In the ‘90s, Rast RFC was just a little kid writing on things by the time my generation of writers had moved on to life’s responsibilities. And when it was time to knock a few back or holler at some PYTs, Rast was the little kid in the club popping bottles with models. As an older gentleman at the time, Rast’s graffiti crew RFC (or Running From Cops) were in the periphery; a gaggle of young goons in Polo who got high with rich white girls all up in daddy’s Tribeca loft. I would later learn that there was way more to it.
The writer Timm Hotep arranged for a meeting with myself and Rast late last year. He was interested in writing something on the autobiographical tip and I was told Rast had some talent as a writer. We met and he kicked what he wanted to write, which is what is attached below. He had a really interesting perspective, and while his tales of thuggery can prove to be both entertaining and sad, there were huge sparkly jewels to be mined from his output.
Rast then proceeded to say that he was a rapper— one of the best in the world.
This scribe laughed to himself. Yeah, i-ight son. I done heard that one before. Told the cat, “Look, I don’t really fuck with too much rap these days. I can’t really relate to what’s being talked about.” Plus I can’t do the obligatory-head-nod-while-
Later that evening, something told me to go listen to Rast’s music.
FUCK! I’d heard MDC— “Mark David Chapman.” Chapman is the douchehole who murdered John Lennon (turns out Rast is deeply inspired by Lennon).”Forgive Me” also became a fast favorite. Eerie, haunting, reflective.
Raw. Creative. Sad. Aspirational. Ignorant. Literate. Unnecessary. Necessary. It just felt like punk rock to me. Felt like the blues to me. It felt like the Life’s Blood seven-inch all over again. You can hear bacon sizzling in the background as he spits his rhymes. It feels real. The production— which he handles himself— feels like vintage Wu-Tang. A famous rapper I played if for said he sounded like Jay Electronica meets EPMD, recorded in Astoria projects.
This scribe has spent time with some of the greatest rappers in the history of the culture. Rast— who is still developing and growing— he has a shot.
Sacha Jenkins SHR
Words by Rast RFC Illustrations by Adnauseum
New York City, 1992
It was a smoldering hot summer night; I was 12 at the time and after a long night of tagging our names all over the city, me and my partner in crime CA decided to break into Bellevue Hospital’s city morgue to view some dead bodies. If you asked me why, I couldn’t tell you. Perhaps it was to feed our mischievous, adolescent curiosity of the macabre, or maybe we were simply looking to kill time after consuming copious amounts of Colt 45 malt liquor and smoking blunts.
We often gravitated to Bellevue’s morgue when we felt the urge to mingle with the ghosts of New York’s past, or to steal some “embalming fluid,” because we took the slang term for PCP literally and thought we could make our own angel dust supply. I can recall one of our last trips to the morgue when we somehow conjured up the sinister idea to kidnap a baby’s corpse, carve our gang’s initials into the body and strategically place it in the middle of the housing project of a rival gang’s territory. We attempted this, but looking back I’m thankful we couldn’t find the babies’ corpses.
On this particular summer night, the police chased us out. And as we ran away in our scuffed up, spray-paint covered Nikes, laughing, CA said to me, “Man we’re always Runnin’ From Cops.” And almost simultaneously, we were like, “That’s it! RFC!” And in that moment the RFC crew was born.
We Were The Forgotten Children Of The City
RFC is a family — a family that was created by necessity —due to the fact that most of us came from broken homes, drug addicted parents, group homes and homelessness.
My mother and father were involved with the Black Panther movement in the ‘60s. Moms once told me a story about my mean old Irish great-grandmother who hated her because she was black. These life experiences led Moms to continue her social activism well into the ‘90s. During this time she exposed my brother Aquarius and me to rallies, marches and protests with the likes of Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson. Nonetheless, with all of this knowledge of self, we eventually broke loose and started running wild in the streets. Early on, Aquarius recognized the inevitable consequences of our criminal lifestyle and withdrew from street life. He attained his GED, attended college and delved into acting. I was always proud of him for that. My pops was AWOL, due to mental health issues and drug addiction — a bi-product of Vietnam — so we were dirt poor.
One of my earliest memories as a child is of my mother, brother and me living in what people would then refer to as a “welfare hotel.” Two infamous welfare hotels were The Prince George and the Latham which were right next to each other. We lived in the Latham on 28th Street. The funny thing is, we were never actually on welfare. My mother was too proud, and at times this caused us to go hungry or live without electricity.
In 1985, I remember the crack epidemic unfolding before my eyes. I remember having a crush on this girl Kay Kay. She was so beautiful, I mean gorgeous, but after that crack hit she completely changed. There were subtle signs at first: like how she walked and talked, and before you knew it she was a full-blown crack addict. It was a sad sight to witness.
In 1988 we moved to the Bronx and that’s when I was introduced to graffiti. I lived at 38 West 182nd Street in the Bronx. I loved that neighborhood. The drug dealers, the chicken spot, the smell, all bring back some of my fondest memories of my childhood.
My brother and I started writing and that was it; I took the tag RAST(A) because of my dreadlocks and my brother wrote AOS, which was short for Aerosmith. The funny thing is, we unknowingly went to school with the lead singer’s daughter a few years earlier.
The 183rd St station on the 4 line was our new jump off point. We rode that train hard and would scope out the bombed rooftops. COPE 2, PJAY and MED were all putting in work at the time. NEAR and the KGB crew were doing it big as well and I eventually became cool with all of them.
