Winter of 2010
Introduction by Sureshot La Rock.
It’s no secret the birth of hip hop was sparked by a desire for New York’s inner city youth to lift their voices above the noise of their environment and be heard by the rest of society. It started with the DJs — Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Breakout, Bambaataa, Flowers, Pete DJ Jones, and Hollywood. Then MCs entered the game forming crews like the legendary Cold Crush Brothers, Furious 5, Funky 4, Fantastic Romantic 5, Crash Crew, Magnificent 7 and the Treacherous 3. And while much is known and continues to be uncovered about hip hop’s musical pioneers, little has been written about its visual kingpins. No, not graffiti artists — their story is being, and continues to be, documented effectively by the graf community. What we’re talking about here are the creative minds behind hip hop’s first currency. The flyer kings. Flyers are among the most elusive of all of hip hop’s old school artifacts. Their importance that cannot be overstated. They were the visual manifestation of the block’s word-of-mouth. On any given day in the early 80s, you might have heard, “Yo, you hear Cold Crush is going to rock Harlem World tonight?”, but it was the flyer that promoters used that would get the word out. Artists, venues, dates, times, locations, directions, damage — it was easy enough to list all of the information on 3×5 postcards. To have a REALLY fly party, though, a flyer had to have flavor… Style. It had to scream out, “DON’T MISS THIS JAM!”. That much is obvious. Dig a little deeper into the evolution of their style and production techniques and you’ll find a tale as engrossing as those told by hip hop’s first DJs and MCs. Who were the artists? What were they trying to convey? How did they define their look? Why are they so hard to find? The questions go on… and on… and on… and…One of the answers to the first of these questions is the subject of this interview — Buddy Esquire. Widely known as “The King of Flyers”, Buddy’s uncanny ability to marry form with function took flyer artistry to unprecedented heights. Take one look at his work and it’s fairly easy to see why he was one of the most sought-after and, ultimately, prolific artists back in the day. But it’s more than just clean lines and a dynamic flair that define his contribution to hip hop. In Buddy’s masterpieces, you’ll find the soul of hip hop. You’ll see a young man’s desire to lift his voice above the crowd. And here are his words for all to be heard…
– Sureshot La Rock.
Troy- Thank you brother Buddy Esquire for this opportunity to interview you. First things first where were you born and raised?
Buddy Esquire- The Bronx New York. I grew up in Monroe Projects. We moved in the projects when they were first built, back in 61.
Troy- Any pioneers of hip hop or athletes grew up with you in the projects?
Buddy Esquire- Well there was one that I use to play ball with name Eddie Pinckney.
Troy- My man smooth Easy Ed that played ball at Villanova and won a championship. Real nice guy. Dam, the two of you guys looked like you could have been brothers.
Buddy Esquire- Possibly, but we were never mistaken.
Troy- Yeah I hear you he was a real tall brother.
Buddy Esquire- Yes that he was.
Troy- So you guys played ball together?
Buddy Esquire- Yes all through the 70’s up until he went to college in the early 80’s.
Troy- so what were the schools you went to?
Buddy Esquire- I went to P.S. 100 on Taylor and Lafayette then I.S. 131 on Bolton and Story. For a year I went to Clinton High School. I later went to Stevenson and I graduated. Tony Tone of The Cold Crush went to Stevenson with me.
Troy- When did you first hear Hip hop?
Buddy Esquire- That would be around 1976 and it was D.J. Mario who I heard first and then Bambaataa. I went to a lot of outside jams and later on I got caught into the sounds of Break Out, and then I started going to the jams in doors.
Troy- During this time did you ever try your hand at d.j.ing and m.c.ing because so many people were liking it and wanted to be a part of it?
Buddy Esquire- Well D.J.ing maybe a little bit, but m.c.ing nah, I never had the gift of gab, so to speak.
Troy- Where you trying to work out on the turntables through guys like Tony Tone ect.?
Buddy Esquire- Nah I met Tony Tone through graffiti, he liked my style and he thought I would be able to do flyers.
