PRINT May 1983


CULTURE IS THE MOST fertilized substance. It does nothing but ferment its own substance for milleniums. It is the best flammable stuff along with the soul, the spirit, the winged breath of air, the O2 particle that gives oxygen to the fire of culture. Where time is rhythm it is almost impossible not to be spun by words and turns of phrases, and even more by the person who reveals them by uttering them in one’s presence for the first time—not to mention engraving them in one’s mind by repetition. "Language itself is a gamble. A roll of dice. The way you formulate your sentence, the words you pick and make that sentence, is the roll of the dice. That’s why I’m a rapper, I pick the best words for the sentence. If your gamble rolls right, you’ll win. Where the dictionary rolls, the word’s right. When the title was made, Ornamental Style, well that word was one roll or one knowledge straight off armament. The next roll that came up was armament. And that’s what graffiti is.

“The trains out there are a big book, and as the pages are being written, as formations are being placed on the train, the page cars are switched around. And the book is scattered and rescattered into a gamble. The letters armored themselves while we were scattering them on the transit. And society was still playing that big major game by breaking up car numbers in sequence. When you put two cars together it makes an ionic sentence. A one-word statement of a sentence, full of five of these one-word joints. And these sentences started to make sense.”

Like a pinball machine on which places are demarcated, fixed, each in communication with further stations, the ball shooting in any direction from place to place according to the force with which it spins, Rammellzee’s verbal/vocal oeuvre produces a space/place where he may deposit his voluminous moments of rhythmic knowledge. He is a theoretical machine, hard to break down. “The rhyme cannot be repeated because I just put words in formation as letters in the word formations, how you gonna tell me to repeat it. All my rhymes, every rhyme I ever say is never repeated. That is what makes me the Zee and that is a title. I do not repeat anything and I never write it down.”

In the sense of conventional, socialized codification, Rammellzee is about language at its wits end. His diction tends to involuntarily lapse into verse, cadenced according to the traditions of conversation cum preaching and the syncopation of funk. His dialogue clamps on the spinal vertebrae of the letter, putting the central nervous system of language into overdrive as his baritone pumps and chuckles like a piston. The phasing moves through the beat like a scythe, tearing into percussives through to the issue: articulations. He ordains the lows which govern the letter which govern society. He speaks with such ease and eloquence that it all seems the truth of mesmerizing poetry for those who hear him. This relentless regurgitation of rhetoric makes the speech work, and it is the working of the speech, the speaking of the speech, which is at least half of how the speech registers.

Rammellzee’s discourse is on the universe and its cosmic symbolic defense systems—structures which were dipped into social apocalypses and bent in their generic aspects (letters). In a tone of intimacy yet in a practical manner he ejects his treaties the only effective way, with familiarity. He frequents his territory with messianic consistency, making constant appearances, like the fool or the magician, bouncing on the edge of the void or on the brink of self-manifestation. The computopian sorcerers space where he reverberates is an echoed space of singularity and universalities. He wasn’t born with Logos; he has acquired it little by little, by questing everybody he meets. “All the collaborators with Webster and everybody else that deals with the dictionaries and all the other world books and the Britannica, I understand why they started snatching words and taking them out and putting them back in when they wanted to, reformulating letters and taking letters out of words. They put a dictionary together, they gave a word formation meaning and structure, but they don’t understand the letter. The dictionary has no outline construction and no evolution for the A through Z in the military sense or commercial. Only certain letters could go together, and they went together, but then diseased culture compiled letters that shouldn’t have been put together and when they compiled them, the letter just got Into a gap, a universal gap, and then tricked all formations, so that it kept its knowledge In the dark to itself until the right time in evolution.” Rammellzee is drenched in but not knowing of the historical delineation and organizational stuff of his topic; that is why he takes the whole of our heritage as one unit, undifferentiated, like dark ink before letter formation.

