I was tasked with creating a large array of realistic graffiti for a video game that takes place in a broken & conquered America of the near future. We needed every type of graffiti, hundreds of tags, pieces, throwies, stencils & stickers, each object had to be isolated with no background so they could be combined into endless combinations. Resolution was very limited & we needed to display all of this artwork with very little memory. Oh yeah & we needed to have it all done, photographed, scanned & processed in 28 days.
The designers at Kaos studios were particularly concerned with quick scrawls & tags. They wanted to have a lot of graffiti that looked like it were done by regular people as opposed to graffiti artists. At the same time they wanted a generous helping of the graffiti & street art art that we all know & love, tons of gang related graffiti & some anti-occupation propaganda to top it off. We needed to created the appearance that this graffiti had been building up for years if not decades. We needed to create this array of tags, pieces, throwies etc. & compile them in a manner that could be used throughout the game without becoming repetitive.
With a short timeline & large quantity I enlisted some help from other FTA writers to contribute tags & help ensure that we would have lots & lots of different styles. I also brought in my cousin, a street artist who goes by the name “Elle” to contribute to the stencils & street art / propaganda.
The graffiti had to fit the game fiction which was very involved & very interesting to read. The world that this graffiti would inhabit was one where America had been conquered by a communist Asian power. After world conflict over the last drops of oil America was left weak & vulnerable. The communists attack with an emp & invade. Americans are destitute & oppressed. There is little remaining infrastructure, most have no power, water & other simple services. With the worlds oil supply used up this future world of 2036 is like the 1800s for a lot of people. Our society is living off the remaining technology & resources of better days. Under this long emergency a resistance forms. The graffiti art that we provided was meant to reflect not only mayhem, depression and the decay of society but also resistance and patriotism.
One of the reasons for all the graffiti art & street art in this game was to help convey the feeling that this was happening in America. Modern graffiti is an American invention & present everywhere in America. I figured that the best way to conceptualize the various, names, phrases, protests, gang names, crew names etc. that would exist in this environment would be to create our own fictional graffiti writers, street gangs, crews & movements & to write what they would write. We gave our writers names that we thought were appropriate like “Revolt” & “Futile”. To be as realistic as possible I decided that our street gangs would be dominated by the larger gangs of today having combined & called truces amongst themselves. Bloods & Crips are allies, the Chicano factions have united etc.. The graffiti attributed to our gangs is a lot like what we see today & its there for the same reasons, to proclaim their presence and to claim territory.
I could have worked on this job forever. It was a lot of fun. In the end we created & delivered about 220 tags & written phrases, 50+ stencils, a couple dozen throw-ups & stamps, 8 simple pieces & characters. about 10 stickers & other pieces of street art. We did everything for real. We cut & painted the stencils, painted the pieces at full size, did all the tags on walls with spray paint and markers. We photographed & scanned everything & extracted every item. When the game was finally released we were even able to see a little bit of our work in the TV commercial.
The pics show over 100 rare underground tapes that I collected over about 10 years. There are actually a lot more but these are the ones I have found so far that have covers & cases. About 5 of these are actually still shrink wrapped. Most of them were purchased or traded directly from the artist when they were new. None of these have been collected after the fact, none are re-prints. I could bust out the records & CDs to but tapes are special. If you see something missing that you think I should add to my collection or this gallery please feel free to let me know.
We have some very limited edition shirts featuring the the Four Track Anthems tape cover. If you want one hit me up. We have medium, large & XL.
Twista & Raekwon The Chef
“The Heat” music video
This video prominently features the “RapScript” font & the “Pilot Rase” font in the graphics shown throughout the verses. Its a dope song & I’m proud to have a small part in the video.
Ludacris, Rick Ross & Bun B
“Down in the Dirty” music video. This video also features our “RapScript & “PilotRase” fonts as well as “Scrawler”
“Maleko – Productive” Music Video
This video features a bunch of graff from RaseOne and the FTA crew as well as JKC & others.
