Uncapped: Nobody Beats IZ THE WIZ
IZ the WIZ: hands down one of the most illustrious and renowned graffiti writers in and outside of our fair city. May he continue to Rest in Peace. In this installation of Uncapped, guest contributor, Freddy Alva, is back with an excerpt from the new issue of his Black Book Series magazine:
Pound for pound Michael ‘IZ THE WIZ’ Martin is the undisputed all-time, all-city king that made all the writers from Queens be extremely proud to come from this glorious borough. IZ’s shadow looms large in the annals of Graffiti in NYC and whatever far corners of the world this urban subculture spread to. I asked long time writing partner SAR TMB to give me some IZ related recollections and stories, thank you for the insights buddy!
Where did you grow up & what are your earliest memories of seeing Graffiti?
(SAR) I grew up in south Queens, Richmond Hill/Ozone Park. My earliest memories of graffiti was a DINO piece on Jamaica Avenue 98th St and VINNY/SHORTY13 pieces on all the garbage trucks that came up my block. My friend SIKE started writing and he was 3 years older than me, so I wanted a name like his.
When and how did you meet IZ?
(SAR) 1978; I was with my friend NOVA (George O’Malley, Rest In Peace) and we were on the A layup tagging and taking pictures. We saw SACH, who we knew, he lived on my block and he was with IZ. They had did CT (CRAZY TODD )and CI (CRAZY IZ) throw ups. We walked up on them and IZ said; ‘guys, what’s up’. He said he was CI and I told him you’re IZ I know, I wrote with SIKE, CI is short for Crazy IZ, he laughed and he said he was bringing back the POG (Prisoners Of Graffiti) crew and he was a recruiter, and he put me in POG. I was excited.
What are some of the earliest IZ pieces you recall seeing?
(SAR) IZ ‘THE MASTER OF REALITY’ whole car, IZ-IKE-SIKE whole car, FANE-IZ T2B whole car and my favorite all fed color ‘IZ THE WIZ’ with flames. I did a tribute to that piece when he passed away.
Did IZ serve as a mentor to you and other writers?
(SAR) He was a mentor by nature, a humble, historian of the movement.
I know IZ didn’t start TMB, at what point did he take it over and put you down?
(SAR) IZ was TMB, period. TMB was started in the lower east side about the winter of 1975. Original members were WEO, AT, CISCO PEO, CAZ, CY, CL, CJ, FLEA, LEE TF5, IZ THE WIZ to name a few. Later was SACH, SAKE, MIN, QUIK, SAGO, PADE, SIR, KB, SIKO, MIDG, SAR, CAVS ,SIEN 5, SHONE , ASIS, KEY. IZ took it over in 1977 with CAZ. IZ made me Vice President in 1990. I run TMB today, I have a west coast chapter: ZOKES, MOES, VENTA, CRAZY LARRY, GABY, DEGO who do freights and keep it going.
What year do you recall IZ branching out from his home line and start bombing other lines?
(SAR) First of all I will start at the beginning. IZ’s first name was SCAT, then he changed to BENZ, then CLICK 2, then MIKE, then he dropped the M and wrote IKE and added 327 to it. Supposedly his locker number at John Adams high school in Ozone Park. Then the top crew 2 letter name influences like, TO, OI, he changed his name to IZ but continued to write IKE as well. Before IZ wrote with the TMB crew, IZ wrote with Queens writers. He hung around the legendary 102 park on Liberty Avenue and played basketball. There he met the first writers from that neighborhood: VINNY, DUSTER 1, BLITZ, KICK 112, TRIP-1, SHORTY13, CAPTAIN AMERICA, FI-1, KZ, DEE, SI. DUSTER told VINNY that IKE was up and coming and that he should take him under the wing, so VINNY took IZ all city and showed him New Lots, Utica, City Hall, The 7 yard etc… VINNY slowed down by 1977, made a big comeback in 1980 and then quit. IZ kept on going. He teamed up with FI ONE, MICKEY, HURST, JEE, DEE, KZ. MONZA. He met FANE 2 aka PI-2 aka CIPPY and they teamed up and went on a bombing rampage around the city. FANE 2 was also a TOP crew member from East New York.
IZ lived in foster homes. Then, to pursue bombing he left home, lived in a friends garage, an abandoned ambulance and then ended up at the YMCA in the lower east side. That’s where he teamed up with CISCO and the TMB crew. IZ and CISCO went to the 6 line in 1977 and destroyed, giving TAKE 5 some competition. By 1977, IZ and CAZ were the only active TMB members and they continued to bomb together. Life came full circle when IZ came back to Queens, where he met SACH in 1978. SACH had been tagging insides and had just started to learn to piece, IZ took him under the wing along with his friend SAKE. IZ wouldn’t let SACH use the good colors at the beginning, like me we were bad, lol.
Any memorable recollections of bombing with him?
(SAR) One of my favorite memories IZ and I went to the A layup in the rain and did about 20 cars of insides. We had all different markers: minis, unis, pilots; we spent a few hours, bombed it. Another great night doing top to bottoms and watching them run the next morning, while we were in the layup JY and SAKE were drinking beers in 102 park and came up and joined us.
Any memories of when ‘Style Wars’ was being filmed & did you know he was going to be so prominently featured in it?
(SAR) Nope! Style Wars is a snapshot of 1982, NYC writers know that, the rest of the world sees it as an end all. It’s not, there were thousands of writers from 1969-1982 before that movie. Some writers featured in that movie did 5 pieces in their whole life, and they are memorialized like they were a king but Henry did what was never done before, so it’s still important to document the procedure and history. Too much emphasis on that movie.