Troy- So when did graffiti start for you?
Buddy Esquire- That started around late 1972.
Troy- So you have been doing graffiti before hip hop even started. So you were one of the earliest graffiti artist in New York?
Buddy Esquire- No, there are others like Phase 2 and etc and so on.
Troy- So what was your first name you tagged or you did you always use the same name?
Buddy Esquire- No I tagged different names but by the time I got to the train I was on my third of fourth name. I ended up with the abbreviation of Esquire. (ESQ) Shade 2 was one of the early pioneers of writing that I met and I learned style from, he is not with us today.
Troy- Did you run with any crew while doing graffiti?
Buddy Esquire- No I always ran solo.
Troy- Many people say that graffiti is a part of hip hop and I am not a graffiti writer. I ran with dudes that wrote but I didn’t have the hand for it. And I have to say I don’t see the connection of Graffiti and Hip hop. So I was hoping you could make the connection between graffiti and hip hop.
Buddy Esquire- Oh boy that’s going to be a difficult one for me. Basically I can say it like this, there can be a relation and then it’s not! It all depends on who was doing the writing. Because if you talk to a white writer he wasn’t into hip hop. A Spanish writer maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. Now with the brothers….see that’s a hard question.
Troy- I always looked at it this way, if hip hop was really connected I thought you would see something like people writing tagging on the walls and trains Cold Crush’s name or Caz name or Fantastic’s name even if they weren’t members of the crew, but just because they liked them so much. Like, “I am getting ready to go to this party so let me give props to these dudes that I dig and I am about to see.” But Kool Kyle the Star Child told me there use to be graffiti writing all up and down the walls in the stair cases and bathrooms of The T- Connection as well as him being a writer also.
Buddy Esquire- The only connection I could see is Rap and Graffiti are both from the ghetto! A lot of the original writers from back in the days came from the ghetto, so maybe that is way they can identify it as such. But also since every writer is not from the ghetto not every writer is going to associate themselves with that.
Troy- So what was your reason for writing on the trains and walls. Some people say it’s a message to the establishment or something like that and others will say I just wanted to put my name up to be seen!
Buddy Esquire- Well I fall under the order of I wanted to be seen. A friend of mine got me into it. He was writing first and he use to show me so I started to do it also. From there I started going out tagging with him on trains and at the yards. It was to be seen for me, because any message didn’t come from the first generation it didn’t come until afterwards. Because the most political writer back then was a cat name Mico. Other than that everybody else was about tagging and getting their names up the best way possible. I say it that way because everybody wasn’t neat back then, we had a couple of sloppy guys too.
Troy- Right but they still got their name up. I remember a brother that use to write Chris 217.
Buddy Esquire- Yes he use to hit the 1 train.
Troy- Ah man this dude was all over the place, but he was so basic and not so neat.
Buddy Esquire- Sloppy, you right, but he did his thing. I know every time I was on the 1 train I would see his name in a big fat drippy marker.
Troy- Exactly. So you have been doing this since 72.
Buddy Esquire- I started in 72, then after I got arrested, my mother put me under punishment, which basically took the desire out of me for a while. And I didn’t actually get arrested I got a note sent to my house and I got put under punishment for half a summer, which wasn’t fun
Troy- Nah, I know about those punishments in the summer time! I remember only being allowed to go to the store and brothers use to ask “Yo when are you coming out side? I don’t know stop asking me!” (We both start laughing.)
Buddy Esquire- Yeah that’s the only time I went out too, was to the store and I would take my marker with me and go tagging. (Troy starts laughing)
Troy- I hear you I guess after a while you couldn’t hold on any longer.
Buddy Esquire- See as far as writing graffiti you can have it really bad to where it becomes like a disease.
Troy- Well let’s talk about that disease, that urge.
Buddy Esquire- Well I like to think that I am cured from it. during that time it was like an anxious feeling. But at that time when the police busted me my mother and father didn’t take all my markers because they didn’t know where they were all at. And see back in the days the police would come to your house and look for your spray cans and markers and take them.