Thanks for checking out the all new “Full Time Artists” blog system! A lot of new content & features are being added to fulltimeartists.com including a new portfolio section that boasts several hundred works of hand-made, digital & multimedia design from FTA artists between 1991 & 2010. This bigger, better portfolio will be a lot easier for us to keep up to date & we will be posting previews here in the blog as we add new content over time.
Triangulum Productions was started in the year 2000 by Dim One of the FTA crew also known as the emcee “Triangulum”.
Highground was the brainchild of Pilot Rase A.K.A. RaseOne, Pro A.K.A. Megabusive & Joe Dub A.K.A. “the hardest working man in show business”. In 1996 Highground was formed by these 3 emcees as an umbrella under which to “publish” the music being created by FTA and affiliates.
From the first days of the crew various artists from FTA were also heavy into music. A bunch of us had been rhyming since childhood. In 1993-94 most of us were still in Highschool or had just graduated. We had a rap crew with almost a dozen emcees from 4 cities. Durring that 94-95 period we would go down to KSCU & bust rhymes live on the air. The original crew split up after a while. We never recorded anything as a group. UBC (rhyming under the name “sequel”” at the time) Triangulum & Liquid Gold formed “Verbacydols” & started doing some recording with Sacred hoop in late 94. Rase & Mega (called “Pro” at the time) had started recording in early 1995 with a little help from some of our early music mentors like “O” & “Luke Sick”. Most people think that Highground started with the FTA tapes (Four Track Anthems etc.) but actually the first official highground release was Young Joseph’s (Joe Dub) Noise Pollution cassette circa 1998. Our best known underground tape “Four Track Anthems” actually pre-dates Highground by 1-3 years depending on the song. Once we formed Highground Four Track Anthems was then re-released under the Highground label & we published almost everything under that banner from 1997 – 2003 including several projects of our own & dozens from other artists. By then (2003ish) the 3 main founders had temporarily fallen out due to everyone being a savage & doing too much. Numerous personal issues broke up the original collective for a while. By 2004 we had phased out most of the old catalog & we were letting all of the old stock sell out & disappear from the internet & store shelves. Highground had become a small business by then providing various media services so it did not dissolve however we only released 1 FTA group album from 2002 – 2007 & focused on helping other artists & building the other aspects of the business. By 2007 All the old homies were friends again. Everyone was a lot doper & more together then we were back in the day. A whole new era for Highground, FTA etc. started around then. We are still in business & we are still making & releasing music today (2010) and we are still doing quite a bit of the undergrounds dirty work… but the more recent dealings of Highground & the other ventures of Highgrounds founders & the FTA crew are a topics for other articles. This one is more about our origins & history.
With many FTA members also being musicians, emcess, deejayz, producers etc. Highground was a natural development. It is now & always was more of an artistic necessity than a real business venture. We really only started it to serve our own needs. Our early tapes are not demos & the artists we helped out were not generally looking for deals. Real FTA songs were more like open mic sessions even less organized & poorly recorded than most other underground Hip-Hop but people always seemed to love it or at least be amused by it. Highground helped to organize, enhance & preserve this type of material for dozens of local artists in the early years. Before long we were all making cleaner, more deliberate tracks & albums with tools like four tracks, ASR10 sampler/sequencers, MPCs, live instruments & literally things like buckets & pots once in a while. With expert self producers like Joe Dub, AC75, Vrse Murphy & others to help guide us the Highground collective produced several talented emcees, producers & engineers over the years. With all doors open & nothing off limits we thought of our recordings as a side effect of the day to day life we were living. Our early recordings are just a tiny fragment of what was actually going on all those years, just a whole bunch of short moments captured. Highground was not created to help us make music. We made music while we were chillin, it was very non-technical & almost sarcastic. Highground was built to do the dirty work. Funding, manufacturing, graphics, internet, equipment, even transportation, roadtrips etc. were basically Highgrounds problem. The idea was that with some of us being very serious about a career in music Highground would allow us all to self publish any project we wanted without censorship or financial issues or arguing over the details of our “band” getting in the way. When it came to our own music we were just expressing ourselves & having fun. We took the artform very seriously but didn’t really care what anyone thought about our crazy songs. We knew certain folks would appreciate it & we left everything in the condition it was in at the end of the session. We made our music in a party atmosphere with tons of people around. All lyrics were written on the spot or freestyled. About half of the beats were made on the spot.
