INTERVIEW // Charlie the Hustler
Where did you grow up?
So I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn on 62nd street and 18th Avenue. I was born six/eight/79. It was mafia central man. I grew up on the block at Sally's bar and that was the social club for, John Gotti and Sammy the BulI.
What was it like growing up in Brooklyn at that time?
I mean, when I look back now, growing up in Brooklyn, was definitely a blessing, but at the same time it was a curse. It was a very tough place to grow up. Brooklyn in particular in the 80s was very crazy. There was lots of killings, people getting pushed in front of trains, there was really no order. I grew up there.
A lot is expected from you, crime wise when you grow up in Brooklyn. I think that what would of been wanted for me was to be some type of made guy. Some type of earner for organized crime. But I was always the black sheep. I was not into that.
What was your family life like growing up?
As far as my family life goes, I would say that I come from a very dysfunctional family. My father was an abusive alcoholic. He was very hand happy. He used to hit my mom a lot. My mom was always in the bathroom crying. My father hit me a lot. I became the scapegoat. And what I mean by that is to take the attention off my mother. I started acting out and doing bad things, so the attention would be put on me. As far as being very young and cursing or writing graffiti, stealing, anything that. I could do to take the focus off my mother.
I would have to say growing up for me was very rough. Basically, I felt terrorized. I would say I grew up in terror. I was very afraid when my dad came home. It was the same routine every day, it was violent. I grew up very scared and in fear.
Why do you think you were so attracted to graffiti? What about it caught your attention?
From a very young age, I've been writing graffiti for as long as I can remember. At five years old there was a spade, a spade on a deck of cards, and it said spade written in it, like real fresh, wicked. I was mesmerized by it. No one put me onto graffiti. Graffiti is something that I have seen, I fell in love with. It was very mysterious to me. Like, who did it? Why did they do it? What did it mean? Who were they? I pictured like a homeless person doing it or a junkie. But I was fixated on that one. That one piece that I seen, that spade. I became obsessed with graffiti.
Do you think your partners doing graffiti filled the void that your family life left open?
As far as partners doing graffiti, I would say I had many, but I was always a loner. I did not fit in with the other kids. I grew up on a block of all Italian immigrants, which would be called guineas. They were more into like Metallica, playing football and I was like into run DMC and break dancing. I discovered all this stuff on my own as an escape from my own life and home life. I never really felt like I fit in with any other writers that age. Even though maybe some of us came from the same neighborhood or even the same type of environment, I always felt alone. I took pride and being alone. I've always blazed my own path. I always stay true to my heart.
I realized at a very early age that I was an individual and basically I didn't have to conform to any standard and that carried on all the way till today. I never ever stopped writing graffiti. I always put that first. Unfortunately, it's something that you don't really get paid from, but my love for it and for the art and to carry on most importantly, I feel like it's my job to carry on tradition of the street right up and to lead by example
Does graffiti control your life?
"Graffiti is definitely in full control of my life. It's the only thing I've ever been passionate about"
I base my whole life around graffiti, whether I'm doing it or not, I'm always obsessing over it. I'm always looking at it and all I talk to is other graffiti writers. I don't associate with anyone that does not write. Graffiti, I don't care if the person is established or not. I'm all about passing on tradition and teaching it. The rules to the younger generation. I'm actually known for that. A lot of people who first start writing reach out to me and I give my phone number, I give my advice. I don't recommend it as a lifestyle choice because it is not beneficial to you in any way, especially financially.
Graffiti writers are very depressed. They're a very strange breed. It's egotistical and it has to do with ego and pride, and ego and pride will kill you. You're putting your name on a wall. So if someone goes over it, it's literally like smacking you in your face, so you have to retaliate.
So anytime you have to retaliate. The outcome is never good, It just leads to all bad. This is a lifestyle based on crime and I'm going against the grain. Anytime you go against the grain, you make things very difficult for yourself. I’m a graffiti writer, that's all I am. You have plumbers, you have carpenters, I'm a graffiti writer and to be involved in this lifestyle, comes a lot of pain. I'm never able to keep anything because, I get my own apartment, I get a job and I get arrested writing graffiti. With all my arrests, the time keeps getting longer and longer, so I constantly lose everything.
I've been single for four years because it interferes with my graffiti lifestyle. Once you get into a relationship, you have to compromise and have to be supportive to the other person and be available. And graffiti trumps everything in my life, so I'm unable to be available the way a person may need you to be there for them. But I'm okay with that. Um, I love graffiti with all my heart, and I'm a thousand percent dedicated.