Miami's MSG Cartel graffiti crew crumbles

Atomik, a hot-tempered graffiti bomber, shakes a can of yellow spray paint and nods toward a pair of toothless Haitian men. "These guys won't mind if I tag their dumpster," he says and then scribbles his moniker onto the rust-blasted box. In an alley near NW 71st Street, the onlookers fold their arms and watch.

The stocky Kendall-bred graphic designer — whom Riptide agreed not to name because, well, we like outlaws — has been arrested five times for tagging rooftops, trains, and buildings. He's been chased by police dogs and hunted by helicopters. But his most recent beef isn't with the cops.

Atomik is the Kanye West of the Miami graffiti world: crazy talented, but with a reputation for pissing on other artists. After six years at the top of the well-known graffiti crew MSG — or Miami Style Gods — he's leaving. The reason: He and the founder, Crome, had a blowout over how to handle a turf war.

Crook, the cofounder, says, "It's like... your parents splitting up."

MSG knows what drama feels like. In 1999, Crome and Crook were charged with felonies after allegedly destroying tens of thousands of dollars' worth of property. The crew also snagged a spot on Miami evening news for spraying a freeway sign this past February.

Then, a couple of months ago, Atomik tried to scare off a group of rival graffiti bombers called KBT. The group had been painting over his best work for more than five years. And he claims a member even pulled a gun on him at a Wynwood art walk. Says Atomik: "It was beyond a little fucking graffiti beef."

So, inside an abandoned warehouse, he found one of KBT's most elaborate murals. It was a tribute to a tagger who had taken his own life. Atomik splashed a bucket of paint over the piece and then wrote, "Commit suicide."

Crome was pissed. He demanded Atomik paint an apology mural, but Atomik refused. Crome began taking steps to get him booted from MSG, Atomik says, so he left about a month ago.

Explains Crome: "He disrespected someone who had passed away. You don't do that shit."