Considering that we were 16 – 23 years old, drunk with very primitive equipment (porta 03 4 track & ds8 sampler) we thought this was pretty good so we never tried to remix or re-record anything. Our tapes had more hiss & wilder levels than anyone’s. Even though we had been rapping for years by then we just did not have the patience. Sometimes we would start with a crystal clear beat but one way or another it all wound up super lo-fi in the end. We liked it that way. We released like 120 tracks like this before finally getting frustrated & starting to clean up our act a little with albums like “Threatening Myself” & “Farewell To Analog” which came out in 1999.
After a while we started to hate the word “underground”. It’s not just independent Hip-Hop music. It’s a genre of its own & underground is a perfectly good term for it but after a while it got too big and that word just sounded like trendy nonsense. Highground was doing cold, hard business. Breaking bread, breaking our backs. Most musicians are of course unsigned so there is always an underground scene in any genre by default. The“underground” or independent scene the Highground operates in has been around in some form since the beginning of Hip-Hop on the west coast & is still around today but the real peak so far was from about 1996 – 2001. That’s when there was the most activity, the most fans & the largest events. The scene did not die though. The hardcore devotees & the original community of artists have kept things going all around the bay area (and the globe) until today. With technology changing so fast a lot of people these days are looking back to things created before computers ran every home studio. Truthfully there can never really be an “underground” now that the internet is omnipresent in our lives. We had to actually travel & mail things back and forth. We had to make long distance phone calls & promote events on foot with paper fliers. The internet was around obviously & the underground had a strong presence there but things are much different now in 2010. The fact that this type of life was rare & yet shared by isolated groups of people all over the world lead to a specialized art form that was almost like rap for rappers or art for artists. 90% of the people at shows back then were artists themselves. These days the public is much more accessible to the musician or artist & most of what young artists make goes directly onto the internet. There is so much out there that no one could experience it all in one life time. The strange forces that brought us all together back then were much more mysterious than a facebook wall or myspace band page. Those words would have all been complete gibberish in the nineties. Hip-Hop had basically saved all of our lives so we evangelized our culture like a religion & that’s what it took to spread the music back then. The underground scene was an actual “social network”, an obscure street level movement spread directly through actual friends. It spread around the globe eventually causing the music industry (and the software industry for that matter) to adopt separate genre classifications for “Rap” & “Hip-Hop”… not quite right but a step in the right direction.
We adopted the internet along with everyone else. With this site (fulltimeartists.com) opening in 1998 we have basically always had a presence online. The net was really still finding its legs then. We were working a lot with DeeSkee from la2thebay.com & P-Minus of ATAK distribution (both still in business). It’s not that we are bitter about the internet or that it harmed our musical goals. The internet sold music for us exponentially more than the scattered brick & mortar distribution we scraped up. The issue is that things back then could be truly obscure, truly forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten anymore. Anything obscure can be immediately brought to light. The simple knowledge that you are playing to an eternal world audience changes the nature of music. We did not know that 15 years later those early projects would still have a cult following & people would pay $75 for original copies of the cassettes but here we are (wish I had one to sell). We thought that all of these recordings & drawings & shows & events & fliers… would disappear into yesterday. Over time it seems they remain online somewhere forever. resurfacing from the analog past on myspace or facebook, eternally jumping around the world. Rather than resent the fact that our material is loose on the internet & rather than be ashamed of our old, childish material we have come to just accept it & help keep it in context. Our biggest accomplishments in music, art, business etc. all happened in the later days from 2000 to 2010 but no matter if we like it or not we will always be known for what we did in the early years. We helped eachother & dozens & dozens of other people, produce, publish, manufacture, distribute & promote their music & labels before most of us turned 20. Highground is not our biggest or baddest creation but it was our first real business & it has been essential the local scene since day 1.
Thanks for reading.
Outline Clothing was officially established in 2000 by Shae One of Full Time Artists. The original website & the first lines of clothing were circulating by late 1998. Outline Clothing actually made it’s debut appearence here on fulltimeartists,com back in 2000.
