Uncapped: Graffiti and New York Hardcore – Angel Duster aka KOOL AD
The following piece was written by guest contributor and author of Urban Styles: Graffiti in New York Hardcore, Freddy Alva.
Angel Duster – NYC Graffiti Legend
In the winter of 1982 I was hanging out at a youth center on the border of Corona and Elmhurst, Queens that served as the meeting place for all the kids in the neighborhood that were into breakdancing, graffiti, rapping. In short, all the trappings of the exploding hip-hop culture that acolytes such as ourselves, named b-boys, were striving to master. My chosen field of graffiti held an irresistible fascination. I was never particularly good at it and would look in awe at the local writers that were creating masterpieces on the street and subways. One of these local style masters was a writer named ANGEL DUSTER aka KOOL AD, and on that particular evening, someone pointed him out as he was surrounded by girls and writers trying to catch his attention in the hopes he’d get up in their black book. I thought to myself; ‘That is one cool dude.’ It looked like graffiti was a sure fire path to fame and acceptance amongst my peers. ANGEL DUSTER must have been eighteen-nineteen years old at the time and he was in his prime, besides being up everywhere in the neighborhood and our #7 train line, he’d gone on to bomb subway lines from other boroughs and been recruited by renowned graffiti crews, giving him the coveted All City status. I distinctly remember seeing one of his newly minted pieces around the corner from my house. Aside from showcasing his inimitable style, he’d written this phrase: “Alone and Confused.” I thought to myself that’s a different & mysterious thing to write next to your art, a short while later; I’d heard he’d passed away.
Through the years, as I reminisced about the incredible graffiti I’d been lucky enough to catch as a kid, AD always stood out and I wasn’t the only one: family and fellow writers kept his memory alive, performers took his name as a tribute and year after year, in memory of pieces came one after the other. This year, being the 34th anniversary of his passing; I decided to get recollections from his sister Rebecca and people that knew him back in those halcyon days of writing culture as well as younger writers who were forever influenced by his legendary output.
Corona City Boy
Abel Duarte was born in Lincoln Hospital and grew up in Corona, Queens. His parents were from the Dominican Republic, and as his sister Rebecca recalls:
Rebecca: Our parents were religious and very strict. We were working class but my brother and I were the ones that liked mischief. He started writing when he was about 14-15 years old and I saw his tag everywhere. He actually got more artistic as he got older and started to go to the Center for Media Arts in Chelsea. My brother always had my back. One time I had entered a skating race and one of the girls that was in it; her brother came to mess with me. My brother and like ten of his boys skated up and the dude and his sister step off, they knew they were better off leaving!
BRAN: Abel was a leader, way before his time. You felt it the minute you met him; he was different, you wanted to be like him right away. There were some really legendary fights in Corona, I heard about many but can’t recall in detail. Summer of 1981, Queens Day Flushing Meadow Corona Park, all aspects, all crews bum-rushed the stage while Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force played Planet Rock. What people did not realize was that Corona was in a brawl with a rival Brooklyn Crew and some of the members ran for their lives and jumped on the stage and Corona followed. It was mayhem, but returned to normal after about 30 minutes. Corona was no joke back then!
NOTCH 56: The vibe in 1980, in Corona, was for me the last years of the true hardcore b-boys: no laces, custom painted Pumas, painted denim jackets and Kangol hats. Writers would bring their black books to DJ Omar’s jams at PS 16 park on 103rd St. Dynamic Rockers and Chill Town Rockers did their thing as I look over to my left and see BAN 2 OTB copping tags on the school door. Me and ELF 007 in our b-boy stance and of course: AD chilling with the ladies. We’d be jumping the turn style, motion bombing, drinking forties and looking fresh, hip-hop culture at it’s rawest form.
SLOAN TPA: I met Kool AD at the St. Bartholomew recreational center that was open every Thursday. All the neighborhood kids used to go. But, then as it grew in popularity, there were dudes from other neighborhoods coming to. This was at the time there were a lot of gangs in Elmhurst & Corona. The Savage Skulls came to the hood; there were the 7 Stars, the Latin Boppers, the Floor Masters (which were a breaking crew) and the CC (Cocaine City) Boys were also in attendance as well as 102 Boys out of Corona. The Baby Boppers and Cobras were there as well. TCA and FOC crews were also there. I don’t know if AD was in a gang but there was this crew that we used to call The Renegades, that used to hang out in PS 19 with CAINE 1. I met him at one event and he found out I was a graffiti writer and he didn’t push me aside. He was very humble, a far cry from the way the Renegades used to dress in MC boots, leather vests… very, very scary! But we got to talking and I remember I had an El Marko magic marker and I asked him to tag my football. He laughed and said; ‘Kid you need a real marker! Go get yourself a pilot!’ By then all his boys were coming to greet him and pushed me out of the way.
JERE DMS: Corona and North Queens was kinda’ nuts in a special way back then. The 70’s gang thing kind of lingered while the coke and base thing sort of exploded. But unlike the rest of NYC, Roosevelt was locked down by the Colombian Mafia. There weren’t the crazy shootouts over corners the rest of NYC was going through. But it did seem like everyone was getting jumped and stabbed and shot over nothing at all. Or folks were straight up stick up kids, car thieves, or base heads. Or all three! A lot of violence. Same with the graffiti world. I don’t remember any specific wild stories about AD. Everyone was crazy back then!