The unborn darkness is potent with existential, historical, and biographical metaphors. It is idiomatic of activities in the dark that they are pure and true. It is a tradition that darkness is cover from conscious control and social patrol. The archspook of teenage heresy and the timewarp of the dark re-zoned Rammellzee in a historical flashback of identity to the era of Gothic calligraphers. “How con I do it if I don’t know what I’m doing. The lines came to me in the dark. I drew because of anxiety, desperation, third rails, and cops. I made quick decisions. I just said fuck it do this do that do that, and if it come out right when I saw it the next day it come out right. I was amazed. When I studied it and I knew what it was, then I put the elaborations into it. Graffiti was created in the dark when you can’t feel, when you can’t touch. You’re not going to concentrate or manipulate nothing. You’re worried about twenty big gaping holes in the floor, dogs chasing after you all mad and muddied up. The most Gothic-looking things around ore down there in those tunnels.”

Destined to repeat the eminent gestures with which the monks adorned the letter, he assumed the continuing lineage. Under the cover of darkness Jean Genet consecrates simulated vocational genes:

. . . You belong to a kind of heroic family, each member of which repeats the same signs, or else . . . you ore the reflection in time of a past act, like the reflection in space seen in a mirror: in the subway, supporting myself at times with both hands on the thin vertical column between the doors, have l not been the reflection of Joan of Arc at the coronation in Reims holding the staff of her standard?1

Rammellzee is projected by the same ray of illumination as the Gothic scribes, but has to focus himself on a different screen, a different set of dimensions in order to make the genealogies visible and the symbols functional. “The monks started what we do, we extend off their science. The bishops In 1582 stopped their knowledge because they couldn’t read the monks’ tax papers. They were getting too fancy so the bishops said ‘I can’t read this to tax the people.’ If you look in the dictionary you’ll see that the bishops stopped the monks because their power was becoming too strong with the letter. Those damn monks contradicted what the kings and bishops wanted. They wrote it the way they wanted to write it. In their style. The calendar monks sent a letter to the one place that God cannot go: Hell. The light that we had was from a knowledge that was dim down there, so the knowledge was very faint, but yet it was real, and with its energy passing through our bodies, we received it—that’s how we get scared and how our hair stands on end, that’s all. The subway is a place where It can be so black you’d swear you were watching television. We play chess with the subway lights and the trains. It’s big. You don’t know if you’re walking in circles, you don’t know if it’s daylight or night, you don’t know nothing. You don’t know where the entrance is, you don’t know where the exit is, you don’t know where the floor is gonna drop. You’re just in there. So what is the territory you want to command? The book, page, paragraph, word formation phrase.” Writing into blackness (the subway) or pursuing the black on the white (the page), between the polarity of dark and light, knowledge and delineation, Rammellzee gambles with the hunger of the void to gratify the letter.

Letter As Tank

At this particular moment of civilization, a moment in complete confusion about what is real, what is symbol, and what a symbol is, everybody knows what a character is. There are character generators, characters in the video games, characters coming back in art––not people, not representation, but character. Character is habitual action. A growing person acquires recurring motives and when they’re understood rationally this mortal becomes ethically responsible. Such character is destroyed if passion or pathos takes over.

A symbol is delicate, intricate and intelligent. In our time, the letter (a symbol) is often manifest rather than symbolizing. The worry worts about illiteracy claim something is threatened with being forgotten but instead it is threatened with being remembered. The very shell, form, body of the thing is used to recall itself or to annihilate itself. This overwhelms the original symbolic intelligence, the structural truth of the letter. Rammellzee arms the symbol against that.

Our past-literate illiteracy is the illiteracy that has to happen when writing takes itself as its own subject, when writing turns its own head on itself and looks at itself. I heard they have a typewriter where you can type by staring intently at each letter in turn. Language makes itself a language, refers to itself, collapses and explodes. This is Rammellzee’s topic. The letter as genre, liberated from writing, evolves into a character, an image. If you arm a symbol you get a character which is a symbol in practice, “an agent codified.”According to Aristotle, you don’t make characters work effectively they’ll be devoid of ethical quality. This object, this cultural monument, the letter, is not an axiom it is structure embellished with armament for offense and defense in a symbolic war waged over past and future usurpations. (Time is cyclic, we don’t know where we are in relation to cosmic events.) The images of letters hold the knowledge of the past until the future is ready to clarify itself.

