Showtime Documentary Films presents a Mass Appeal Production, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, the four-part limited docuseries from filmmaker Sacha Jenkins. The brilliant socio-cultural commentary on hip-hop's most influential group will debut on Showtime, on May 10 at 9pm ET.
Now to the Hidden Chambers… a series of bonus scenes from Of Mics and Men is finally here. Famed graffiti artist, Ces, transforms the Wu-Tang Clan logo into incredible "everyday life" art, and breaks down his wild world of Wu-Tang logos in the behind-the-scenes bonus material. Everyday life, because Wu Tang Forever.
Ces began writing graffiti in 1983 and has painted various countries and continents. Influenced by those before him, his signature work has been long inspired by large aerosol images on trains, subways and walls that he admired growing up. Also known as Wish, Ces is part of the second wave of writers who innovated spray lettering. The Bronx-native helped develop the writing commonly known as "wildstyle," marked by more jagged, aggressive, and hard-edge letters; as opposed to the rounded script of classic graffiti. His work is also available on canvas, found here.
What was your first graffiti experience?
I had really good childhood friends who wrote graffiti and actually took me out the first night, and gave me an overnight tutorial on what’s a tag, what’s a throw up, what’s a piece, who’s who. The following day we went and stole paint from the hardware store and went out that night. You have to steal your paint, that was part of it.
You tag CES but also Wish, where did these tag names come from?
I used to smoke a lot of weed during these days, I'm since off of that lifestyle. Plus I really wanted to emulate some of my favorite writers, like Steam, so I chose letters based on seeing their work growing up. As far as Wish, once the trains were cleaned in New York, you really wanted to pick an undercover name, so you didn’t catch the heat with your name.
Where is your favorite place to do your street art?
In the Bronx, there were so many great places to go and check out. Right now, it’s a little few and far between. We have a really cool backyard at Tuff City on Fordham road. We have a mock subway train that’s hanging on the side of the building that a lot of writers come and paint, and we consistently paint over it.
As far as the world, I've traveled all over. I've had great experiences in 99% of the places I've been, from Paris to Australia, to Italy and back. I mean I've been in so many great places with so many talented and great artists, I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.
What is your creative process, especially with the Wu-Tang logos?
Whenever I do one of these Wu-Tang drawings, it’s just life experiences, you know? I might see something, hear something, and be inspired in that moment. Sometimes I'll make a note to myself when I have the chance, and draw something using this reference. I just did one the other day with a man's collared shirt where he was fixing his tie, and the shirt and the tie were in the shape of the W.
It’s challenging. I’ve done my name and other things so much, and I enjoy it, but the Wu-Tang logo for me takes on different looks and meanings as a way for me to escape the "rules." Almost like I can do anything here. Where in graffiti, it’s more regulated. I have a way that I like to see it.
What was the first Wu Tang logo that you transformed?
I did a Chinese food carton, with a fortune cookie as the logo next to it. That was the actual first time I ever did it, and from there, I just kept going with it. Now I just do them whenever I feel like it.
If you come across a creative block, how do you break free of that?
It’s happened. Not every one has been a homerun. I have done a few where I’m like, 'I’m keeping this for myself, this was a disaster.' Because I'll have an idea, but the difficulty is not losing the integrity of the logo. So in doing that, sometimes I can go too far away, and now I’ve lost it. I draw literally every day of my life if not for work, for therapy. So the skill set is there, but it’s a matter of coming up with the idea. A matter of, 'Would this work?' and 'How can I make this work?'
I tried out a snowman right after Christmas, and the snowman was holding gifts in his hands, facing the moon with Santa’s silhouette and a reindeer. You couldn’t really see that the snowman and the gifts shaped the W, because I had went so far artistically.
Being a tattoo artist, do you prefer the body as a canvas or the street?
I like the street, I do. It’s almost like the caged animal in the zoo: you can still appreciate him, but it’s not where he’s supposed to be. That lion is supposed to be out doing lion things. When you’re out there in graffiti world, that’s when it’s raw. I’m not talking like a legal wall or an event with cameras and people selling shirts. I’m talking about going down in the tracks, going down in the tunnels. There’s a sense of adventure, and that’s what I grew up doing.
Where is the most dangerous place you’ve snuck into to graffiti?
Oh, I've had quite a few, I don’t know what kind of trouble I’ve added over 20 years. One time in Europe I met these writers and they were like, ‘Cool, we’re going to paint trains and we have everything, are you with us?’ We drove for an hour and a half and crossed the border into another country, and there were these mountains. I’m like, ‘Where are the trains?’ This dude opens this big door of a building, and I’m like, 'Oh wow, these guys keep their trains inside a nice place. I’m used to being in train yards and jumping fences.' We go inside and paint the trains, and it was so cool and quiet. We left, and I came back to show some people the trains we did, and they said, ‘Oh my god, dude. You broke into the museum.’
How did you get involved in Of Mics and Men?
I’ve been friends with Sacha Jenkins for a good number of years, we’ve worked on things in the past. I believe people that worked with him turned him onto the fact that I was doing these Wu-Tang drawings, so he reached out and I told him how I had met some of the guys from Wu-Tang,. I’m real cool with Raekwon. I’ve painted a jacket for him that he wore a few times. He grew up writing graffiti as well, a lot of guys in Wu-Tang did, so they appreciate it.
Have you and those Wu Tang taggers gone out together to graffiti?
We’ve spoke about it, and I almost was like, ‘I don’t know if you guys are really up for what could possibly transpire.’ You know, in today’s world, with cameras everywhere and the drama that could come with it. But it might happen, it was definitely discussed.
Do you have any tattoos for the love of graffiti?
I'm looking right now, it’s funny you don’t look at your tattoos so much anymore. This tattoo’s gotta be 25-years old. I have a big spray can drawing from my elbow to my wrist, with a baby fetus in the middle of the can and the paint exploding. It was done by a friend of mine, Adrian, out in San Jose.
People ask about the baby, and I’m like, 'Yeah that’s me. I was born to do this.'