Outlines well known Killafornia® line debuted in 2003.
Riot Gear™ was one of the FTA crews original dreams. Back in the day when we were in High school almost everyone in the crew contributed artwork to the Riot Gear concept. The name was originally passed down to Rase from a writer named Wim One back in 1994. The name speaks for itself in the context of radical 90′s youth. The concept was to be the antithesis of the exploitive, corporate graffiti shirts that were around at the time. We wanted to print not just dope artwork but the real ideals of the street & of the youth. Feeling like something was being taken from us, we wanted to take it back.
In its early days Riot Gear™ was the creation of broke teenagers but we did print shirts right from the beginning. We had business cards, fliers etc.. We did the whole thing as best we could at the time. Riot Gear™ was an official member business in an obscure but seminal organization called “the Good Life Conspiracy” or alternately “the Good Life Movement” created by the artists & fans centering around Project Blowed. Goodlife had started spreading roots to the bay & was attempting to create a network of businesses, crews & fans that would help to uplift the Hip-Hop community. We were just starting to really link up with all of the rest of the scene. This connection to the LA people would wind up being important in our musical efforts later but at the time it did not go anywhere. We continued to squeeze out a few shirts here & there & in 1997 Shae purchased a full screenprinting set-up. A 6 color press, drier, screens, everything you would need to start a shop. Over the next few years Shae printed a bunch of rare riot gear shirts & eventually the first “Outline” shirts.
Outline Clothing® best known for the iconic “Killafornia®” line is also a product of FTA & has it’s origins in the Riot Gear™ brand. In the year 2000 Shae of FTA launched Outline Clothing® & Riot Gear™ became a secondary concept. Although Outline quickly took over we have continued to print mens & womans garments, create graphics, do photoshoots, publish online & sell product under the Riot Gear name until today. From 2000 – 2007 as members of FTA specialized & developed individual careers & brands the originators of Riot Gear were still putting out just enough design & product to keep the line alive. Highround & various clients were the sole recipients of Riot Gears services until 2007 when the rare custom designed clothing line started to surface again. A small line is under development for 2011 release along with a re-release of a few old classics.
This is the basic story of how the FTA crew came to be. Its a sordid tale & not really G-rated. Please don’t complain if you voluntarily read this & get mad in the process.
FTA, “Full Time Artists”: that was the original name. I’ve always thought it was great name. Nearly 20 years after the name & the crew were first conceived we are still around. We get a ton of questions, interview requests & students looking for information for papers etc. By far the most popular questions center around how FTA got started & how we managed to build businesses around our art. This article will answer a lot of those questions.
FTA was of course the street name of our crew before it was the name of our business or our website. A trademark & service mark for “Full Time Artists” was finally registered in 2005 after having used the name commercially since around 1995 & on the street since 1991. I did not create FTA originally & I am not the only one left today. I am not the leader, there is no leader, no boss or CEO. FTA is a collective with a nearly 20 year history who’s members have created brands like Highground, Graffiti Fonts, Outline Clothing, Killafornia, Riot Gear, Cukui & more.
In the year 1991 most of the writers that would form FTA were in junior high. Some of us were already in other graffiti crews, dance crews, even silly little street-gangs by then. Our originator, a young writer who went by the name “Gas One” decided to form his own graff crew & with the help of his four cousins ranging in age from about 13 to about 18 he formed F.T.A. (Full Time Artists). The 5 of them were all writers as well as Hip-Hop music enthusiasts. They possessed skills as graffiti artists as well as skills on the turntables & on the dancefloor. Gas would even drop a rhyme now & then. The name itself is derived in a sort of abstract way from the Leaders of the New School track “PTA”. The original roll call went: Gas, Germ, Luky, Soul.
The first non-cousins to join the crew were Chan & Fierce. Jare (Jaer) came in next and helped bring the crew to a new level. He was a good painter & heavy on the scene even at a young age. He had a fast & simple style & good can-control. All of the FTA dudes had heavy styles but at the time Jare was our best painter. My own connection to FTA starts with the next member to join after Jare. His name was Jay. Jay was from my home town & went to my high school. Through him a southbay branch of the crew was started.
