The World Is Your Billboard
TWD members Sabio and Pixote get around like Tupac and the Beach Boys.
Photos by Alexander Richter
New York City has become a destination city for graffiti writers from all over the globe. The dude or gal who is catching wreck on the streets of the Apple is more than likely not from the Apple. But that’s OK because New York embraces those who want to come here to make a name and add on to the art movement we pioneered — especially when you are bringing culture of your own that can add on to the ever-unfolding saga of NYC. Sabio and Pixote have roots in Philadelphia and Brazil and, when it comes to writing, stylistically, both regions have a lot in common. Graffiti in Philadelphia and the cities of Brazil parade a menacing, aggressive face; their writing style is tall and long and skinny and squiggly and unapologetic. This dynamic duo, along with occasional collaborator Rambo and other members of TWD, have used paint to have conversations with people in public spaces. Can you read the writing on the wall?
Mass Appeal: Tell us about what TWD stands for and when and how and where and why the crew was created.
Pixote: “Til We Die, The Warrior’s Dream, Together We Destroy, Those Who Dare” and so on. Me and Sabio started the crew about two years ago. We were just kicking, all the time, that lifestyle — graff, music, skating, racking, doing what we can to survive and having fun at the same time. One day at an old spot in the Lower East Side, me and Saby were like, “Yooo, we should start our own shit, a crew about our movement.” We have a different style that stands out over here, coming from our Brazilian backgrounds … pixacao (the Brazilian writing form) is a big element in our style. We keep it raw, big and high up. We also like to blend different styles, cultures and old civilizations into our message.
Sabio: “TIL WE DIE. That’s what it means. It’s a mantra, like a daily meditation on how we live. We are passionate about painting and see the only thing that can stop us is death. You have a vision or a dream and it’s like you ask yourself, “What’s holding you back?” It’s about reaching … pushing for something you believe in no matter what people say or think. It was created here in NYC. We have been a tight group for years but just didn’t have a name. It came about through personal struggle and how life hits you sometimes, where you’re left at the bottom and wake up one day like, fuck this man, I gotta get myself up and go for mines. So for about four years we have been traveling the globe pushing our crew, connecting with those who know this language and what it means to be alive.
How would you describe the crew’s philosophy?
Pixote: We are showing to the world that we are here.
Sabio: Philosophy is in the mind. Our actions prove what we think and what it is we are doing. We believe in struggle and the right to express our culture, our symbols. Throughout history our human experience is built on meaning and the belief to share it.
Please describe your independent philosophy and mission.
Pixote: Oh man, for me, getting up is something really sacred, like a ritual. I have conversations with walls all over the city. It’s crazy. I can’t even explain the feeling of gripping a spot high up overseeing the city — it’s a crazy rush. We consider ourselves warriors. Because we are struggling to live under this society that[‘s] full of corruption and bullshit brainwashing. And we’re supposed to be the criminals? Fuck the system and every form of authority; fuck the politics. In the warrior spirit we trust.
Sabio: It’s bigger than me at this point.
Who or what are some of your influences, inside and outside of graf?
Pixote: Inside graffiti? Definitely pixacao — big and nasty style. I really like to explore different styles from around the world as well. I became friends with the legendary Stay high 149, who had a big impact on my graffiti and encouraged me to get my name up. He was always like, “bomb bomb bomb.” I was always into tagging since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I became PIXOTE. Sabio is definitely another influence on my graffiti. As a mentor, he helped me a lot. Because graffiti is about practice — he used to tell me practice over and over; practice your tags before you hit the streets. I also like a lot of the funky and ugly style — things that are outside of the box. Raw, simple colors and booom! I grew up skating and making music and was always around art because of my parents. My mom is an experimental filmmaker and my dad is a poet.
Sabio: My influences come in many ways …. Life itself and the constant search for something with meaning and how beautiful and sensitive our existence is. My family influences me … all of the people I fuck with are strong talented beings, so they give me insight and fuel to keep moving forward. Traveling is a huge part of my life, spending an average of 4-5 months outside of America per year has shaped my identity and the graffiti I aspire to create. From architecture to interior design, ancient history to this present moment, high fashion to the outfits of an old Chinese woman collecting bottles all day, from Led Zeppelin to Jay Electronica, Dondi/Blade/Futura2000, Horphe/Roids/Os Gemeos have all influenced me inside and out.
Be it hanging off of the side of a building or scaling a mammoth billboard off the side of a highway, there doesn’t seem to be anything that you are afraid of. What is running through your mind when you’re suspended in the air hundreds and hundreds of feet above the ground?
Pixote: You gotta believe in you!
Sabio: For the people.
Graffiti happened on subways in the ‘70s because the city was bankrupt and couldn’t really afford to clean the trains. Is there something similar happening with the billboards here in New York City?
Pixote: Costs a lot [of] money for billboards these days, so …
Sabio: I think it is similar to what happened in the ‘70s. Just harder to reach. Financial crisis works in our favor. I appreciate all of the white/black billboards that are left as a blank canvas.
What does the future behold for TWD and its members?
Pixote: We are all on the same frequency — bombing, music, making art. That’s what we breathe. We are working and collaborating on different projects within all media. So we’re an eclectic crew. Art shows, installations, ‘zines, designs are all things that are on merge for this year.
Sabio: We are growing, connecting and pushing for a contemporary position in this global movement. We do it all. Our crew is a talented mix of art direction, photography, graphic design, cinema, music production and fine art. If you look up high, expect to find us.
This story appears in Mass Appeal Issue 52. Read more stories from the issue here.