The mighty MSG Crew are a band of spraycan warriors so notorious their crew name rings bells from Budapest to the gates of hell, and their battle-scarred fists serve testament to a baptism by concrete, paint, and razorwire. Their souls, however, are free as aerosol blasting from a new can.
They have been active in painting every inch of surface in Miami-Dade since the early '90s, and more recently they've been adopted as cultural icons by the likes of HistoryMiami.
Now the whole crew is rocking "Greatly Exaggerated," the inaugural exhibition celebrating the opening of Vice Gallery in Wynwood, a space dedicated to supporting the advancement of urban and street art on an international level. We spoke with co-curator Omar Khan about the show, MSG's roots, and how the bombing boys have evolved as artists over the years.
New Times: How did this all come about?
Omar Khan: Well, MSG Crome is my brother and basically I started the crew with him 20 years ago. I'm the Creative Director at Metro Signs, the owner of the gallery is a friend of mine, and a big fan of graff, and because there are so many artists in the crew, it's easier for me to curate so that there's not a lot of drama. They all wanted me to do it.
What's behind the name of the show?
"Greatly Exaggerated" was my idea. People don't realize that the crew is so big, or that because they're older now that they still do art, but that they're not 16 years old anymore and can't just go bombing all day. They all paint, they just did a big wall on I-95. So this is to show that the crew is still strong, any claims otherwise are greatly exaggerated.
Any concept behind what work is up and why?
I wanted it to be like a retrospective, but also show that they're real artists, not just graffiti artists. They have those elements, but it's an evolution. They can keep doing it for free on the streets, but they all wanna make money off of it, too.
How has that evolution affected street art?
Now it's a positive. It was crazy before, but it's so accepted now. It's easier for them to come out of the shadows to where they're not really worried about getting in trouble. They can put their pics up with their faces. It's a lot more mainstream.
What was your perspective on the trouble Crome got into in the '90s?
That was fame. They really threw him into the spotlight. But the media used the worst picture they could possibly find, all thugged out, with his hair up, and gold teeth. It was crazy. The police came to my house. They were so excited. They were trying to get him for $320,000 in damages, but they didn't even have their evidence right. They couldn't really put him with the name. But they stormed the house like the SS. They beat up Gere. They attacked Crook. It was police state shit.
Some of the guys are going to paint the outside of the gallery, too, right?
Yeah, not a huge piece because for the time frame. But Dose and Atomik and Abstrk are gonna do something either today or tomorrow. The show opens Thursday.
What type of work will be on display?
We have some sculptural 3D work, spraypaint, digital, photography...it's a wide range. I was happy to get everybody together. They all started out bombing, and doing murals, and now they've grown older, and their art styles have grown, too.
You mentioned Gere earlier, being there in the beginning, can you tell us more about his work?
He's a tattoo artist by trade. So is my brother. That's one of the main things besides graphic design these guys get into to make money from art. He's the owner of City Boy Tattoo. Gere is an original member. We all went to Miramar High. He's one of our old friends from the hood. It's crazy the amount of talent that came out of that school at that time. The crew is really generational but we have people who are new, but doing a lot of good work.
How did the name MSG come about?
It was actually my idea. Crome was telling me that he was trying to come up with names. He was thinking about Ill Mind Kids. I was in Gainesville at the time, and I was thinking that MSG was something people had already heard of a lot, that they were familiar with Madison Square Garden, and Monosodium glutamate, and I was thinking of ways to push Miami, so I came up with Metro Style Gods, that's the og name. Then my brother started calling it Miami Style Graffiti, and Miami Style Gods, because he felt like they were doing their own thing, different from New York.
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And now, it's all over the world...
Yeah, it's awesome to know that it's one of the main crews in the country. And guys like Revok and Sever, who started as MSG and now they're making millions. LA and Miami has the top graffiti crews. If you're the top in Miami, that's saying something. Miami just has good artists. It's cool. And that's why I'm glad to be part of this show, to celebrate that.
"Greatly Exaggerated" opens Thursday, October 9, at from 8 to 11 p.m. and the exhibition run through October 31 at Vice Gallery, 47 NE 25th St., Miami. Visit vicegallery.com.