I encountered FTA in my freshman year of high school. A couple classmates (Gufe & Golf ) who I knew to be writers from our common junior high had joined the FTA crew sometime in 1992 through Jay. Those 2 along with Jay & Chan were representing FTA in San Jose & Milpitas. At first we did not really get along. They dissed me all the time. I didn’t really give a shit about them anyway, I had my own crew called C.E.S. … but… the way they hated on me made me try a lot harder & they were really the only other people I knew who did real pieces. I thought they had dope styles. Through randomness I joined a major, local DJ crew called “3-Style Attractions” as an artist & wannabe DJ. Chan of FTA was also an active member of 3 Style.
One day Gaze & Shae (they were writing Golf & Gufe at the time) invited me to paint with them at “the art gallery” in San Jose. I went, painted the terrible piece you see above. met the crew & joined that day. It was my 4th real piece on the street & I had done much better before so I really hated it. Chan & Jay quickly fell out of the crew for some reason & a few names changed leaving Gaze (Golf), Shae (Gufe) & myself (Rase) to hold it down for FTA in the south bay. I was just settling on the name Rase having used it amongst other names (Moves, Freak, Rak) for a while. Just after I joined the crew Jare’s partner Demo who was a dope character artist also joined. This is the point when the crew really started to function as we all fed off of each other & taught each other new styles & new techniques.
At the time (Circa 1994) the youth was awash in gangsterism & long & massive trend of tagging was still going strong. Taggers were basically writers who only did tags. Some did throw ups, some even did pieces but there were thousands of them & most only tagged. Some of these dudes had super ill styles that took years of practice & San Jose had a style all its own. All of the FTA dudes were practitioners of this south bay style but the taggers were a different breed. The media comically called them “tag-bangers”. Don’t get me wrong, fools were bangin’ for real. It’s not funny at all but ultimately however people should not be “bangin” in general so most writers didn’t really appreciate the bad press. It caused a huge crackdown & added to the older generations assumptions that we were all on drugs, in gangs & dangerous & out to destroy shit. Truthfully all to many of us were affiliated and/or stoned but it was just not as serious as it seemed. We lived mostly in the burbs & though gangs are ever present & sometimes dangerous they are just people like us, we interacted with them, sometimes badly but we were not in fear of or oppressed by them. The tagging crews and the gangs were sometimes one & the same & the crews certainly fought like gangs sometimes but the tagging crews had at least one non-violent option to resolve their conflicts on the street; a battle. In FTA’s early years we were in constant battles with small tagging crews & the strange “party crews” that existed then. (We called them discos). FTA was a small crew but we had a lot of friends. We were never really the toughest but we fought when we had to and never really lost any ground. I dropped out of school in 1994 & went off the radar for a while. Art was the only good thing in my life at that point. My mother who was also my main artistic mentor had almost lost a battle with brain cancer & my family life was full of other issues (a lot of which were my fault) that I wont mention here. It took a while for me to put myself back together but even in the darkest times art & music soothed my soul & kept me relatively sane.
The FTA roll Call started to expand. I ran with a crew of fellow deviants many of whom busted rhymes & did graffiti art, they were my close friends. We acted savage & anticipated the end of the world together. It was like the movie “Kids” but with no rape or aids & very few skateboard beatings. They showed me punk rock & grunge & I showed them underground Hip-Hop. It was a great time to be at the cutting edge of wasted youth. It was like the summer of love only years long & with no love.
