Read In Your Language

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Longest Active Graff Writer In The World: DISCO DUCK (RIP)

You'd be amazed at how many people are still in amazement when you tell them that the first element of hip hp, graffiti did not start in NY. (crazy bugged look):"Well, where did it start then?" And you say Philly and they be like. "Get the fuck outta here!!" I mean, unless you run into a real old school New Yorker who has no problem telling you the truth. Then you believe it. Its amazing that people, with over 40 years into the culture STILL don't know their hip hop history.

CORNBREAD, legend of legends started what we call graffiti in 1967 in North Philadelphia, a section called Brewerytown. In that first wave of writers before 1970, there were many innovations and firsts that transferred to our cousins in NY, that they took and made into the artistic part of the culture that decorates galleries and large scale murals the world over. But the tag??? It was and STILL is the Philadelphia legacy and no place on this small blue planet, no one writes graffiti like them boys from Philly. NOBODY.

In the years that marked the emergence of writers from across the city of Philadelphia, there was one who caught the bug in the year after CORNBREAD made his famous announcement in the Philadelphia Bulletin that he had quit writing on walls (CORNBREAD was such a big deal that this announcement made first page of a major daily newspaper). The year was 1971, ironically the same year that TAKI 183 was featured in the Village Voice as the 'originator' of the tag form. With CORNBREAD out of the way, many youngsters made the rush to claim the crown. One was a young Michael McCracken, who would later be known as the legendary DISCO DUCK.

Starting his writing adventure in 1972, there has not been a single year that DUCK has not wrote on walls, up until his sickness this past year. In fact, he recently made his run in the tunnels in 2013 at 57 years old, while walking with a cane. I don't mean a tag or two, this man ran the length of 10 subway stops, equaling hundreds of tags on a several mile stretch. This was who DISCO DUCK was. He was a REAL writer.

DUCK started his adventures on the walls in 1972 as a part of ICP, the Imperial Casanova Persuaders, a writing/social club that started in 1969. ICP is still a standard in the city and only the best make the ranks. ICP is without a doubt, the oldest active graffiti crew in the world. His signature hand style, helped to innovate the Philadelphia tradition of a "stamp", or a trademark, signature style. His nonstop way of writing his name later made was for the development of the script style, a favorite style used by writers the world over. The script is a style that is noted for being more horizontal, while DUCK's tag is more vertical in the true Philadelphia tradition. Tall prints developed as a way to gain more attention on the wall and to this day is still practiced and perfected in the city. There is not one writer in the city who will not, CAN NOT give credit to DISCO DUCK as an influence in this style. But there is another area he REALLY excelled. BOMBING.

 DUCK is without a doubt the ALL TIME KING OF WALLS in Philly graff history, hands down. His status is marked by his consistency over the 40+ years he has been writing, although there are many who commanded the periods in which they appeared. If any of you are familiar with the history of the NY bomber JA, a world renowned bombing specialist (who has come to Philly on many occasions to throw down since the 1990s), then I want you to imagine that type of writer consistently over a 40 year span. While his activity was not as always charged in a year round fashion, in every decade, he made significant runs that rivalled the all city kings of each era. In the 1990s, a period graff historians in Philadelphia call the Resurrection, a period that the old writers from the 70s and 80s came back in full force, DUCK was right along leading the charge along with RAZZ (rip) and BX, a NY transplant that has an impressive history in Philly graff extending from the late 1970s.

DUCK was also one part of one of the most prolific combo units with his partner BAK, also known as BOOGIE BAK and the two tore the city down! One of BAK's aliases, The Real King would be used by DUCK to create an actual graff club, composed of the most prolific bombers in the city, including JAPAN(Just A Pimping Ass Nigga) and KADISM, who will be one day considered the all time King of Walls now that DUCK has passed away. There is no other crew that has as an elite roster as TRK. The books for that club has not been opened for a new member in 20 years. DUCK's crew is the highest aspiration every bomber has in the city.

