Preserving Brooklyn's Identity w/ Peter Paid


Artist //

Peter Paid

Posted //

April 23rd, 2021

Photography //

Shane Allen

Interviewer //

Shane Allen

While keeping it true to where he is from, Peter Paid pays tribute to the iconic imagery of hand-painted signs and lettering. Spending his career early on as a subway graffiti writer, and then becoming a sign painter, Peter has never looked back. With his undeniably fresh style, Peter is revitalizing an art form frequently viewed as utilitarian, and flipping it into beautiful fine art.

Populist got to spend an afternoon visiting Paid’s studio, talking about his early days as a graffiti writer, as well as his years of painting some of iconic Brooklyn signage.

How did you start writing graffiti?

Because I grew up literally right across the street from a very well-known train lay-up (The express subway tracks where out of service and off peak trains are parked. Usually overnight. I definitely noticed it earlier...

But It was around 1983 that I was really like “Hmmm, I think I want to get into this.”

I had a classmate who I sat beside that was already writing around the neighborhood, and he explained to me what a “tag” was. I remember taking a marker, sneaking in the staircases of the building I lived in, and taking tags up by the roof. Not long after I graduated to spray paint, and eventually traded the staircases for tags around my neighborhood and ultimately up to the lay up to hit trains. My close friends all followed suit, and together we had somewhat prolific careers for a few years.

So, when was it that you stopped bombing trains?

It’s crazy that I actually know the date. January 10th, 1987. It’s the day that I got my learner’s permit to drive. It was a pretty eventful day aside from getting my permit. I was with my main bombing partner “IT” (eye tee) and another writer who we occasionally bombed with, Death 3BR. The three of us were up at Sheepshead lay-up, mainly doing throw ups on the outside of the trains.

Death was at the end of the train, which was right off the station’s platform. I was at the next car, and IT was one car over. As we’re doing our thing, Death shouts over to me...

“Yo Paid! You know who this guy is?!?!”

I turn my head to look in his direction and catch a guy jumping down onto the tracks, pulling out a badge which was hanging from a steel ball chain around his neck. I immediately yell “RUN!!!” As we’re running down the tracks, IT sees us, drops his can, and takes off. Being that IT and I practically lived in that lay-up, we knew some little sneaky spots to get in and get out. We luckily got away. We’ve gotten raided and chased many times, but it was the time I decided to take a little hiatus, which wound up becoming permanent.