"That’s what I’m saying, home boy, that’s why I mode this pamphlet. Everybody In society who died and left art, Gallleo and the rest of the brothers, they always left something that they know will stick to the letter. And this time the letter’s sticking for itself. Once the letter has armed itself it is in its own military function. This time diseased culture is not going to send out another diseased culture to relay a message, but will send a letter and the letter is going to relay the message.

“Society is in love with the letter, It uses it every day, types it, reads it. Society just did not know what to do with the letter so It reformulated words to sounds that should not have been placed upon those word formations, sentences, paragraphs, pages, books, and the rest of them on down the line. The letter is the character. Not the human. The letter is rebuilding its structure itself. This time I’m not going to send out another human body to relay a message that I’ve had written down, because that body might soy something different. In a war against symbols which have been wrongly titled the letter is the only thing which can fight. Not a human being, no tree, no nothing, no landscape. Not a boxer. The human body can never be a masterpiece. How many malfunctions does it have daily?”

This “chorus” of character letters represents action better than a protagonist. Rammellzee eliminates himself from what he does; he is a biological entity which channels energy, he is a tool through which structures of universal truth channel themselves. He is not a name, he is not a person. It is the letter that dictates what he does.

“Identity problems? I don’t have on Identity. I’m a human, I’m everybody on this planet. Edit deAk is a government name, it should not have been given to you, and it does not govern you. Name is a necessity to a housing construction, the Identity. The government busts out N for necessity, A for housing construction. The necessity for housing construction is that it separates this name from that name.”

The world, the universe, is one thing. When you name something you almost commit a crime because you’ve separated it––what you named––from the oneness of everything. “Rammellzee is a military function formation and that’s not a name either. The proof is that this ideal motor movement Is not controlled by me. I am ramming the knowledge to on elevation, and I am understanding the knowledge behind the Z. When you read the Roman letter you speak of It as history, you don’t put it upon a person. Ramm-Ell-Zee. Since we are dealing with roman letter we have to go bock to the day when the Romans were using the ram to break down a door. Our situation today Is to break down a door of knowledge hidden behind society, tricknowledged so long we’re going to work our way around it, instead of breaking It up straight. Whereas before you’d be trying to break through and you would be on the bottom of the pile. Writing Is a form of communication delivered by man Just to set man up, whether It be for tricknowledgy, to scheme, to cover. We are talking about where graffiti originated, where hardcore war went down with markers against markers and letters against letters. You think war is always shooting and beating everybody but no, we had the letters fight for us.”

Isn’t the ability or disability to accept or not accept graffiti due to its very context? In terms of graffiti Rommellzee claims that traditional context, he clings to it. He is the basic brain and theoretician of it. So taking him out of that heritage is like saying to the Sun King “listen, I don’t think you should be talking so much about being French.”

From the more naive, folkish, almost purely decorative crescendos of the various ornamental graffiti styles, like flower, dinosaur, or even the earlier bubble (commercial calligraphic) style, proceeded the era of the Armamental Style, or the three basic military graffiti stages. Bomberism was the first to appear. (As Rammellzee says, one must remember to call these phases “isms” to define them as practice; we don’t they remain clubs, which they were in the beginning.) Full-scale bombing (windows down) should be considered as the expression of the cultist group energy of an underground activity, the bombastic visual fidgeting of young teenage bravura. From this easier stuff shot off a much more intriguing era of stylistic development, with discipline and goals: Wild Stylism, which is exactly what it says––the style is wild.