Although the writer OZ from Germany passed at 64 years old, DUCK is still the longest active graffiti writer by far, even passing at 59 years old, having passed only this past week, due to the year he started, not his physical age. The only graffiti writer who could lay a claim to such a title is the absolutely legendary New York writer, STAY HIGH 149, who unfortunately passed in 2012. He is the only one who could come close, starting writing at around the same time in 1972. And although i have personally seen marker tags of his in the 90s and 2000s in NY, i do not remember STAYHIGH making a full fledged bombing run with paint reminiscent of his younger years. (please correct me if I'm wrong). This is what DISCO DUCK has done, faithfully, every decade since he started writing graffiti.

For those that know him, know that he was the most likable person you would meet. But don't get it twisted, DUCK ain't take no shit from nobody. The funniest thing was this 'resentment' he had for CORNBREAD, who must have told him when he started writing that he never saw his name... lol. I'm sure that chance encounter is probably the spark that ignited the Legend of DISCO DUCK (and I'm sure a lot of us started with that same chip on our shoulder). Rest assured, there is NO ONE who could ever say that about him these days. I mean, the man has layers of dated tags that STILL exist in subway tunnels from his first run in subway tunnels in 1973! he has literally 4 generations of tags down there. If you think I'm stretching the truth, come to Philly and catch the Orange Line, The Broad Street Line  and see for yourself. This line is full of graff history.  For the tags before 1971, it is THE HISTORY OF GRAFFITI ITSELF..... and DUCK was a major contributor to that history. YOUR history. The history of Hip Hop culture.

Rest In Piece DISCO DUCK. We will NEVER forget you.


DISCO DUCK, stamping the subway tunnels once again, 40 years in, in 2013. he walked the subway tunnels on his last run with a cane. Do you love the game THAT much?

TAD (THEE AMAZING DUCK) waay uphigh, mid 1970s. Also in the picture, KADISM and subway tunnel bomber RAKA, mid 1980s. Along with old school PREACH, late 70s.


Here's a doozy for you... here are NY legends SMITH and SANE (RIP) in Philadelphia with a very rare DUCK block buster. He was bomber not a piecer, and he'd be the first to tell you. But his vintage approach, even in this mid 1990s picture, is still dope regardless. The DUCK was there first. I'm sure they knew who he was.

DUCK, mid 90s, TRK, in a pure writer's location.

DISCO DUCK, late 1980s. Also on the walls, piece king and style innovator CREDIT, XTC, his combo, the late great RAZZ, LAW1 and the infamous SO BAD, ICP. also pictured CEE, TET.

Here DUCK is flanked by RAKAN, KMD, a style master in the city and founder of KMD, a huge crew in the BadLands, North Philly (currently serving 25 years for gun and drug related charges). Above the DUCK is a CREEP tag, our recently departed comrade (RIP). and to his left, his protege, the next all time King Of Bombing, KAD, TRK.

Lets go waaaaay back... early 70s, maybe 1973, 74.... the DUCK stamp in its early stages, still innovative in its non stop action, the first tag ever of its kind. The WP stands for West Philly, a common thing for writers to announce what side of town their from. In neighborhoods where it is dangerous to be in, signing a side of town can be a badge of honor, stating that u had the heart to be there. It can also have severe consequences, from a good ol' fashioned ass whooping, to a shooting. Philadelphia has always been recognized as one of the nation's most violent cities.

DISCO DUCK, TRK, subway tunnel action, date unknown.

The man himself, DISCO DUCK, in the early 1990s. I believe this is the King Center, a meeting place for graff writers. You will in most cases always see a KADISM tag somewhere near a DUCK 'slam', as tags are called in Philly. He is DUCK's protege and heir apparent.

DUCK, chillin, probably wit a 40. I'm gonna miss him.

