Lofty Goals: Toper Interview

Since he started painting ‘K’ all over NYC in the ‘90s, Jeffrey Gamblero a.k.a Korn has gone through a number of transformations. From graffiti artist to poker king to the Brooklyn Nets superfan, he tells his story in his column for FRANK151, Lofty Goals.

I interviewed my longtime friend Toper of the Smart Crew for FRANK151 this week. He is one of the illest writers I know and his New York roots run deep.

Where are you from?
I was born in the Soundview Projects in the Bronx, moved to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and then moved to Staten [Island]. I have moved around and lived all over, in every borough besides Queens.

When and how did you start writing?
Well, I always remember the first time I liked graffiti. From that moment on, I knew that is what I wanted to do. It had to be ’89 or ’90, I was with my mother on the B line in Brooklyn and saw tags on the station and all over. The train then pulled up and I still remember like it was yesterday—although I don’t remember the tags, but I remember they were big, drippy mop tags.

I asked my mother what it said and she told me that it was bad, it's graffiti. From that day on, I noticed graffiti everywhere I went, all around me and all around my neighborhood. Then around ’92 I started hopping the trains by myself and would ride them all over just looking out the windows at all the graffiti, as back then the train stations were grilled.

I started carrying a Pilot marker and a Pentel white and I started hitting all the poles in my neighborhood. There was a stationery store on Bay Parkway where I used to rack at; they had all types of dope markers. Then I began chillin’ with TEZ-3D (R.I.P. Vinny) and his little brother Joe and MUTZ’s little brother. I remember I would be racking and MUTZ would come in and rack handfuls of markers. Sometimes I would go in there and there wouldn’t be anything left to steal.

Soon after, I got put on to griffin shoe dye; it was a wrap! All I would use was that. I started with the train stations and I would experiment making all types of mops. That was my favorite shit to write with, a nice fucking drippy mop. I would steal chalkboard erasers from school, as well as different types of deodorants and other tube or bottle joints that can be emptied and filled up with ink or shoe dye and stuffed with eraser felt. I would ride the N train—which was my line—from Bay Parkway to Fort Hamilton, back and forth, and catch stains for dolo. Basically, I just loved the trains and the smell of the steel and the ink and the different vibes of the different neighborhoods. Eventually I graduated to racking paint from Pergament, Woolworth, and anywhere I could get my hands on it.

How did BBT crew come about?
BBT actually was my brother’s tag. It stood for “Ball Busting Termite.” [Laughs] I told him it sounded like a crew, so he changed it. I told him it had to be a name with no more than five letters, so he changed his tag to KIT. We kept the BBT and it became “Ball Busting Truants” because we would cut school, steal cars, bug out, and sell weed. Then we thought of new meanings for BBT, such as “Blood Brother Team,” “Brooklyn’s Baddest Terrorists,” and “Brooklyn Body Tossers.” The crew grew bigger and my brother decided not to stick with graffiti, but not me!

How did you link up with the Smart Crew?
I linked up with Smart Crew through MARTY who introduced me to KORN, DCEVE, MEYHEM LAUREN, CON, HEFNER, LUK, DOCR, and HUESO and so on. I would hang out in the city with the rest of the crew and eventually started painting and chilling with them more and more. I am glad to be involved in such a great group of friends that share the same love for the game as I do and to be a part of an organized tightknit group that really takes this art seriously.

What can we look forward to in the future for Toper?
To challenge myself creatively and to continue to showcase my work through up-coming art projects, as well as having the opportunities to make money doing something I love.

More from FRANK:

Lofty Goals: Start to Finish Playground Mural

Lofty Goals: Resk DFM Interview