“Wild Style is an emotional outburst of brothers setting forth knowledge that was left by a clue In the dark and remanipulatlng this knowledge until It comes to light.” (Genet: “The walls of the Mettray Yard have fallen about me . . . walls on which I read . . . the most singular of appeals, which I recognize by the abrupt pencil strokes, as each word was a moiler of solemn decision.”) It is wild but it can be corrected, following the upgradings of its various phases, the first 01 which––Paperism––is on extremely complex delineation of the letters. All the foldings of the character, the image, the lights and shadows develop as folds. Basically the letter, a two-dimensional entity, is treated like a real object. This is the meta-essence of the graffitist's regard for the letter as if it were areal 3D thing (which is topsy turvy from Cubism, in which they hod the pipe or the face and angled at around into 2D). (Genet: “The stones speak to me . . . [in] mysterious initials . . . I had long . . . ceased to be affected by the sinister glamour of the carved letters . . . and now, all at once, a shock, a sudden loss of memory,makes me feel uneasy . . . I now see these letters only as a strange object, on inscription in on ancient temple.”) By saturating the symbol’s drafting with so much shadow that the outline gets completed and con be cost in wax or metal, we come to the second stage––Jewelryism. This is on educational style, allowing the symbol to be lifted off the fiat surface and mode into sculpture. Out of the chiaroscuro of indeterminately layered and dense images, from these overlays of shadows, burst out the cost of characters. Nymphism is the most developed phase of Wild Style still on the trains. It is notable for its articulation of military iconography. Iy has wing structures and on understanding that the arrows are directions, and should be elaborated as firing mechanisms. Here the letter, even though it can’t fly, has wings. The ’80s war of the letter is exemplified by post–Wild Style graffiti which evolved from scribble scrabble togs to armored letters.

Afraid of falling into the depths or heights of imagination until he himself becomes imaginary (military function Ramm Elevation Zee)—afraid of a collision with the real—he patronizes bottles but does not fight in them. He is like on actor impersonating himself. In order to reach his highest pitch, he requires the grandiloquent freedom provided by the stage, or the situation which is outside the physical world *"I am not Rammellzee. The name I put down is not a name. I don’t praise the machine, the tank. I hate it. (I hate what you see.) The letter makes me do It. I hate what I am, I hate what It Is, but I’m telling you what the letter says.The letter Is the tonk. NOC created the statement ‘style wars.’ Based on that I followed with my statement on symbolic wars, the war of the armed symbol—the letter. The real name for the style is Ikonoklast Panzerism, and this is the true style or the end process of graffiti. The letter is armed to stop all the phony formations, lies, and tricknowledgies placed upon Its structure. It can be little for sneak attacks, or can be the size of this damn planet, depending on who Is building It and with what and what for. The letter . . . that’s not a missile up against flesh and blood . . . ain’t no talking in the world of destroying anything but symbols. It is symbol against symbol.

“The tank is the letter E. English starts with an E but the alphabet is characterized by the E as being statement English, Eepsilon. War is one perfect one. It’s exactly the way It should be spelled, doing and dealing what we call and oct out as a war. The V by structure Is a downfall symbol, thats why W—two downfall symbols—a tarts off the word ‘war.’ How could you spell war or have war without It being a conscious development? Thats why has two double V’s, two downfall symbols,two points. I told you about the letter Pr.. In war you always need something that deals with medicine, you must always have that science. Remember R Is the lost letter In war, and the A is the housing construction, the housing construction that usually fights war. We’re getting so advanced we’re going to see that housing construction is turning into computers.”*

Equally concerned with the history (Gothic) and with the structural mechanisms of the letter and its armament (Futurism) he combines the two and calls histechnique Gothic Futurism, the result of extending the evolution of the letter from the long, speared, pointy-looking Gothic text and pushing the arrow forward. “That’s past and maybe future. We are In a period of time when we can correct those mistakes so that It does not return to Gothic. If it does, we will not go to space. Homeboy, when you say piece in Gothic Futurism, you mean a .22, and a masterpiece means tank. A masterpiece is much better than a gun, but gangsterism is not beautiful. It is Gothic.”