Dedication to his mentor and full acknowledgement of his status as an innovator and inspiration, here KADISM lets it be known. Probably with the single greatest run on the walls in the 1980s, KADISM has made impressive returns also during his 30 year graff career. With no signs of slowing down, KADISM will one day be considered for DUCKS crown. He is without a doubt a strong keeper of the tradition and legacy set by DISCO DUCK.


While I will not dispute the fact that Philly is far underrated when it come to its style and its history in graf, no way did graffiti "originate" there, or anywhere else. I have seen examples of NYC and LA graf from the 40's and earlier. I believe graf had no 1 birthplace but instead its just part of human nature to write on things from Philly to NYC to Pompeii to wherever. Maybe someday someone will write an article about me since I've been writing every year in DC since 1982.=) Either way, kudos to DISCO DUCK and rest and piece. ULTRA KGB

hey fam... thanks for the response...
and ur right.... the cavemen were writing on walls. no big thing there. but when it comes to what we call 'graffiti' in the modern sense, that honor belongs to Philly. all of the graffiti u saw in LA and NY in the 40s were all done with paintbrushes, as spraypaint was not invented until 1950. Gangs were actually the first to tag walls with spray paint. but that was a bunch of people identifying turf or the gang. the person who started writing on walls for what we call fame was CORNBREAD in 1967 in Philadelphia.

actually i disagree with several things you've stated. first of all, as a graf artist 35 years in the game, i dont agree with the wikipedia version of graf history. gang graffiti is graffiti. tagging is graffiti. its all graffiti. if anything can be called "modern graffiti" as in a modern innovation, it would be piecing on the trains and that started in the 70's. graffiti germinated in several places and i would say its impossible to track who was first. it was done with markers and paint and after 1949, spraypaint. like i said, ive been painting for 35 years (in nyc and dc) and im a zulu king. i'm in the history of american graffiti book in several places. i know my history extremely well. i even know that there were graf writers in nyc that influenced TAKI 187 BEFORE the late 60's. CHAZ Bojórquez was getting up in 60s in LA and often talks about the graf he saw as a youngin in the 50s. CORNBREAD was not even the first in philly. he was the first to go all-city but not THE first.


sorry bro, i just saw this...

but ima graff king in my city and Cornbread is my old head. i talk to him personally. i know its hard to let go of that New York-centric view, but the facts far outweigh the speculation. I appear in the graff movie Infamy, and i have been in many magazines and graff videos, including On The Go mags and videos and The Art Of Getting Over by ESPO. i am also in The History Of American Graffiti. its impossible to tell the story of graffiti in Philadelphia in the 90s and leave me out. (like how Chalfant left TRACY 168 out of the 'Subway Art' book in the 70s is CRAZY to me.) im DENSKE, TUK,ATP,HCS

there are many people in NY, including BLADE, who i talked to myself, and ZEPHYR, who have openly confirmed that graffiti started in Philadelphia. we can even go back to news reels and old footage that say the same thing about the graffiti movement growing in NY AFTER, what they called, the CAPITAL of graffiti, Philadelphia.

piecing CANT be the modern version, because piecing is a larger form of the small letters. the letters that were traced to make the pieces, by many of the NY pioneers own admission, were the Broadway Elegant style of letters that were popular in the early 70s. those letters and that style was BROUGHT to NYC by a writer fom PHILLY named TOP CAT 29D (29th n Diamond St. Gang), in NY known as TOP CAT 126. in Philly it was called Broad Street style, and was known as the gangster hand from back in the days, and is known as the gangster hand there to this day. many graff writers STILL write with that 50s and 60s style in Philly. we STILL uphold that tradition.

there were many gangster writers that a lot of the old time graff writers looked up to. but those guys only tagged up for the gang, and stayed limited to a neighborhood. when CORNBREAD came out, he was the one who wrote in PLAIN letters, to distinguish himself from the gang graffiti, and signed up NO gang, instead opting to tag up a social club, Delta Phi Soul in 1967. the members of that social club formed the first writing crew on walls, and other followed, including girls writers like CUPCAKE and DIMPLES in the early 70s, years before BARBARA and EVA. THAT is the start of modern graffiti, which is not just writing in walls, but writing in walls for fame.

