. As the titles of the eras suggest, the culture had just begun to grow. The focus of attention was on New York and a few neighboring cities. More than anything it was the breaking crews in this era that dominate the scene. They became the foundation of the Chicago scene with many B-Boy crews were already making a name for themselves; D.T.R (Down To Rock, Krazy Krew, Floormasters (the crew stretched from the North to the South side), TopTen, Out To Rock, Freeze Crew, The B-boys, The Freshboys, Windy City Breakers, Hypnotic Rockers, Los Ninos, etc… It was many of the breakers who would later go on to become some of the key Graf writers in the city. By ’82 the Graf scene was very active with several known crews hitting up all sides of the city; CTA, ABC, MPC, TCP, ACW, CAR CREW, MOSA, IAC, OTR, GGC, GBC (w/Crazyman), CISA, GAS, BTB, FCA, AIM, GMC, SMOG, & The HITMEN. From there, things slowly began to take shape…

1979 New York Graf writer, Nick Salsa, moves to Chicago and starts bombing the city and becomes recognized as the first local writer. Later he starts the first known Chicago Graf crew; C.T.A.
1980 Casper-“Groovy Ghost Show ” 12″ (first Hip Hop release from a Chicago artist although it’s not generally known that it was a Chicago based recording)
1982 Graf Writers Slang & Trixster started getting their names up and out there.

Key innovator, Caution, known for being the first to paint Chicago scenery into his backgrounds (other artists usually drew New York backgrounds based on their influences) also hits the scene.

1983 Plee Fresh hits Chicago from New York and helps pioneer the Chicago Graf scene. He meets up with Stane (a.k.a Akbar) and Kaos to form T.C.P (The Crowd Pleasers). As he gets more involved he sets his goals, “I wanted to see Graf everywhere. I wanted to bring Hip Hop music to Chicago. My goal was to make Chicago like New York”-PLee Fresh

On The Fourth Of July the C.T.A crew becomes the 1st to Bomb the Ravenswood Yard and hit virtually every train in sight.

Robert Cliemente School (Division/Western)-starts having regular Graffiti classes for their students. The teachers gave lessons and regularly brought in various guests from varying crews.

University of Chicago station WHPK introduces their first Hip Hop radio show. The founders, K-III & Patrick Moxy (also the founder of Payday records) initially started the show with a dance & rap format, but the popularity of rap was heavily reflected in the requests and eventually they became strictly rap.

1984 The Muralists, painters Roberto Valedez & Ray Patlan, held regular art fairs on 18th Street and would invite Writers (ex: Zore, Fess a.k.a Freezario, Nick Salsa, Caution) down to do pieces. Making them among the first “outsiders” to help the culture by not just giving them a place to paint, but supplies as well.

Chicago’s first organized Graffiti Art competition at Harrison Park

Chicago’s first Graffiti Art Show, “Rapid Enamel” at the Renaissance Society at the U of C Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall.

1985 “Rappin Duke” 12″ (The “duh-ha-ha-ha” was undoubtably widely known). However, again it’s not generally recognized as a Chicago release. It fit nicely in this time of Hip Hop paying homage to T.V. shows & Hollywood as The “Duke” dropped rhymes in his best John Wayne voice and let us know about Hip Hop cowboy style.

Chicago Bears-“Superbowl Shuffle” 12″ (Although some may wince at the thought of the Chicago Bears being “pioneers” of Chicago rap, it certainly can’t be overlooked).

Chicago Graffiti writers unite for the first time for an “All City Writers” meeting in Cabrini Green at the YMCA. A plan set in place by key Graf writer, Warp.

Northwestern’s WNUR 89.3 captivates the Hip Hop generation on Sahis little brown one. ay afternoons with “The All Rap Party” with DJS Larry Lar & Sweet M.D.

25. KC ONE

A notorious bomber and one of the biggest names in the 1990’s clean train movement, KC is the face of the 1st post-buff generation of Chicago writers.

24. Temper

Temper is a relentless all-city bomber who founded the KYM crew and seemingly never stopped painting. He heavily crushed streets, trains, and train line spots for years after all of his peers from the early 1990’s had faded away from actively bombing.

23. Zore

The founder of Ice Pack crew which later became SB, Zore and his crew’s technical skills have been seen on piece walls and trains everywhere from Chicago’s South side to California for decades.

22. Agent

Agent/Ages is the most memorable all around bomber from the late 80’s to early 90‘s; Chicago’s golden age of graffiti. He is the co-founder of DTE crew, and is also a member of the COD and AWR crews. His style translated very well outside of Chicago, and he is commonly known as Chicago’s Graffiti Ambassador.