Rammellzee’s historicizing notion is that all languages using (usurping) the roman alphabet for their differing phonetic needs or idiosyncracies are slanguoges. (Genet: “My first impulse was to point out to him that it was ridiculous to put slang words and expressions between quotation marks, for that prevents them from entering the language.”) You cannot take letters for granted in a social field scavenged by national and governmental control. When one country conquers another they change currency, symbols, flags, names, and letters. According to Rammellzee’s theory apocalypses of national, cultural, and cosmic scale happen because of misappropriations of knowledge, the basic fundamental unit of which is the letter, without which we cannot have government, language, talk, or social system, and hence cannot have war. Space is not yet so overclaimed.

Rammellzee is having an all-out rampage against the tricknowledged infinity sign. Since it can manifest itself as a circle twisted or a Moebius strip, as well as a time dial, or the letter symbol or the Van Allen belt, there are several dimensions in which the sign can be destroyed.

“A lot of people forgot about the Van Allen belt.” A few years ago there was a threat against it and they pulled spray cans out of circulation because of the information that they endangered the ozone layer and the Van Allen belt would refract back the polluted ozone and make biochemical structures mutant. The Van Allen belt particles can come right down and the cover of darkness can become absolute. “It was titled wrong, because It is just plain old energy holding life and death and protecting light on this planet. That is indeed God, heaven and hell and purgatory, any way one puts it. it is the very battery power that starts this disease culture or machine rolled into one. I’m just a little disease machinery working from electromagnetic energy in minute particles of knowledge. That’s only the energy in your body manipulating you, and when the energy field of the body malfunctions [death], it leads in that step right back to the Von Allen belt. Electromagnetic-knowledge particles come around and go around and recreate life and protect life. And no disease culture called human beings can control the belt, because it controls life and death. It goes around, from the past to the future, gaining or going back in knowledge, covering your trail, depending on the situation where you are living. How do you know time doesn’t go around and come around like the infinity sign does? How do you know time don’t start when I rammed it, and go all of the way round to hieroglyphics, then back to the simple constructions of letters, how do you know this is not from the future? Time still doesn’t connect. Nobody knows if the universe con stop. They can’t prove it by math because all they ever get is zero. Zero. Zero. The infinity sign with the fusion symbol [ X ] in its middle has been wrongly titled Christian [ + ] and thus it has to be assassinated or the X has to be removed. The infinity sign Is a mathematical, scientific, military symbol. It is the highest symbol that we have and you know there isn’t even a key on the typewriter for it.” (Genet: . . . “Religions imprison us in a universe as limited as a prison . . . ”) “The letter has one purpose now, it has started to asphyxiate because it wants to know why there is a Christian title on the military mathematical symbol. It’s armored itself and is about to fire on the title that is unjust.” (Genet: “The physical or metaphysical sky is not the ceiling. The sky of religions is a ceiling. It ends the world. It is ceiling and screen, since, escaping from my heart, the aspirations are not lost.”)

“‘Ikonoklast’ means symbol destroyer, It’s a very very high word militarily, because the two K’s ore the only two letters that can assassinate the infinity sign, remove the X. The C’s can’t do it because that’s a cipher, and it’s broken, incomplete. Why did they take out the K’s and put in two C’s? The word is incomplete now, it won’t work. We don’t bother any unarmored symbol, let them go about their business, the letter is Just against one symbol that has been tricknowledged, that is the fusion symbol in the Infinity sign. And that is the only symbol that it is after.”

Four-D is the high-velocity dimension of the tank. This is a directed black light. It will be like a cigar flying through the air, a solid black beam, and it will eat up everything in its path and put it in a black void, like a vacuum cleaner. A void is the focus of the infinity sign which is the Van Allen belt, which is where we are, in the dark.

You cannot always start the world from scratch or buy a missing part which burned out. You may have to come up with some device, a solution instead. Rammellzee imagineers. "You calculate, you put risk into what you’re doing, you calculate your scheme, your dime in your crime, you do what you got to do, and when you get to where you got to go, the mathematics will show your summation operator, the result. I want to know what’s what’s what’s what’s what’s and what’s what. We have to put my pamphlet into a computer and put the dictionary and the Bible in there. The old Bible, the first testament, the first dictionary, no other dictionary is like it, put it in the computer and say: write it again, write it the right way, according to the math in the pamphlet on the knowledge of infinity and the series of universal registers, and recompute. When you recompute you’ll get a whole new dictionary and every word formation will be correct to the phonetic sound formation. A might change, D might change, but you can never change the structure because the structure is universal; letters they hove their armor.

"We are in technology now, based on the Von Allen belt’s knowledge, going around regambling and regambling until the dice roll (up). I’ll break down the Bible. I’ll break down my own name. I’ll break down the atom bomb. I’ll make it tell us what the word atom means and if it’s correct.

“All computers know the knowledge of the square. We don’t know it, so we don’t know that they know It, but I know that they know the knowledge of the square, know the knowledge of the triangle, know the knowledge of the cipher, the sphere, they know the degrees. We had to go the long way around by sticking to nature. If we hadn’t worked on the bird to make the airplane, we could have worked on the triangle to make an airplane. There would have been a Jet before the airplane was invented and we would have been supersonic four hundred years ago. We mode a triangle, that’s what the T is based on. It’s still got a little bit of that bird in it.”

The main meaning of the dictionary is its power of definition. If I can define you I have power over you.

“I cannot cut the umbilical cord because I do not have the funds to put real rocket engines in magnetic drive or whatever to put it out there. That I cannot do. But I con plug the knowledge into the wall to make it work. It’s a lot of power. When man learns how to turn his eyes into reflecting light, he’ll make his eyes into weapons. He has to learn that first, just as he has to learn all about what is known as a reputer and stop calling it a computer. Because a computer is what man’s built to service him. A reputer is what man is. When we make a computer biochemical, that computer will be a reputer. That knowledge is not from this planet—that knowledge Is from space. That’s why I say, don’t come all the way down to the planet, don’t take your space mop all the way to the land, because I’m coming up. I’m not going to stay on land. If you look as for as you can look on a clear, starry night, space is black. And that is the biggest baddest wall out there. The Gods sure enough say it; they are talking and speaking in high supreme mathematics. They think moonshine is a tricknowledgy. Brother, the reading is over. What if the letter hod a representative and it said all of a sudden, homeboys, I’m not gonna let you all use my letters any more.”

Riddles express true facts under impossible combinations. A riddle can be expressed in metaphors as jargon can be expressed in words. Because they’re outside the current idiom, they give distinction to style. The command of metaphor is the mark of genius, for he who can make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblances.

"Ikonoklast is when you are a symbol destroyer. Turning words around and saying them backwards and doing rhymes to them, most people don’t know that a rhyme is Just like a song. The only difference is in the song you use your voice in a pretty way and with thyme you Just say it, you talk it, you may give a little technology to it, a little saying to it, a little echo to it. Everything is a remanipulation, ain’t nothing created. Everything is taken from here, taken from there, ideas sprayed, skipped, dipped, dyed, you know, it’s all been redone. We shorten the word, we take the letters away from the word, and we Just bust it down, we do slang, you don’t talk to the girls on that, you don’t get the party to scream and jump, you do what you’re supposed to do and if any one breaks, the piece best be ready. That’s what we talk about.

“I’m going to finish the war. I’m going to assassinate the infinity sign. You have the gladiators, the freestyle dancers, warring on the ground, you hove the graffiti writers warring in the air or in space. Since it’s underground It’s underground, but they’re still floating in the air because they are tanks that con fly, they’re armored, the Panzer rock can fly, move, and shoot missiles. You hove the translators, the Ins, the MCs. The DJs make the sounds of the pistons inside the graffiti element, or the tank. Their sound is the perfect tuning of the engines, the engines in the tank that go bambambam. That is beat culture.”

Edit deAk is a contributing editor to Artforum.



1. All quotations from Jean Genet in this article are from Miracle of the Rose, New York; Grove Press, 1971.