This week SprayPlanet had the opportunity to chop it up with Philly’s infamous handstyle king: ENEM. Never a dull moment, ENEM talks about the first time painting in his hood, his overall approach towards piecing, and even explains why and how Philly handstyles are so different than the traditional tags you see on the streets of almost anywhere else.
After 30 years of painting and holding it down in Philly, ENEM discusses his motivations to continue painting. Beyond that, he talks about his biggest influence: DREAM TDK (R.I.P.) and how he made a lasting impact to give back to the community and culture first and foremost.
ENEM Graffiti History and Background
SprayPlanet: Let’s start with the basics..What do you write, what crews do you rep, and where do you call home?
ENEM: I write Enem or just NM.. I rep for TDK, KTS, FUA, UCIT, FlYID, AND TKU... I’m forever from Philly. No matter where I live my home will always be Philadelphia.
SprayPlanet: How old were you when you were first exposed to the graffiti culture and how did it happen?
ENEM: I was 12 when I first started to pay attention to the walls in my hood. I think I was going to the mall and I just started to read the tags, and once I figured out what they were saying I was all in! So by the age of 13 I just knew I could be one of those names.
SprayPlanet: Tell us a little bit about the origins of your name ENEM? And how long have you been hitting it up?
ENEM: Well I went through a couple of names the first few months. I was Reakon, Centex, Denzel and then I tried to write Bear, but there was a well-established guy in Philly that had already been writing the name. So at that point, I decided I was gonna be NYMPHO MANIAC (NM)… I was a ladies man and I was very successful ;) .
SprayPlanet: Do you remember your first time painting? What was the spot and the experience/feeling like for you?
ENEM: My first piece was on a train line right behind a gas station in Mount Airy. I swore I was dope and this was gonna shock the hood. I remember saying, “After this they will take me serious!” But at 13 nobody takes you seriously. Still, I was hooked on the idea that I did that piece while the whole hood was sleeping. I felt like a super hero. I was young and excited but when the morning came I saw what I did and almost cried. It was apparent that I had NO idea what I was doing. That made me mad. I had to get better and get better fast.
ENEM Explains A Philly Handstyle (graffiti)
SprayPlanet: In your words, explain to us what a PHILLY HANDSTYLE means to you.
ENEM:Philly handstyles are natural to me. I grew up doing these tags. We just assumed that’s how graff tags were done back in the day. But when I saw tags from New York and the West Coast, I knew we were different. I knew our style was authentic. We have decades of tagging history and legendary taggers from Philly; old and new. The best way to describe our style is to say this: We flow our tags… We put our bodies into the motion… We adjust for height and width… We look for the spots that will last, but we still hit those prime times because the handstyles allow us to fit into spots other writers wouldn’t notice. We definitely weaponize our tags, and our pride is based on the skill of tagging not piecing.
ENEM On His Piecing Style
SprayPlanet: When you drop a piece, do you typically have a sketch/concept/idea in mind, or do you just freestyle it and go with what you feel at the moment?
ENEM: So for 30 plus years I’ve never had an outline. I just rock out and try to have fun. As I come towards the end of my years as a writer, I am actually using outlines . A real dope artist once told me that many writers have a problem translating the paper sketch to the wall. So now, that’s my mission: To master that translation. But for years I did it off the top of the dome just freestyling.
SprayPlanet: How would you describe your overall style to someone who was not familiar with your pieces/work?
ENEM:My style is built on unorthodox flows. I have great pride in knowing that even if I’m not the best I’m original in a world of artists that tend to be similar in style when they paint. You’ll never see a wall where the artist to the left or the right looks like my style of graff. I like to reconstruct my letters in ways I don’t see, but still flow with my name. Plus, I experiment a lot with my letters, that’ s always fun for me.
ENEM's Motivation And Approach To Painting Graffiti
SprayPlanet: What motivates you to continue to go out and paint after all these years?
ENEM: Nobody likes a quitter. And I signed up for life. I love the artform. I know the only way I will let this go is if I’m in a casket. I love graffiti. I do it for the love of graffiti. It’s that simple. My heart and mind are in agreement that we can’t stop. Ever!
SprayPlanet: Is your approach towards graffiti quality or quantity? Explain?
ENEM: I’ve always tried to do both so I want to get around and I want to throw down. But you can’t win ‘em all. If I said, “Every piece I do must be super clean, must be perfect, fades must be exact...”, I would drown myself in an inch of dirty dishwater! I want to paint and enjoy what I’m doing. So you win some, you lose some, but you keep on rocking. I don’t think either is mutually exclusive. You can do both if you enjoy painting; At least I try to…
SprayPlanet: Who/what is your biggest influence and how does it show in your work/style?
ENEM: So over time he has become even more of an influence on me even though he was taken from us far too early: Dream T.D.K . I can’t say it shows in my art, but he always told me to push my own style. He believed in me . I hope the way I do graff as a lifestlye is his impact on me. Dream never really stopped in my eyes. He was always positive about the art form. He respected the game… No matter where you were from, if you were dope you were dope. Dream was no hater. I try to be like him in that respect. Care about community. Really deal with the youth and not the ones that might be in the NBA one day but the ones that were homeless at 14. He gave a fuck and I guess I do to so yeah, that’s a gift he gave me, and it was a blessing.
SprayPlanet: Any last words/shoutouts/promos or advice you’d like to throw out there to the people reading this?
ENEM: I just want to give a shout out to my friends: Vogue, Sear, Erx, Rocky, Dylone, Menas, Skae, Macho, Siek, Laugh, Snoeboogie, Mr. Werd, King Hoacs , my friend Trace, Dub, Ceno, Boroe, Qvine, Karak ,Esze , Tame, Optimist, Udon, Karma the Royal, Vern the Govenor, Lostalot, Mrs. Reds, shout to my man HarryBones and big sis Musa, Mr. Roachi, shout out to all my Philly friends (even the haters), shout out and love to all the writers kind enough to share this artform in this lifetime. This is special and I appreciate you all. But most of all my son and daughter… I love my Angelface and my Jr King. And to my Moms; You are everything in this life and you have always been with me in this graff thing. Truly a special lady. I know one thing in life: you only get one, but if you do it right that’s all you need!! THANK YOU guys! Appreciate you SprayPlanet!!