During this hazy 1994-95 period we added Ash (Ashe) to the roster in the same day as Kare (better known to most as “Megabusive”) & Gyse (a.k.a. “Unbreakable Comb”) along with Dim (a.k.a. Triangulum) all in one meeting in a school yard.With all these new dudes we had to many emcees not to start a rap group. Tagging crews were largely gone by then leaving only the most hard core. Other writers and old enemies were now our friends rather than rivals & the era of underground Hip-Hop was in bloom. FTA was well connected to the underground Hip-Hop movement. We were part of a tiny second generation that was 10x the size of the first generation. Those who came after us would in kind be ten times our number.
in 1995 Germ passed away from leukemia after a short but fearless battle with the invincible disease. He came on his crutches to hang out with us until he couldn’t do it anymore and eventually we all visited him almost in denial or maybe ignorance as slowly left us. I was close to the original FTA cousins & Germ was my friend. I always thought he was going to get better. His passing bonded the crew even further.
by 1996 The full roster included (in order):
Gas, Luky, Fierce, Jare, Gaze, Shae, Rase, Demo, Ashe, Kare, Dim, Gyse, Bible
In some ways these were the golden years. In other ways we were just young, dumb & toy. Some of us were getting in lots of trouble. Having originated as a crew that took pride in old-school hip-hop we all ways felt like we represented the new school so we started writing “RNS” (representing new school). In common form for the day one name was never good enough & no meaning was ever too cryptic so we usually wrote “RKS” (Representing Knew School). It was like an alias for FTA but times changed & it did not stick.
We painted, wrote rhymes, worked in our sketchbooks & got in trouble. usually in a large rowdy group. We were civilized but angry, life had been a bit hard on most of us. We were different than most of our peers in that we were artists & musicians but in a genre that most people didn’t even know existed. Hip-Hop was huge at the time & we considered what we did to be “real Hip-Hop”. We may have even had somewhat of a superiority complex about it. It was hard not to hate on the masses of posers & fake gangsters that were running around at the time. For a while we became aggressive & a little dark. For me personally I was tired of being an easy target & was trying to learn how to stick up for myself. We picked fights & got loaded to much. We got in trouble with the law & people worse than the law. We partied too hard & took pride in every stupid thing we did. The t-shirt companies & record labels we dreamed up in the early days fell aside for women & drama, drugs & legal issues, money & mayhem of all sorts… shit that belongs on Maury or Cops. We inadvertently split into a few groups based on partially on geography & partially on drama.
My faction of the crew was heavy into music and eventually re-entered the now booming underground music scene under the FTA name forming the Highground label with help from SFSMs Joe Dub. This action helped solidify the fact that FTA was not just a graff crew but a genuine fixture in the local Hip-Hop culture. Other groups were much more famous than us but a lot of those more famous artists $ crews were FTA fans & to us that was dope. All of a sudden we got a little love instead of the standard haterism. The music world was less hostile than the graffiti world. FTA was painting constantly, taking risks, making a name in the world on two fronts & now a third. Highground blossomed into a legitimate small business & Outline Clothing at its side. We started to grow up a bit & behave ourselves sometimes. Paws one had entered the crew after being our homie forever. He would unfortunately also die of Leukemia at age 22. Strange and terrible coincidence for FTA. Like Germ, when Paws passed on he would be memorialized in murals, tattoos & blackbooks. Paws called me the day before he passed & told me that he loved me & Shae & Mega & all of us & that we should be good to each other, forget the bullshit & keep doing our thing. The culture & art of Hip-Hop was very important to him. My last conversation with him was long & it was a mix of his love & concerns for all of his friends as well as his faith in the overall culture & how important it is. Words & inspiration from Paws continue to help drive our pursuits today.
By 2000 two FTA members were fathers now & two others had passed away. Some were having problems with the law or their families. Each of the main FTA dudes had their own posse & we started coming together sometimes like some giant super crew. With people painting & getting up, doing art shows & canvases, recording, performing, dancing & battling & mixing & scratching & running small Hip-Hop based businesses FTA was becoming more than a crew. Unfortunately by this time we were also drifting apart as people grew up & had responsibilities, as drama between us made things more difficult. Some people moved, some stayed. By our 10 year, in 2003 FTA was almost gone. Highground & Outline Clothing were doing well & several people from the crew had migrated to New York. The remaining San Jose cats, Shae, Rase, Dim, Jaer, Mega, Demo, Fierce, UBC still represented & on an individual level most of us still saw FTA as being alive & well but truthfully we almost dissolved at this point. A lot has changed since then. FTA is stronger than ever in 2010 but that is another story.