See when I got busted that particular day I wasn’t writing but I was hanging with some writers. Let’s just say I was guilty by association, at least that is what the cops told me when they busted me. The police then took me to the station and wrote me up and then they sent a letter to my house. I didn’t know when it was coming to the house but when my mother got it. I knew because that’s when I got it. (We both start laughing.) Moms and Pops broke on me, they weren’t very pleased with the situation. They couldn’t find the stash of markers so they hid my comic books. But as far as the obsession, it’s like an itch a drive to want to do it to want to get better, to want to work hard at it. Sometimes you do it on a couple of pieces of paper sometimes you just want to go out and write. When that time came and I graduated to the trains and I use to hit the Bay Chester layup. It was a crazy rush tagging inside and outside of the trains. By the early 80’s I was finished.
Troy- So you can say you were fully detoxed from writing?
Buddy Esquire- As far as going out and writing yes because I felt like there was no need for me to write because I was making flyers, people will see my name with that.
Troy- Would you say you have done over 300 flyers?
Buddy- Yes that would be about right
Troy- So how did the first flyer come about?
Buddy Esquire- The first flyer I did was for a block party in the summer of 1977. It
came out all right. The second one I ever made in my whole life which was in November of 1978 came about because Tony Tone told me that the crew that he was with which was Break Out at the time needed somebody to make their flyer. When I look at it now I feel it’s a piece of crap. But I did it for Breakout because they were having a jam at 131. What got it all started was in 1977 I started painting stuff on peoples cloths. Like names on jeans.
Troy- So you were doing this before the flyers?
Buddy Esquire- Yes.
Troy- So how did this come about being as you didn’t go to any Art and Design type of school!
Buddy Esquire- Well around the middle 70’s my style was getting kind of decent so I thought I would maybe be able to draw letters. So what happen I went to the library and I took out a book on fine painting, where they talked about letters, proportions and lay outs and stuff like that. Now I am talking about how a sign goes, not a flyer!
Troy- I understand.
Buddy Esquire- So I took a look at the book and I tried drawing some of the letters that were in the book and I said to myself hey I can do this stuff. So now what made me go to the library was because when people would put paint on jeans and stuff it was either graffiti or some kind of sloppy looking hand writing. So I was like figuring let me do it this way and that will make my stuff noticeable. And my way was doing it with the letters straight out drawn like on this Maxell box you have here. You know letters like that nice straight even letters. So I started doing it like that. People seen what I was doing and started wanting me to paint for them. After awhile Tone mentioned the thing about the flyers and I told him I would give it a try. So the first one I did they liked. After that I made flyers for them for about 2 years straight.
Troy- What was the amount of time to make a flyer?
Buddy- For some of them I would say about 6 hours because it took work. Some a little less time because of less information. And see you can’t really give a flyer a couple of days because soon as you get the information it’s a time limit involved from when you have to get that flyer done. I wouldn’t take more than 2 days to finish a flyer and that’s really pushing it.
Troy- So during this time you was making your first flyer was any one else making flyers in hip hop?
Buddy Esquire- Well Phase 2 was making flyers for Flash.
Troy- So was Phase 2 actually making flyers before you?
Buddy Esquire- You can say that, yes! We were about a month a part and he may have been first.
Troy- As far as the painting on the pants the way you did it, would you consider yourself first with that?
Buddy Esquire- Yes I like to consider myself to be the first person to do it the way I had it done. The way you saw Funky 4 and Rodney Cee’s jacket that was me that did that first.
Troy- My man, so that was you that did that! That whole thing was nice how you did it. So what about Breakout’s Dune Buggy, did you do any painting on his Buggy as well?
Buddy Esquire- Yeah I painted his name Breakout on the side of the Buggy.
Troy- So you and Breakout were pretty cool then?
Buddy Esquire- We were cool, yes we were.