Interview © 2009 TATU and SEEZ.
Photos by XMEN photographer, Bianca Henriquez Nic One Green, and SEEZ.
Hey everyone! Thanks for showing interest in my mini autobiography. Right off the bat let me thank Tatu for giving me the opportunity to share my story with all of you. To some of you it may sound similar to your writer's background, but like it or not this is the way it all started. Enjoy the carpet ride ....
I was born and raised in Brooklyn New York in 1967. The place so nice they named it twice. I came from a true old-school Hispanic background. My mom was a factory worker and my dad was the super of the building we lived in. East New York was the first part of Brooklyn I lived in, and let me tell you between the years of 1 and 5 I saw a lot of bad things go down in my neighborhood.
At that time there was a whole lot of crime going on, but for some odd reason we never got messed with. Could be because my mom and dad used to know the local crooks well, and they respected them and in return they respected us. The Lord works in mysterious ways I guess. My parents had that type of positive vibe going on that made them very easy to get along with.
Well anyway my mom was working for this custom jewelry company for the majority of her life, and after that moonlighted at a restaurant till midnight every night. My dad after a while let alchohol take over his life, as well as ours, so in the long run he lost his position at both of his jobs and we had to move from East New York to Sunset Park, or as everybody else called it, Bay Ridge Brooklyn.
I was six when I started this new chapter in my life, and what a chapter it was. I wasn't even ready for it, but as the story goes on you'll see as well that it was worth every minute of it.
My dad still lived with us, but by that time the booze had taken over his life and tried to drag us along with it. But my mom being the strong-willed individual she was never let his mistakes reflect on us. She made sure that what happened to him would not happen to me, so she busted her hump working overtime to make sure I went to the best private school in the area at the time, which was of course private Catholic schools.
Me, I was a wise ass from as young as I can remember, and I was always getting in trouble for being a class clown. I even used to make the nuns laugh every now and then when they had their guard down, but I was always respectful to my elders till that one day in class.
One of the nuns was teaching a class and someone threw a spitball at the chalkboard, so who do you think they thought it was? Of course it had to be the little Spanish clown of the class, but it wasn't me. I was picked up forcefully from my chair and this nun just went "wack!" right across my face and said, "hope you found that funny Mr. Cruz!" I tried to explain to her that it was not me, but before I could say anything there was a fresh one coming my way again. So I literally smacked her in the face and pushed her out of the way and said, "Bitch I told you I did not do it!" In the end I was expelled from that school and got transferred me to yet another Catholic school. Oh and they never found out who it was who did the spit ball thing. Even though I knew I did not snitch. So on to my second school, where my writing career was born.
Well enough of the childhood years and let's get to what you want to know. How I came to be the Minister Sinister SEEZ! I started writing, believe it or not, at the age of 10 (1977). My first tag ever was "JAZ," and the first crew I ever put up was TKO (The Kool Ones), which was Funk's crew. Funk was an abnormally huge and muscular dude for his age! We're talkin like Drago from Rocky huge, and he put me under his wing and showed me the ropes on writing.
The first lay-up I ever went to was the elevated Bs on Ft. Hamilton, if I remember correctly, and man let me tell you I was shittin' a pill when I was up there. Funk kept telling me, "Don't look down!" But I didn't listen, and for a moment I was frozen in my tracks! What made it even worse was that the Coney Island bound train was coming, and I really was scared. I mean at 10 years old wouldn't you be? Well at that moment I had to choose, and of course I chose "move your ass kid!"
So, after that experience my boys always busted my chops about it, and of course I had to spend the rest of my childhood proving myself to them. Man those were the days. As time went by, my partner Funk and I would hang out at his house just working on our hand styles and throw ups, while at the same time I used to check out his sister. He knew I had a huge crush on her, but she was older and way too sophisticated to even bother with me. But hey, at that age a kid can dream.
