Uncapped: Outside of 5POINTZ with TOPAZ
Hailing from Queens and repping 63rd, 108, FTR, AFD, BTW, OTM, Treat Street, DWB, SIC, ACV, HATE Crew, 4mA, KDW, SPK, a co-founder of 5POINTZ , Graffiti Mecca to the world, may it rest in peace; Uncapped welcomes TOPAZ (@pazroc on Instagram).
BOWERY BOOGIE: Run through a quick bio about yourself- your words about your name and your start in graff.
TOPAZ: I was searching the back of my science book [in 8th grade] for names to write after going through a few that didn’t stick. I made a list of a bunch that I liked and just narrowed it down until TOPAZ ONE was the last remaining. I started writing graff in the mid 1980’s with a crew I created called SPK in Queens, NY. Scape, Prem, Krappy D, Dutch, Sorts, 9mm and a few others. In the early 90’s my partner was Plato, CAD RIP and eventually Toor RIP and Tric also started piecing with us until I stopped for a few and they kept the tradition going. Meres brought me back out in 1998 with Ceaze and a few others. In the mid 2000’s I took a short break to focus on the music industry and did a lot of graphics and video work for Hip hop artists. I did a lot of brushing up on my skills at 5 Pointz where I learned how to use the new cans and caps, gearing up for a new decade. When Jerms started going back out heavy he invited me along and the rest is still history in the making.
BB: Thanks for filling up the intro. We read that you’ve been involved in the music industry, cartooning, illustration, painting, airbrushing, aerosol art/graffiti, graphic design, video editing, DVD authoring, audio production, motion graphics, animation, coloring, page layout, sign fabrication/installation … I’m running out of room here. Is there anything you DON’T do?
TOPAZ: I don’t answer my phone. I don’t do tattoos. I don’t work for Disney or Marvel. There’s actually a lot that I don’t do, I try to stay in my lane. I’m just very interested in almost anything creative and I give it a try, it doesn’t always stick, but I gotta test the waters here and there.
BB: Yeah, that not answering your phone bit made this interview a good time! I see you blessing walls all over the 5 Boroughs? Do you have a favorite place to paint in particular?
TOPAZ: Jerms and I along with the rest of the FTR (FUCK THE REST) crew have been going out a lot for about the past 3 years or so. I do not have a preference really on where I’m gonna paint, it really just depends on my mood. If I feel like hanging out and being social I’ll go to one of many places I love, most likely a legal spot such as Tuff City in the Bronx with Bids. If I’m in a more introverted mood and just want to zone out and think I’ll want to paint in a more secluded place, none of which I’m willing to mention. I love to paint, though, and I rarely turn down an opportunity if my schedule permits.
BB: Okay. No asking about secret spots. Duly noted. What about 5 Pointz? As a co-founder that must’ve been a huge hit when it shut down. For the community, for the artists, etc. How did it/does it affect you?
TOPAZ: It was a great part of my life. I was there from the beginning and watched it grow, I grew with it. It sucked to see it end the way it did. I owe a lot to that place and it will remain a part of who I am. Meres happens to be moving on and doing projects under the 5 POINTZ CREATES title so that’s great. I’m glad to be included in their recent projects including OPERATION SKITTLES at August Martin HS in Queens and BROOKLYN RECLAIMED in Brooklyn.
BB: August Martin – notoriously the City’s worst high school is now a priceless graffiti museum/hall of fame – check it out here. That project was incredible. They said the 5Pointz family returned. Beautiful thing y’all did for those children.
BB: Respect to freshpaintnyc for the footage above. Topaz, of your many skills, which would you choose if forced to make a decision?
TOPAZ: I’d love to say the one that paid the most, but that’s only true in some cases. They all hold a bit of value just in the sense of experience and being able to be self sufficient and be able to use those skills on my own projects as well. Some I hated but they taught me to not ever take on a project like that again! Somehow it always comes down to the spray-paint though because it’s the only thing I’ve ever went out and done even when I didn’t have to. That’s my hobby when I get a chance to take a break from all the other stuff. But I really do enjoy it all depending on the specific project at hand.
BB: So which are you currently involved in the most?
TOPAZ: Mainly just graffiti, illustration and custom art projects at the moment, but I dabble in a bit of everything. My mind changes often and I jump around from realm to realm a lot. It really depends on what I feel passionate about at the moment and what’s paying the bills. Those two things pretty much determine everything.
BB: We read that you spent some time in LA. How’s the scene out there? Is there an East Coast/West Coast situation going on?
TOPAZ: I was out there a while ago in 1994 and again in 2000-2001 so I can only speak from my experience. I didn’t witness any of that. When I was out there I was working in animation so I didn’t really get too involved with the scene although I met a few writers and Hip hop heads and I was welcomed with open arms as well as were they. There were actually a lot of people I met there that were originally from the East Coast and other states. Just like NYC, it was a melting pot of cultures from what I saw. I don’t get caught up in that media hype, a cool cat is a cool cat I don’t care where you’re from personally.
BB: The East is a beast in the graff world. You know, origins and all that? Agree or disagree?
TOPAZ: I agree with that and I’m aware of the origins and everyone in the game should respect that but it’s a different time now. Writers are bombing and burning all over the world. It’s hard to say the East will remain the best forever just because it started here, most of my favorites are from here but I respect anybody’s skill if they’re nice or they get up. The internet also changed things in a big way because everyone is influencing everyone now opposed to when I came up we all got our styles from Spraycan Art, Subway Art, Style Wars, Wild Style, Dreams Don’t Die, Beat Street, Video Graff, IGHT, Flashbacks, Can Control and a select few other magazines that started popping up, most of which were from NY. I think there are a select few crews from every region that gets busy.
BB: You’ve been featured in a ton of magazines and other media. The two that stuck out were The Connex List and the Wonder Twinz. Flashback Friday right there! That’s some 2000s hip hop culture!
TOPAZ: The Wonder Twinz are my peoples! I met them in the early 2000s when I got back from LA and started promoting my indie record label at the time. They actually had their networking parties out in LES on Rivington Street and my brother Timex and I were regulars. We been cool ever since and always support each other.
BB: Word. You were also in Caribbean Men’s Quarterly? Do you have roots there?
CMQ was a magazine that a buddy of mine was working with someone else on. Shout out to Milton who’s part of my Dark Highway / Indakut fam. But no I don’t have roots there, they were just helping me get my story out there.
BB: Sounds like you already have love for the Lower East Side. Anything else you want us to know about you?
TOPAZ: I love LES, chilled many nights out there. I love art and I love the Universe…
I want to say Rest In Peace to Vince aka Cad One, Big Jims, Jules aka Joke, Mike P, Jared, Drew, Dwight, Alix Ramirez, Fredroc, Milton, Terrence, Naeem, etc. Unfortunately, there are too many to name…
As a final note, I want to say RIP and One Love to my brother Billy aka Ease SPK 63rd WRB who always had a can, marker or sticker in his pocket until the day he died, I miss you brother!
Good day, folks, and stay out of trouble!
BB: Topaz, back atcha. See y’all next week.
Below all pics courtesy of TOPAZ: