Amsterdam 1991. To put things in historical perspective here’s a little recap of the graffitiscene at that time. Compared to the peaktime days of the 80’s the action had quiet down considerably. Some writers quit the game while others were still active. Everybody knew each other from the ‘good ‘ol days’. Pieces and tags still got rocked and there were some beefs between writers and crews. Nothing high level though. This timeperiod turned out to be the ‘quiet before the storm’. Just as graffiti on the streets slowly started to disappear a group of writers began to hit the Mokum subwaysystem on a regular basis. This group consisted of ‘oldschoolers’ who had quit the game for a couple of years and new school writers who had just joined the party. This was the start of a period now classified as ‘legendary’ in the history of Dutch and international graffiti: the complete take over of a subway system New York style! At that time nobody expected this to be the introduction of something completely different, or did they…
ANGEL: “At that time I was fed up with doing full colour production murals. All I did was rocking my superfast throw-up style letters and cartoons. Raw as fuck, without aspiration. This method of operation was ideal to hit subways: run, climb, bomb and flee!”
One time, in the evening, I knew that King RHYME, the president of the Gods Vicious Babies, was planning his allout-subway-assault to walk the path of unprecedented fame in the history of subway-bombing. SHOE gave me a lift to the yard and dropped me off at the Gaasper-fence where I hoped to find ‘The President’ doing his thing. After a small stroll along the fence I located RHYME in action. I wasn’t surprised, that man is never caught slippin’. To make things even better, he wasn’t operating alone. He was bombing in extreme good company of CAT22 and HIGH. I was wondering if the job was almost done and if they had any paint left for me to do my thing. While considering my options I hesitated climbing the fence. At that exact moment the yard got raided. The men in blue stormed in from every angle shouting: “Don’t move, keep stil!”.
I didn’t even climb the fence so I wasn’t guilty of jack shit, I washed my hands in innocence… but the Blueboys were going for my throat. Back at the precinct those coppers put the pressure on me and, without evidence, opened the shitbag over my head. This triggered my ‘lockjaw’ and I fell back into a mode of silence. They locked me up for one night. In the morning, when I was leaving the precinct, I met HIGH at the counter. Also for him, same shit, same story. After this event I decided to slow down. Even though, the weekend after the raid, we were back in the yard with a posse of 10 writers. But I didn’t go out that frequent anymore, times were changing.
A year later me and HIGH were summoned for court. They were planning to clean our closet because we both gathered a small list of incidents. The judge was ranting: “Professional vandals! They’re both hardened enemies of the state.” Anyway, the headache-after-fun dropped and they also charged me for painting that subway car. As a real Mokum Warrior HIGH immediately pledged ‘not guilty’ and stood by his words. In the end we both got burned and fined for that subway-action. Fucked up ofcourse, but I didn’t get mad over it, that’s part of the game we play. We decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve together and rock a super crisp end-to-end tram reading: 1992 CTK, TBH, GVB & CBS: RHYME & HIGH, SHOE & ANGEL.
Lets go back in time a little bit. Back in 1990 I got real close with ICE and ARSON. We were already friends for a long time and hung out together. But around this time our bond became stronger. It felt like there was magic in the air! ARSON was a member of the GVB crew and me and ICE were TBH (The Bad Homeboys). This lead to a fusion of GVB and TBH which turned out to be a killer combination. Together we searched for new ways of ‘bombing’. We were looking for a medium which would give us freedom and space to conceptualize new ideas. We wanted to translate the rebellious attitude of the 80’s into a new form fit and ready for the 90’s.
One night it was me, ARSON and ICE strolling through the streets of Amsterdam when the light hit us. On such a typical Mokum night when the whole city is buzzing with energy and that you can feel something special is in the air. Everything was alive, filled with positive spirits… people were ready for the next episode. At the Spui-square we stumbled upon the shop window of the American Bookshop. They were celebrating the 50th birthday of Looney Tunes by showcasing billboards and celebration books. The three of us went crazy! At that moment the bomb dropped: ‘That’s it, that’s it!! We must turn ourselves into Toons!!!’ At that moment we became the trio known as Angel, Ice and Arson presenting the Gods Vicious Babies & The Baby Hype. That special Mokum-evening in 1990 is the birthday of the Babies. The Babies who decided to battle the establishment and do things their way!”
Just as ANGEL’s subway cars began slowing down the train which carried the Gods Vicious Babies & The Baby Hype began running at full speed. The takeover of Amsterdam was in progress. The close friendship between ANGEL, ICE and ARSON became formal by chosing a pay-off statement. Their body of thought was captured in words by ANGEL as follows: “We’ve got to Conquer the World. Born out of the graffitimentality, we must Bomb Further!”.
The official cooperation of three kindred spirits became the second phase in ‘the game’: the founding of the TBHead-Quarters. This all happened in 1992 when the ‘magic’ of that special 1990 Mokum-night got a revisit. And again, with great result. The formula of TBHead-Quarters was simple: Angel was the artist drawing craftsman, Arson the writer/scripter and Ice serving as digital colorizer. The TBHead-Quarters is working crazy overtime and a shitload of mega-dope productions are leaving the studio in fast pace. The production of the Baby Hype comics, the BBoy Extravaganza Paradiso posters in cooperation with SHOE and a diverse package of assignments generate an immense pulse of positive energy. This working frenzy ultimately lead to a legendary body of work and an exhibition entitled ‘Post Graffiti’.
ANGEL: “The Post Graffiti exhibition was organised in 1993. My philosophy was based upon the idea that I wasn’t doing traditional work on canvas, I was making ‘Billboards’. The Billboards were part of my Masterplan. Even back than there was this discussion going on with people nagging about ‘true graffiti’, ‘high-art’ and ‘graffiti on canvas’, bla bla, shit like that. In the beginning of the 90’s I’ve always hardened my thought that I was doing ‘Billboards’ that I used for postering or ‘legal bombing’. When a local pub was interested in putting up one of my billboards I made a deal for ‘free drinks’, everybody happy! Those works were not for sale, I didn’t sell anything. This way my work got noticed by a lot of people and I had many discussions about my work. People called it ‘Art’, that was not my opinion… why the fuck is it ‘Art’? They didn’t get my point of ‘personal marketing’, haha!
As far back as 1990 I’ve always pushed the brandname ‘The Baby Hype / Gods Vicious Babies’. To me, pushing a brand is graffiti per definition. They call themselves ‘writers’, but all that they do is write their names. Can’t they do anything else but ‘writing names’ was the question I asked myself. The BRAND, the power of the message is in the repetition. You want the biggest, the best spot, the trickiest spot… it has attitude and is somewhat ‘rugged and ruff’. This game can also be played on another level. I’ve added a new level to the game called ‘graffiti’. That people didn’t get it anno 1993 is something I can deal with, but that I’ll bring change in this awareness 25 years later wil be a fact! Everybody will soon be fiending for playing the same game I was living in way back in the 90’s. I create the ‘Star Arena’, you’ll join my game or you’ll stay stuck in the TBHeritage. A choice not difficult to make, in my opinion.”
Next up: Chapter 3 – The TBHijack of the media
Copyright article 2017 – Dutch Graffiti Library
‘Original artwork BBOY EXTRAVAGANZA’ – collection Dutch Graffiti Library
‘Original artwork Vandal Comics Presents Angel, Ice and Arson nr. 1′ – collection Dutch Graffiti Library
English translation: Remko Koopman.