Last year, I attended Estria’s Third Annual Graffiti Invitational Battle as an optimistic, doe-eyed, cutie pie from San Francisco State University. Just recently, I attended Estria’s Fourth Annual Graffiti Invitational Battle as an optimistic, doe-eyed, cutie pie, post-graduate, pilled butt-cheek, yes, butt-cheek high in debt. Thanks, SF State.
Today, I’m not going to ramble off the top of my noggin about the event. If you want to read about last year’s graffiti battle, read it here. Don’t you worry; the story rocks. Today, shit, I just wanted to find an excuse to show off photos of this year’s battle, along with a few interviews I had with some of the park’s guests.
People of all ages shared Oakland’s Defremery Park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Children roamed freely in the mini playground as their parents sat around, talking amongst one another. Teens and young adults walked around the spacious park, scoping out graffiti, listening to music, or making friends with the hundreds in attendance.
“This is who we are,” said Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the event curator, as Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” played under his energetic voice on a PA system. “No one has to tell us what environmental consciousness is. We manifest it. This is our life. We live it. We come together. This is life is living.”
I’ll admit, it was lovely seeing everyone come together once again, celebrating a misunderstood culture, music, and life. In the middle of my “Aww, get a room” moment, I noticed three gentlemen situated behind a table covered with an assortment of t-shirts.
One shirt read, “Keep it Lit,” another t-shirt, which happened to be my favorite, had an ape dressed in an aviator outfit. This was something I have never seen before; I was interested.
Others were interested too. People of all ages periodically made their way towards the table, inquiring about the products on display.
Before long, I introduced myself to the three entrepreneurs. I discovered that the three gentlemen were each a part of Planet of the Grapes, a Bay Area apparel company. Within minutes, I learned that Planet of the Grapes has been in business for five years, it has store locations throughout California, and it collaborated with several celebrities. Fortunately, I was able to get a few words with Corey Salter, one of the three individuals.Name: Corey Salter
How long has Planet of the Grapes been in business?
Why did you guys choose to create a clothing line?
Oakland is known for being diverse and unique, but you don’t hear about the fashion. We wanted to represent Oakland from a fashion point of view. There are a lot of people that do variations of the Bay Area, but they are not doing it correctly. You don’t want a cat from another area telling us what hyphy is.
What are a few areas that carry Planet of the Grapes clothing?
San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, San Jose, Richmond, Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, and Modesto.
In what ways do you guys work on expanding?
The ways in which we work on expanding are through networking, word of mouth, promotional materials, and making sure that we’re providing the fashion needs for our current demographic. We make sure to stay up to date on industry trends which allow us to continually provide stylish apparel.
I see that you’ve worked with artists from Paul Wall to the Ying Yang Twins. Are there any other particular artists you’d like to work with?
We want to work with anybody for all genres of music.
What makes Planet of the Grapes unique compared to other brands?
I believe there are many things that make our brand unique–one of the most important being our ability to accurately represent a diverse Bay Area culture. As you know, there are many different styles, interests, backgrounds, ethnicities, and so on in the Bay Area. We believe our clothing line has found a common ground on which all those people can stand. Because of that, the line is not only appealing to the Bay Area residents, but people outside of our area as well.
If there’s one thing you’d like for someone to know about your brand who knows nothing about it, what would that be?
If there is one thing I would want people to know about our brand it’s that we’re passionate about what we do, and that comes through in everything we present to people. Aside from that, just that we’ll continue to do our best to represent this culture the right way for many years to come.
Where do you see Planet of the Grapes in five years?
In five years I’m hoping we go international. We’re serious about staying around and repping the Bay in the right way.
Shortly after having a few words with Corey, I made my way toward some of the art scattered throughout the park. It felt great seeing some returning graffiti writers from last year working on pieces, including: Vogue, last year’s winner; Dime, one of two female graffiti writers in attendance; and Prime.