After a while we started hanging out with these other guys from the block that just started writing as well named Cuz1 and Rap. They weren't as into it as Funk and I were, but man they had mad heart. We were lucky enough to hang out on 52nd Street where there was a bus stop, and we used to motion bomb all day long on them suckers. We're the kings of that particular bus line. I'm not sure whether it was the B-63 line or the B-16, but either way there wasn't a bus that didn't have our tags running along Fifth Ave and Flatbush. That was the way we used to pass the time when we weren't going to the lay-ups. Mind you I was more of an inside bomber at my first stage, so no productions were in effect yet, but soon that would change.
After going through the roller skating scene and skateboarding for Powell Peralta, I was still doing my thing out there on and off, and I also changed my name to Cerone. Now mind you I got up so much with that tag that to this day if I were to go back to Sunset Park Brooklyn, the majority of the people I know would still call me Cer even after I told them I do not write that anymore. Oh well.
At the time I was still in grammar school, and mind you it was a Catholic school, and I was one of the first Hispanics in a Italian, Irish neighborhood to attend Catholic school. There was not a day that I didn't hear "Spic cockroach! Wetback, hoyey!" I used to get into fights almost every day because of my ethnicity. All I ever did at school was mind my biz, but they still came at me. Eventually it stopped, and the people I used to get into confrontations with ended up being my best friends.
While at Catholic school I was still going to lay-ups as much as I could, and I was getting kind of bored, believe it or not, because there was no excitement to it. The rush was gone until I met these two guys on 53rd Street and Fourth Ave, and they ironically enough were doing a wall mural, which at that time was like, Wow. I just stopped and watched them do their thing. One of the guys came up to me and asked me the cliché question - "Yo, you write? What you write?" I told him my nom de plume and he shook my hand and called his boy over.
I obviously asked them what do you write, and they said Ses and Joenuts (RIP). After that my whole perspective of being bored changed completely. Joe, Ses and I from that day on always used to meet on 53rd Street train station and hang out till all hours of the night drinking, smoking, and always talking graff. What I used to really enjoy about Ses was that most writers just tagged, but he used to write little epigrams on the panels that would make people actually read what he had written. That to me was the fucking coolest thing I ever saw, and to this day I will always commend him for that. Love ya, Ses.
Ses and Joe taught me the art of proper racking in general from paint to munchies for that night. Eventually God took one of my mentors to a better place, and we all miss him to this very day. Joenuts Dog TBK, rest in power my brother. After that we still hung out, but Ses wasn't the same as before. He still did his thing and so did I.
Ses was the person who introduced me to the joys of the train yard. Dewey Yard, New Lots, my favorite! To this day the only time I was ever busted was when I went with Tax3 (RIP) Joenuts (RIP), DG, Ses, Duro, and a few others to New Lots for a major bombing session. I couldn't remember all the writers that were there on account of I was too blitzed at the time on OE and Phillies. Hee! Hee!
We were in the last car in the center of the yard from what I recall, and it was a good thing we had both sides locked (thank God for our train keys). Then out of nowhere the vandal squad swarmed the yard on both ends. We got out through the back and hauled ass. Now me being so thin and quick back then, I saw a cop chasing me saying, "Stop! Stop!" and of course like a dumbass I turned around gave him the finger, laughed and said ... Pow! nothing at all. 'Cause what I didn't realize was that there was a cable going right across my path of escape, and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance headed for Brooklyn hospital.
All I worried about was the beat down I was gonna get when my mom came down to get me. Fortunately I was still a minor and they only charged me with trespassing. They gave me a JD card. which was taken off my record when I was 18. Now mind you after that you think I would stop? Hell to the no!!!!
At that time I was already well known in the Brooklyn writers' circle, but I still felt I could do more. By that time I was down with so many crews it wasn't funny. To just name a few: 7DS, TDA, TD, TKO, DOG, NYC, TBK, TST, BYI, BAD, RTW, WOW, and of course the almighty X-MEN!!!!
Tatu told me to put down how and who put me down, but I'll be honest with you, I think it was him when I went down to X-MEN park with my friends Burner and Dust (7DS prez) or OB1 (RIP). I wish I could remember but a lot of those days are just a blur to me ya know? But I did meet Deen after a while and he confirmed me being down with the crew. So it's safe to say that I was down back in the day. but I was reconfirmed recently for the books.
