Harlem born and bred Choice Royce is no stranger to the streets. From his young days on Royce was out there writing graffitti and documenting the urban art forms. His signature characters can be found on stickers all over the five boroughs of NYC.
Read the interview with Royce on growing up in Harlem, his art and home town New York City here:
A.N.Y.A.: Can you briefly explain, how you got into the game?
Royce: As far as graffiti, I guess I started with graffiti when I was at high school. I would see it all over my neighborhood, I would see it all over the train. So my friends, when we were teenagers, used to get paint and go and write graffiti everywhere. We were allright, but it was mainly fun to do. It was exciting. So I guess high school is when I started it, but it didn’t get serious until I was at college.
A.N.Y.A.: When did you develop your other forms of painting?
Royce: The character stuff started when I went to college. I was tagging, my name was VENT back then. I wasn’t really good at lettering, so I started doing more characters and stickers, which I enjoyed doing and putting it all over the college and campus. Nobody really knew who I was.
A.N.Y.A.: Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were actually talented?
Royce: I dated this girl and she used to always put my stuff on her fridge when I was a kid. I guess she inspired me to start putting something up on the street. And once I got out on the street, I started to get recognition. Back then there was the Photolog, which is like the Instagram of today. And I had a Photolog. So I would take photos of graffiti trucks, which was one of my favorite things to do. And I would put my art on there, and people started to react on it and enjoyed it. So I got invited to my first art show and from then I was like “oh shit” I can actually (maybe) do this. And keep doing street stuff and gallery work. I really started right after college. But it didn’t always look like this, it was a lot rougher.
A.N.Y.A.: So how did you develop your style?
Royce: I guess I always try to change of how it looks anyways, so over time drawing stuff with influences from friends or critiques from different people. Just constantly changing the way it looks, so I made it cleaner. I like clean, but I also like messy. Clean is easy to draw when you’re not on the street. I like messy on the street. So I guess drawing over the years, you get kind of tired of the same character and you want to switch it up. It took some years to come to what it is now.
A.N.Y.A.: We were talking about Hip-Hop just before. Would you consider your art to be within the boundaries of Hip-Hop?
Royce: Yes, I guess you would consider graffiti as an element of Hip-Hop. It’s funny because I do characters I was never really considered “graffiti”, because characters are more a street artist thing. But my way of doing it is more graffiti than street art. I use a marker, I tag it up, I rarely used wheat paste. So I’m kind of caught in the middle. I really love Hip-Hop and a lot of rap artist have done graffiti, e.g. KRS One or Fat Joe.
A.N.Y.A.: Can you describe the New York style?
Royce: As far as graffiti, you could tell a New York style from a Philadelphia style, although it’s really close. As far as characters… I think characters, that’s your style. I’m influenced more by people’s emotions instead of the actual New York environment and by New York in a way, because people are walking around angry all the time. You know how people are, they might be happy one day, you bump into them another time and they’re angry. So I’m inspired by that. For graffiti, there’s definitely a New York style. It has to have really cool bubbles, and really cool lines.
A.N.Y.A.: You travel a lot through the city and you see a lot of people. Is this where you draw the most inspiration from?
Royce: Yeah, I see a lot of people and I look at their faces and try to put someone’s expression on a character. It’s more illustrative. I definitely get inspired by people sitting on the train and looking angry or happy or just the way they look.
A.N.Y.A.: Please name me 3 things about New York that you really like.
Royce; What I really love about New York is that I can get a cheap beer right across the street at all times of the night. I can just go there when I feel like drinking. I like the New York style. People say that New Yorkers are hard or angry or mean all the time, but I bet you can get lost somewhere in a corner the city and a New Yorker will help you find your way. Everybody misunderstands New Yorkers until they come here. So I love how people always think that New Yorkers are so tough, but when they finally meet somebody, we open up our arms. Just like anywhere else, we’re not turds. New York is not as tough as people claim it is. You just gotta be in the right spot, with the right person. New York is just nice to be, this is where everything happens. Even though I like New York, I need a break once in a while. But I will always come back. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Maybe Philly..
A.N.Y.A.: So what do you dislike about the city?
Royce: Police sucks, I hate the cops. I hate to pay 2.75$ to go downtown. Stuff like that.
A.N.Y.A.: But didn’t it get better with the NYC cops?
Royce: Nah, I don’t think so. I never had a good experience with cops since I was a kid…
A.N.Y.A.: With your art you’re in both worlds, the street and the commercial, so how do you deal with this?
Royce: If I’m doing commercial stuff, I try not to use my street art stuff, but I try to do something completely different. You can tell it’s mine, but I try to separate them by look, because I don’t want my street art and my art in galleries associated with my commercial stuff. It’s hard, because sometimes they want that look. It’s hard because sometimes you’d get that money, but I try not to compromise my art for anybody. If I have to, I make something similar. I would do that. Of course it’s nice to get a little commercial job here and there, but usually they want you to use your character. However, I want to keep that to myself.
A.N.Y.A.: How do you experience the sense of community among artists?
Royce: When I first got into street art, people welcomed me with open arms. I met so many cool people. I got to collaborate with artists, which I do a lot now. I got to meet people I was looking up to. Everybody is really nice, I never had any bad beef. It was always welcoming.
A.N.Y.A.: Allright, that’s it Royce. Thanks so much for your time and I’m excited to get your really cool design on our t-shirts!
|A||18.125in 46cm||19.875in 50.5cm||20.625in 52.5cm||21.25in 54cm||22.75in 58cm|
|B||25.5in 65cm||26.5in 67cm||26.75in 68cm||28.375in 72cm||28.375in 72cm|
100% cotton, Fairtrade certified. Wash cold with like colors. Iron inside out!