Above the LAW… (Philly Street Tales)

Early to mid 90’s I was spending every second I could in the city, taking the train through west Philly from 69th street or driving on 95 with a car full of friends to see what trouble we could trouble. If the destination wasn’t at love park, some other little skate spot, or at a night club, we were writing on walls, and taking pictures of the walls. The name that stood out to me right from the giddy up was RAZZ….It just looked and sounded cool, and his name was readable with just enough funk to let you know it was written by a tried an true king. I paid attention to his fitti’ Early on I remember being down 30th street waterfront one night, a bunch of us young kids all from outer city suburbs 15-16 years old climbing on freight trains, writing on everything, sneaking into abandon buildings etc… (This is a time long before 30th street waterfront was a Yuppy playground it was bombed out and sketchy down there.) Of all the tags down there I vividly remember seeing this big RAZZMATAZZ-> tag that said…Lunatic at war next to it. It just blew me away it was a moment of clarity that made us all stop and say “DAMN…..RAZZMATAZZ thats awesome!” We were just used to seeing RAZZ and when he put the MATAZZ suffix on, it jazzed up his word that much more, and made you stop and think about it for a second. That play on his name and stylistic performance of applying spray paint on walls became part of my life in a serious way from that point on. There were these huge Razz pieces down there, and we had heard through the grapevine that he was an old king that was back at it again, and we were witnessing it first hand, being taught by example of how it is supposed to be done. Well, I was only 16 at the time so I missed his first go round in the late 70’s early 80’s but I did not miss what he did on the comeback campaign in the mid 90’s it was serious business, If you drove through Philly or spent any time at all in Philly during that time it would be impossible not to see the word RAZZ. Razz was like a urban superhero at the time his name would pop up over night on hiways, rooftops and walls. I never thought I would have a chance to meet RAZZ, but there started to be rumors around that time that RAZZ owned a store on South street, but we didn’t know which one. I received a phone call one afternoon from ZEM and he told me he just met RAZZ at his reggae shop on south street and that he was a rasta, and was really cool. ZEM got to be pretty friendly with RAZZ and even put him in LAW1(LUNATICS AT WRITING or WAR) early on, but due to a conflict of interest or what we called “BEEF” at the time with other newer members of LAW 1 he was kind of odd man out and decided it wouldn’t be cool to run with that club. Well, I finally mustered up the courage to go in and meet RAZZ myself on the merit of ZEM’s word that he was cool. Cool wasn’t the word he was like an old wise man and signed my blackbook, he wrote all types of funny punchlines with 60’s gang era slick poetry. He told us stories for a long while all about the old days, he didn’t judge us on our graffiti skills or where we grew up, he just saw us as new jacks like he once was and he played the role of teacher and tried to school us on what was what. Shortly after that we became friends, not on a writing level of catching tags, but friends of reggae music, My friends and I hung at every reggae club and went to every reggae show that came to town, no matter what hood we were there, and so was RAZZ. We became pretty good friends around the time, Lil’ Hatchet and I went to his store on south street everyday so Den could buy BIDI’s remember them..LOL Razz even asked ZEM to DJ his first dance mixer that was thrown at a community center on 11th and south. There was a really awesome reggae scene at that time with awesome weekly parties and weekend bashes from Brooklyn to Wilmington. I became friends with another teen idol of mine (MEEZ) through this tight knit small reggae crowd in Philly. MEEZ was another larger than life person to me coming up, he was always dj’ing parties and rocking the hardest POLO, all the while spraying a lot of fitti. It was the coolest thing to be in the same place on a friday night with people who i looked up to a few years prior now partying with them and their friends on a weekly basis. The main reggae club Wilaminas closed and slowly the parties moved around from spot all the while losing the pizazz that Wilaminas had, the party scene was shifting for me and I sort of drifted into new avenues of life, new places to hang out. I would stop in his store from time to time and bust it up about this guy and that guy, talk to him about what new roots reggae mixes he had, and life in general. My favorite thing about RAZZ was he never forgot anyone he would always ask hows so and so or whats so and so been up to? He genuinely cared. I feel lucky to have been friends with RAZZ for that little period in my life, but in just that little window of time a lot of light was let through. He was just the epitome of cool,calm and collect, but don’t let that fool you he earned his stripes in the street and I wouldn’t want to test his gangster. After all he is the GATMASTER RAZZMATAZZ LUNATIC AT WAR! REST IN PEACE RAZZ your jersey will be retired as a king!


be retired as a king!


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