21. Greve

Greve led the MUL crew to worldwide fame. Ever since he began writing in the early 1990‘s, he has remained active and is known for pushing the technical envelope on clean trains and walls with pieces and characters.

20. DC5 (Kane, Cove, Shred, Rude, Jash, Pose, Awol, etc…)

DC5 crew was started in the early 1990’s by Rude and quickly rose to the top of Chicago’s elite piecing crews. DC5 would go on to produce some of the best writers and productions that Chicago has ever had.

19. Lone

Lone was your favorite writer’s favorite writer of the 1990’s. A pioneer of Chicago’s clean train movement and a founder of the infamous J4F crew, Lone probably still has tags in every CTA train yard and CTA tunnel.

18. Pose

I could have not put Pose on this list because everyone already knows he is one of the greatest writers from Chicago. With original renditions of classic style and cutting-edge techniques, Pose puts Chicago on his back everywhere he travels and could easily make the World’s greatest 25 writers list.

17. Orko

One of the pioneers of what came to be known as Chicago style, Orko was a Chicago great from the 1980‘s who eventually moved on to the Bay area and influenced style there as well.

16. CAB Crew

Kiser, Down, Track, Benz… The list literally goes on and on of long time vandals that represent 312; one of Chicago’s most destructive all-around crews, all-time.

15. Aerosoul (Dzine, Solo, Disrok, Casper, Answer, Tsel, Nick Fury, etc…)

Aerosoul crew in the 1990’s was artistically the best of the best. Many of them went on to have very successful art careers after years of brilliantly dominating Chicago’s permission wall scene.

14. East

East is another great style writer from the 1980’s, and continues to regularly create great pieces to this day. East moved away from the Chicago area in the early 90’s but not before influencing the style of generations of writers to come.

13. Ark

The true king of cleans in Chicago, Ark really has painted more Chicago trains than you will ever ride, even if you ride the train twice a day for a few years straight.

12. Slang

Slang has been writing and involved in Chicago graffiti since day one; beginning somewhere between the late 70’s and early 80’s. His 1980’s characters and productions are legendary and he has been there every step of the way.

11. Page

Page destroyed the redline in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and even into the 2000’s, with huge simple block letters and tags, and he did it over and over again, leading countless members of UAC and XMEN to follow in his footsteps.

10. Erie

Erie and his crew CMW have bullied the trains, rooftops, and walls surrounding the CTA since the early 1990’s, creating many memorable masterpieces along the way.

9. Risk

Risk is a co-founder of Chicago’s legendary TAC crew along with Trixter, and he has produced many unforgettable pieces and great writers of Chicago, spanning from the 1980’s to the 2000’s.

8. Omens

Omens has definitely got next. For the past few years his pieces have been very easy on the eyes, and they are made up of some of the best style of work coming out of America, let alone Chicago.

7. Ether

Whether you love him or you hate him, Ether is the face of American clean train painting. Ether took Chicago and the graffiti world by storm early in the 2000’s and his high profile antics continue to be documented in cities and subway systems all over the world.

6. THC crew (Fred one, Deep, Prove, Kuaze, Kep, Antck, etc…)

The Hash Crew and many of the members were light years ahead of they’re time. From winning the CTA graffiti battles to amazing productions, the THC crew were/are some of the most original writers to ever use spray paint.

5. Sivel

In the 90’s, you couldn’t walk two blocks in Chicago without seeing a Sivel fill-in, some tags, or a rooftop piece. He is one of the most respected writers in Chicago and he is still active in the modern graffiti scene.

4. Hate

Hate’s run was unfortunately cut short when he fell to his death in 1989, but he is widely accepted as Chicago 1st All-City King who was known for pulling crazy stunts and getting up everywhere as a member of Chicago’s legendary ABC and ACW Crews.

3. Fact

Fact has been involved in the graffiti scene since his very early childhood. He has managed to stay up while fighting Chicago’s extremely effective buff system, and Fact is the most consistently active all-city bomber in Chicago in the 2000’s.

2. Trixter

If you made this list with 10 different Chicago writers, chances are that each list would have 24 different names. The only name that would appear on all 10 ballets is Trixter; the Godfather of Chicago graffiti and style.

1. Pengo

Pengo was one of the best all around style-writers Chicago has ever seen, and many of his sprays from the late 80’s still hold up or are better than what is being painted today.

Via Complex