What borough are you originally from?
I'm from Spanish Harlem.
How did you get involved with graffiti?
I used to get on the train to come see my grandmother on 102nd Street. That's where I grew up, but then my mom moved to Brooklyn to save a little bit of money and to get away from the drama. So, when I used to get on the train I used to see these whole cars. The whole cars that I used to see was BAN 2 and LEE. LEE would have Stop the Bomb (a famous whole car) and BLADE would have these psychedelic whole cars, and I would say I could do that. I was about eleven years old. At that time I used to draw. I always used to draw superheroes, comic book heroes whatever. Then I started drawing my own characters. Then I started doing my own lettering, believe it or not, at home. Nobody believes that. I used to do my own bubble style. No crews, no nothing.
Did you have a particular inspiration or mentor(s)?
Nobody! This is why we became so good. When I started writing I became more involved in it because there was denials, a lot of doors slammed in my face, there was a lot of no! get away!, you can't be down. So I kept bombing with MACK. MACK and SWAN from Junior High School 13, which is actually the Graffiti Hall of Fame. We just used to do motion and we took king doing motion on the 6 line. Then I stopped because I liked the outsides. You got more respect. I started seeing that the big dogs, the big kings were the outside burners. So I started shying away from this (inside tagging), and I'm a do the outsides. That's when I met SHARP and he had all this paint. He kept telling me yo I heard you're DELTA. Why don't you come bombing with me? I was like "Nah, I got caught motioning one time" not in the act, but ready to and I had drama with my family. So I was like unless we do burners on the outside and whole cars I'm with it. And we went and that was a wrap for that.
How did you get your name?
Well, I went to the King Tut exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in the 1970s and I just saw the name Delta. 'Cause there's a part in Egypt where they buried some of the dead. There is a controversy where either Isis or Osiris came form there. Did they come from the north or did they come from the south? And there's a place in the north called the Delta and I saw the name. The name looked like me, sounded like me, felt like me and I said, "That's me!" And since my grandmother raised us on 102nd street I put 2 in the back for second to none.
What was the first subway line you hit?
The number 6 line. From Pelham Bay to Brooklyn Bridge we kinged in less than three weeks. SEEN was in retirement and we just decided to bombard the whole train. I used to do top-toĐbottoms on Zerega Lay-up hanging off the train while SHARP would sit at the train station and look out.
Why did you branch off on to the 4 line?
Well we had beef, because SEEN came back and he dedicated a car to us. He said "Thanks DELTA 2 and SHARP. Got me back on track." There were a lot of followers that he had. Since they were from Castle Hill and were his buddies they would go over our cars and all the work that I would put in. I would stand to take a picture and see my work destroyed. I was like "Yo, we can't keep doing pieces on this line because they're are hating." So, SHARP found a lay-up in Brooklyn, Kingston and Nostrand and it was party time!
What crews have you written for?
I've only written for three crews. The Death Squad, KD and my crew Kings Arrive.
How was KA formed?
I didn't like writing King DELTA or I'm king, because I didnŐt deserve... I didn't feel I deserved that respect yet compared to the ones that did put in the work. So I said when we go to the yard we're going to be called Kings Arrive 'cause we're the Kings. I don't want nobody writing that (King) that's down with me because we're not there yet. So every time we would do a piece we would put up Kings Arrive.
How many people were officially members?
I could count them on one hand. I'm a very private person and I only hanged out with a few and like I said a lot of doors were closed to us when we first started and that caused the animosity we had. We were like if y'all don't want to be down, were gona' make you want to be down, because everywhere you go you're gonna' see this! Official members were JOEY, PAGE, and DAR TRC.
Do you have any interesting 149th Street bench memories?
I have a lot of memories there. I almost got robbed there a few times, not knowing or them knowing who I was. You know; because I wouldn't want to tell people who I was because I was waiting for a car (my piece) myself, just to see the reaction on people's face. I wouldn't say I'm DELTA. I would want to see what they think of my style. So there was a few times where I almost got robbed, but I never ran and I never backed down.
Do you have any good raid stories?
I had a serious raid at Castle Hill on the 6 line with JOEY and we weren't even writing! We were just in there scoping the lay-up out and we got attacked by these DTs! I don't know how he got away. 'Cause JOEY's not that agile. He just leaped out of there. He got away. I got caught. They locked me up for trespassing. I never got caught writing. Every time I got caught for MTA it was for trespassing. It was either leaving the yard or coming in. There was one raid that I had, I was writing with MPC. It was me CAP, POVE, TERROR JSON, and COPE 2 in the 4 Yard. We destroyed the yard and then we got raided. That was one of the craziest raids I've ever been in to. A lot of DTs came. They were looking for CAP and I was there at the wrong place at the wrong time.
What were your early gallery experiences like and what prompted you to paint in a conventional context?
1984 I started painting canvases with ERO. ERO was already established with the Fun Gallery and he plugged us in with the La Placa Gallery. In one month I had a passport, I had a plane ticket and I went to Vienna, Austria. We did the first subway car overseas ever! We did the 25th Valentino anniversary at the Spanish Steps in Rome. We went to Milan. We went to Copenhagen, Norway. That's when I stopped writing on the trains, like bombing.
Did you prefer trains or canvas?
If I had it my way I would prefer both, because I still painted on the trains, but I had to stop because it was either paint on canvas and have art shows or keep painting on the trains and my mission was always for it to be recognized as an art form.
What influences/motivates your current work? (Please elaborate on your current style and direction)
Well what I'm doing right is neo-modernism. I'm just doing stuff that's evolved to the mind. I'm elevating the subway art to another level. I'm enhancing all styles combined into one and making sure that this is recognized as an art form. As a different culture from the streets and the New York subway system. My mission is to take this on into SOHO where we used to shine and reign. To make it come back again as a movement in the art world.
Some of your new work is meticulously detailed and rendered in single colors. What is different about this work?
Well I was incarcerated, so you are limited to supplies and I started drawing in pen only and my mission now is perfection in detail. Everything has to be precise and of divine proportion. da Vinci style! I'd rather see my art in black and white than in color unless I use oil paint. I'm going through a stage now where now I'm gonna' elevate it to the oil paint after I master the black and white and get back on track and attack the canvas with the colors.
Tell us about your painting at the 2005 Hall of Fame.
The piece at the Hall of Fame, it's really a Sumerian piece. It's a Sinumbra inside of it. It is basically the fertile land where everything started. Civilization of mankind, written language, style, art, architecture, sailboat, the wheel.
I'm giving props to all the gods that enhanced the style and the artwork that we have now. The pyramids in Egypt, the sancrits, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Everything that has to do with the artistic form from the beginning of time; I'm adding into my painting.
Any closing words on your work?
My artwork, it's not bitable. That's why I work so hard. What I do is only with pen and everything is spontaneous out the mind. For those that are painting, that are part of the subway system, they should realize that we are an art form. And for those who bite, the toys that are still biting. You have no respect for yourself or a lack of respect for our culture. Bypass the walls, our law was the trains and that's what we continue, those breed for different cultures. ©2005 @149st