Monday, July 19, 2010

GET LIT: FUZZ-ONE, A Bronx Childhood

FUZZ-ONE, A Bronx Childhood
Vincent Fedorchack, 2005

Whether you praise or loath graffiti, this tale of youthful debauchery is an essential document of the city-wide aggression and style that sparked a revolution in visual arts. Forget that; this book is just plain ill.

Tons of books about graffiti are floating around, but I haven’t seen anything as raw as Fuzz One’s wild 1970s New York City memoir.

The book, filled with crumbling photos of graff’s early days, is the true story of Fuzz’s unsupervised and chaotic childhood spent wandering the subway lay-ups and city streets at all hours. His bombing mission memories are rife with violent intrigue and period details. Fuzz’s escapades through the city are unnerving when realizing he was doing this in his pre-teen years. Not only was he racking paint and getting up, but he was devising marijuana marketing schemes, dodging Satan worshipers, being shot and stabbed all in the quest for fame.

The book starts out safe, with Fuzz retracing his father’s influence and early departure. He relates his memories of hunting and exploring the woods in his rural home with his later desire to delve into the city’s underbelly. His mother soon moved him to the Bronx, where he wandered the streets as a 10-year-old tagger who wrote “Popeye.” He later changed how graffiti flowed through the city with his unabashed bombing etiquette and stoned style.

Throughout the book he pays homage to the originators and his contemporaries, while never sounding nostalgic. He rarely even speaks of himself as a great writer. But make no mistake; he did more for NYC street culture before he was a teenager than most old-schoolers can claim. The book’s nostalgia is one of its main draws. The pre-rap years are rarely told. His tales of inner-city circumnavigation include some amazing history. You will feel at home with his Bronx tales even if you have no idea of the names he cites. He tells of early street gangs with vicious remembrance and recalls fashions that the most ardent B-Boy would be hard pressed to speak of.

This book is not a trite artifact, though. It is a meaningful look into how young lives can spin out of control and how city life can devour a young soul. Many of Fuzz’s friends were killed during their early years due to unsupervised stupidity while cascading through a time bomb of urban decay that later screamed out as HIP-HOP!

-Bret Duchen

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