There was a guy named BOBBY BECK who wrote on the expressway in Philly in 1957, a number of times, and no one ever heard from him again. many people have said it was a white guy, who possibly could have been a trucker. if u wanna use him as a starting point, then Philly is STILL the birthplace of graffiti. if u wanna use gang graffiti as the starting point, the graffiti started in CHICAGO, as THEY are the earliest gangs to write on walls with spray paint. why Chicago? because spray paint was INVENTED, right outside of Chicago and was first sold THERE, not in Philly, LA or NY.

i dont say things because im tied to a geography. i speak the TRUTH.

much respect to the original Zulu Kings. i talk to CHOLLY ROCK all the time online.


yeah, ive met cornbread and i know all about the social clubs... the philly guys are not shy about claiming that they were first. sorry but blade and zephyr are not really the experts i'd trust on talking about nyc graffiti that happened when they were small children or younger. if you define all tags (even aerosol) as graffiti, NO ONE can accurately determine who was first (i prefer to believe it was born EVERYWHERE). if actual letters with real fills is graffiti, then nyc is the birthplace. i def believe nyc, philly and l.a. were hotspots of graffiti since at least the mid 1900's, with baltimore, dc (my hometown), chicago, etc. right behind. i know that people in my own city have forgotten that dc had graffiti in the 70's and think graf came here from nyc in the mid 80's. its just an artform that wasnt well preserved.

well, my friend u are welcome to ur opinion, as well as ur beliefs. im only talking the FACTS. i have o problem giving just due to whomever deserves it. just like if u go thru this site, u will see that i paid my respects to COOL DISCO DAN as well.

thanks for stopping thru.

Keep schooling them Culture much respect

Just a side note...the best thing about this thread was being able to watch to men with opposing views, talk to each other intelligently and respectfully without threat of violence or intimidation. Thats peace.

Just a side note...the best thing about this thread was being able to watch to men with opposing views, talk to each other intelligently and respectfully without threat of violence or intimidation. Thats peace.

I agree. It's nice to see heads with different opinions having a civil conversation. Now we just need the rest of the internet and world to take notes. This is how a discussion is conducted. Stay up everyone.

SKEME! whats good brother?? much appreciated to see ur name in the comments section. i met u at the Elements of Hip Hop event last year. Tramp's fam, with the bboy toy. if ur coming this year, ill def have one on reserve for you. u get crazy love in Philly, my man. we'll make sure u get took care of this year.

thanks everybody. and thats the way it should be right? we dont need that dum shit to disagree. i respect his opinion. i respect you all.

I’m glad you took the time to write this and document history. I heard about him through radeo and wanted to dive deeper. Very cool history and legends. Rip duck. Things like this are important.

I met duck in 74,75 and he started me writing. He gave me my name. He said there was a dude named socool, so he called me TOOKOOL. We would hang out boost paint, ( first time i met jimi astro ) and went daytime writing. I then joined the klub KNP ( Klub Notorious Printers ). Met alot of writers during my time as a graffiti artist from different klubs, HCS, KCD, ICP, KSM, IWS, LAW, etc. Notorious Bik was the coolest. Can remember a time when me and DUCK were doing rooftops on 56th and market and almost got caught, i went to duck down to hide and there was no more roof. So glad that i was on the lower part of the roof, i fell on DUCK'S back. The last time i seen DUCK, myself, JK and others were hanging out. Those are me memories of Michael Mc Cracken alias DISCO DUCK. RIP Bro.

I meet duck in the middle 70’s the dude was cool as shit to me. I was cutting school and hopped the el in Frankford. I saw him walking on Arch St. we went in to a store that had small white paint markers. Then we came out store went down the the HCS hang out. That was at 11th and Market Sts. I got in to writing on the walls from a person names Kap. He went to the grade school I attended. We use to meet every Saturday in the morning sign books people brought with them.

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