As I continued admiring graffiti art, I ran into a friend. My friend informed me of a t-shirt company he is affiliated with, Five Nine Four, which like Planet of the Grapes, is based in the Bay Area. He walked me over to the small canopy where three individuals manned the station. Though Five Nine Four sold t-shirts like Planet of the Grapes, their designs had a different feel. One of the founders, Kid 594, used to be heavy into the graffiti scene several years ago, but slowed down due to problems with the law enforcement. As a means to stay out of trouble, Kid 594 created the clothing line. In between watching over Five Nine Four’s table and enjoying the graffiti battle’s atmosphere, Kid 594 shared a few thoughts about the company with me.
How long has Five Nine Four been in business?
Who came up with the name 594 and why 594?
I did because the penal code for vandalism/graffiti is 594…. i got arrested twice
What inspires the art that comes out of 594?
I love street art…and all types of art. Our line focuses on artist who live, breathe and enjoy being around it on the daily.
Why did you create Five Nine Four clothing?
I wanted to make an avenue for artists to express themselves legally. Currently, we have artists throughout the nation including Brazil and the United Kingdom.
What makes Five Nine Four different from other brands?
We are a different from other clothing lines because we are edgier. Other companies on their logo and we concentrate more on art.
Who are some of the artists that Five Nine Four collaborates with?
Seamo, Josh, C. Gonzalez, Stove 1, Hyde, and Hayste.
Where do you see your clothing line five years from now?
In five years I see Five Nine Four clothing on a different level. I see it in skate and retail stores worldwide.
If there is one thing you’d like to tell someone about 594 clothing, what would that be?
There’s not another brand similar to us. Buy it!
The day was slowing winding down. I saw everything from talented children– or little people–dancing to music powered by a handful of stationary bicyclists; skaters, ripping it up in the mini skate park; and people from around the Bay Area enjoying the sights and sounds of graffiti and live music. I saw bright colors making out with naked canvases, forming awesome pieces of art, but I did not understand the inspiration behind these pieces.
I noticed one artist, Look, putting the finishing touches on his piece. Greens, yellows, purples and blues covered his mural, the word “Heal” placed in the center.
The tall, slender Look took a step back to admire his piece. The twenty five year old Hawaiian native was almost done with his work, but he wanted to fit a pair of hands he drew in his sketchbook somewhere on his mural.
Unfortunately, his canvas was already full. Before finalizing his piece, I was able to ask Look about his nearly finished mural.
How long have you been a graffiti writer?
Why did you choose those images to fit with the word of the day?
I put whatever I feel needs to be healed–unemployement…they are all the things that need healing.
Why did you choose the colors you did for this particular piece?
Purple and blue are gloomy colors. The greens and yellows are for life. And the colors go from dark to light to show a healing process.
What got you into graffiti?
The guy that got me started was Jordan Souza in 2000. I remember the first piece I fell in love with was the “Graffopoly” production in New York he showed me in a graff mag. There were others were in it for a minute but the one that came out with me was Ashen. We were in the same crew but we had a fall out like two years later as I progressed and got into one of Hawaii’s top crews.
What motivates you as an artist?
Meeting people [graffiti writers] keeps me going. There is always something to learn–style, techniques, crazy stories, and soaking it in from other artists– there’s no other feeling. The West Coast is our most immediate influence. Meeting the OG’s in the Bay is super cool because that’s part of where we (Hawaii) get our style from. And I want to be in the magazine or on that website. I want to be the one that the young kids look up to.
What was your highlight of the day?
My highlight of the day was being selected at the last minute to represent Hawaii in the battle. Hawaii is known for beaches, women, parties and vacations; not graffiti. To represent our subculture was an honor.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I want to do this battle every year. I want to be on the level of other artists that get paid to travel.
Well there ya have it, folks. I meet a few interesting people, listened to an awesome concert performed by The Coup, and had the luxury of being called Spike Lee’s evil twin (Yes. Really). Once again, Estria’s battle proved that a community can celebrate and appreciate a misunderstood, and oftentimes ignored, subculture and I will be back again next year to enjoy the festivities.
Footage of the Estria’s Fourth Annual Graffiti battle coming soon.