Next I'll tell ya how I dumped the name Cer and became the Minister Sinister...
After a while I was tired of putting up the same tag so much, and to be honest with you I was afraid that the vamp squad had pics of my tags and were out for me at that time, so I started experimenting with letters and names to see what stuck to me.
But before that the person that changed my whole perspective on writing was a kid by the name of Pase CB5 -- not TC5, CB5 -- which stood for Created By Five. I was introduced to him through a mutual friend by the name of Remo, who was also a bad ass black book arsonist. He was always bragging about his mentor and his mentor's originality, etc. And all I said was let's see what he's got and man they shut me up for sure!
The crew consisted of the most creative bad ass writers that I've ever met to this very fucking day. The colors, the blends the characters were all so beautiful. To this day I haven't seen a black book with work like that ever. Anyone that's from Park Slope knew who Pase was as well as their outlaw brothers, the twins from the "Young Bloods."
But anyway from the day I met him we hit it off so well, we were like brothers. Eating at his house and vice versa. We were honestly inseparable as white on rice. But man those other four writers in the crew were fire makers. They were Nast Rine, Score, Ral, and Remo. If they were still into it today, they would be untouchable.
At the time, Pase was attending Art and Design H.S. in New York, and he introduced me to doing work on canvas to put up in art galleries. He and his crew did a few art shows ... and the canvases they did. Ya see at that time, being a writer, I was more concerned about writing and not taking flics. My mentality was why take flics? I know what my tag looks like. Little did I know the noise graff was going to make in the future.
He suggested that I try to do something for an art gallery and that he could hook it up for me so I gave it a shot. My first art show was at the Labrizzi Gallery in Soho New York. Along with me I had the pleasure of having Tracy168 in the same show. I was like Wow! And I was even more excited when my little 20x30 canvas sold for $900, which to me was like a million bucks!
At that time I was already writing Seez and it was in the early '80s. After a while of hanging at Henry's place, I had the pleasure of meeting Lee, Frosty Freez, Min, IZ, Sach, and of course my brother from another mother, Staf 27 and Webone. Once Staf, Web and I met, we were always together, man, like a triple decker sandwich. If I wasn't with them they were with me.
Long story short, I was there when Tilden High School was done for the first time with Skate, Beam, Web, God (Staf 27), Arab, Doze, and Poke, and I got no credit for it. I was there when the famous Arab-Bagel car was done, no credit there either. I was around a lot of places putting in work for so many years and never got one bit of credit or acknowledgement whatsoever from the media or a few people that I considered my brothers at the time. I mean you open the doors for people you stay in touch with them as much as possible then you think the friendship is strong enough to withstand a little time away so you can get your life in order and Bam! You get a smack in the face from the same people you broke bread with.
I'll put it to you like this: X-MEN is a true crew with strong bond and down to earth people. And I've chosen lately to represent only crews that have a strong foundation in friendship, not just because I'm still active or not. Once an X-MEN always an X-MAN. Not because you're still up, but because you,ll always be familia. One love to all my true brothers out there, and please forgive me if I forget to mention a few: Staf27, Deen, Tatu, Sye, Totem, Doves, Blen, Delk, Sake, Coma, Mr.R. Sago, Boe, Min, AC Bete, Joenuts RIP. Ses, Break, Zame, Chillski. Staz, Ven, Reas, Funk, Bane, Beam, Kaves, may all of you stay as true to the game as it has been true to you all.
Thank you for taking the time out to listen to the ramblings on of a man trying to hold on to the very edge of his sanity. Nowadays I'm currently still doing my thing here and there, trying to get my shine on and grinding on a daily basis. I'm a proud father and grandfather of two beautiful grandchildren Cianna and Jayden, love you both!
Now don't get this twisted, I love the game, but when you get no credit from your peers for your accomplishments it does piss ya off! I got a message for all those haters out there: I never quit! I just went into concentration mode to progress in my life rather than let the game eat me alive.
Wait till you get a load of what I have in store for all of you!!!! Peace to one and all.
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