Guru of Gangstarr and I also became close when I was very young. He used to hang with the drug dealers in the neighborhood (Corky RIP) and he actually knew my mother too. Since I had these long dreads, he would always say, “What up lil’ dread.” And before I knew it, we were cool. Years later when I first started rapping, I ran into him at The Cheetah Club and he showed me crazy love and invited me to the studio with him to be featured on the Baldhead Slick album. We actually recorded a song and everything, but I was horrible back then so of course it didn’t make the cut. But the experience was priceless.
For me, graffiti and NYC nightlife culture were passed down through my bloodline from my much older, now deceased brother, BEAS-79. He was the first in the family to tag his moniker across the city. He was also instrumental in spearheading the “club kid” movement in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, throwing parties at such monumental clubs as Mars and The Sound Factory as well as others that I am too young to remember.
Now my mother (RIP), was a great singer and she basically supported us by “street performing” in front of Bloomingdale’s on 59th and Lexington Ave for money. We would go on adventures around the neighborhood causing mischief, coming back hungry and she would give us change out of her cup to buy donuts and candy.
During our neighborhood adventures we befriended many of the more well-off and middle class kids that lived in the area; they often made fun of us because of my mother’s “street performing.” It was easy for them to judge. We also became close with some of the tougher kids from that ‘hood — cats like RD, DE3, LACE, CHAX, and CIDE — the 357 crew. 357 was the first real gang we were down with; they took us in and embraced us. We were the only black kids that I can remember being active members, at the tender ages of 9 and 12 no less.
CA lived on East 50th in between 3rd and 2nd Ave, nine blocks from Bloomingdales. We actually had beef at first. We would cross out each other’s tags and look for one another with the intentions of inflicting damage. Finally, we crossed paths. Terrified, I said, “Lets just be friends man,” and since that day we were inseparable.
CA was born to a loving, tough-as-nails Polish and Italian mother and a Haitian father — but he was essentially raised by his mother. The kid had a genius level IQ and went to quite a few choice schools that were almost impossible to get into, one of which being York Prep. He was a really good-looking kid and always got the girl. Back then I wanted to be like him in every way.
CA wanted more though. He wanted to be a part of the subcultures that he was exposed to by watching movies like The Warriors, Wild Style and Colors, so eventually he became entranced by hip hop and obsessed with writing graffiti. His mother Kathy did her best to keep him out of trouble, but CA was a “natural born killer.” He was the first kid in the crew with a gun, the first to set it and he never ran. CA was the kid that would walk by you in the street on some, “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” And if you replied with aggression, you would end up leaving in an ambulance with a gunshot wound or a razor slash. He gave me my heart and the courage to be a fearless soldier. I love him and his mother with all my heart.
Anyway, me and CA eventually started writing graffiti every day all over NYC. We hit subway tunnels, abandoned train stations, train yards and of course the streets. Graffiti and hip hop were my escape from a life of poverty. I would go bombing with Nas’s Illmatic playing in my Walkman and visualize and identify with his street tales as if they were my own.
I began robbing public and private school kids for their Starter jackets, hats and lunch money just so I could eat. If we weren’t robbing to survive we would go crew deep to supermarkets and steal food to make meals. This was the RFC way of life in the early ‘90s. Crime, violence and graffiti was the way of life we chose. The city was ours.
During our early stages of becoming full fledge hooligans, CA and I met Busta: a 6-foot 5, extremely volatile, violent individual with a heart of gold. Busta became the unofficial leader of the pack due to his size and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty to cause damage. He also had a sharp, organized and business—oriented mind that eventually enabled most of the crew to benefit in many ways, financially and otherwise. When no one else was there for me, he was. Every time.
Our home base was the corner of West 3rd Street and 6th Avenue in The West Village, in front of McDonald’s. That’s where we would meet, drink, smoke, fight and rob kids for their Polo, North Faces, wallets and jewelry. We would call the pay phone that still stands on that corner to this day, to see who’s out and what club was popping for the night. I still remember the number: 212-674-9444.
My crew and I set fashion trends; North Face, Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, that all became popular in NYC in the ‘90s because we were rockin’ it. Even Polo gear; we all know that the Lo-Lifes started it and made it popular in the ‘80s, but in the ‘90s that was mostly RFC in them Indian-Head knits, Suicide Gooses and Teddy Bear pieces. I was a star in all the local nightclubs: Palladium, Arena, Fever, Velvet, Vertigo, House Nation and Melting Pot, just to name a few.
The main RFC crew members in order of hierarchy are as follows —
Founders: Rast and CA.
Presidents/Leaders: AOS, BUSTA, MISTRO, RISK and ARK (RIP).
First Lady: Jocelyn (only female member).
Generals/Soldiers: FA (RIP), CASH, DEAL, SABE, SESA, RAY 1, DOUG, ARES, PRT, ASH, PRESS, FOES, BUDA, SEDI (RIP), FED-5, GUESS, ARGUE (RIP), ESO, KEM, DOMS, BETO, EJ, DOA, VAST, KEL and all of 5MH, ESKAY 5×7, REST and SHAZ.
We had numbers and notoriety. We had major press coverage in prominent, national magazines. There was the “Teenage Gangland” piece by Nancy-Joe Sales in New York Magazine and a photo-spread on boosting in Stress Magazine. We also got burn in a number of graf magazines.
But what did this fame do to us as individuals? If you ask me, I think it made us worse because we were being celebrated for doing wrong. We were selling drugs and hanging out with models. It was fun at the time, but at the end of the day, where did it get any of us? Those models ended up in rehab and most of us ended up in jail.
It was fun though.