ENEM, Graffiti Writer featured in Infamy, of NPH crew

While graffiti writers today have taken their craft into new commercial venues – whether clothing, design, fine art, or anything else that might turn a buck, 33-year-old Infamy featured artist Enem (NM) of Philadelphia is a throwback. “I come from a brand of graffiti that had a certain purity to it” he begins, “and in the era I came from, you were a sellout if you was doing art for money. It was about feeding back into the subculture.”

That subculture – Philadelphia graffiti – is a bit marginal even in graffiti. While New York popularized the practice of writing one’s name everywhere, in truth, it began in Philadelphia in the late 1960’s. To this day, Philadelphia graffiti looks and feels different from graffiti in any other city. In the tradition of elongated and wild lettering of Philadelphia, Enem is a local institution and a style master: “I’ve always considered myself the down-home graffiti writer: my town, I’m king.” While born and raised in North Philly’s Germantown neighborhood, Enem credits teenage years spent with his father in Oakland (after a violent past in Philadelphia suggested a temporary relocation) as a major influence. “While driving around with my father one day, I saw a flash of color down an alleyway and went to check it out – and it turned out to be this huge yard (open area where painters can work undisturbed) on 23rd Street. I was so surprised because what I had seen out there to that point was just villas and palm trees!” Enem met with the key figures of Oakland’s graffiti scene, and when he returned to Philadelphia, he became a leader in a scene that had hundreds, if not thousands of participants. As Enem explains it, “graffiti, to a lot of the people who don’t understand it, appears goalless. But when you get kids together who say ‘we’re going to break into the subway system, and do it tonight’ – not many people do this!” That drive, for Enem, has carried over into married, family-man adulthood. As the founding art director of Philadephia’s 4,000 square ft., center city Union 237 Gallery, Enem worked to bring the best in urban art into gallery settings. He is a rapper in the hip-hop group B&G Original Authentics. And as a documentary filmmaker, he made the Philadelphia underground hip-hop and graffiti video Street Soldiers. However, and as he explains in the film, Enem cautions against sugar-coating graffiti’s core ethic: “if you are truly a graffiti writer, you cannot deny the fact that you are committing crimes!” And at the end, his favorite memories are no different. “Graffiti to me was war with the establishment – bombing corporate and government, big money stuff. I sure as hell got a big kick out of painting the City Hall annex building. I really enjoyed that.”