NORM MSK – Talking Graffiti & Tattoos with 12ozProphet

Created by 12ozProphet – Words: Taylor Michelle Gerard, Cinematography: Ethersock, Video Editing: Carlton Bruce, Production: Kelly Salih
The 12oz crew caught up with NORM of MSK and AWR crew while he was guest-spotting at Brooklyn tattoo shop, Flyrite (492 Metropolitan Ave. Brooklyn, NY). This brief segment provides a glimpse of a day in the life of NORM.
Norm, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, moved to the west coast and began writing graffiti in 1998 in the Bay Area of Northern California. Soon thereafter, his style, effort and unique hand lettering were noticed by crew members of some of the most well known graffiti crews based on the West Coast. As the former owner of a piercing studio, Norm was introduced to the world of tattooing and began to develop a passion of his own for the art of typography. With that passion driving him, Norm completed his tattooing apprenticeship under Grime and crew at Skull and Sword in San Francisco. Tattoos are now his main focus, while he admits that his beginnings in graffiti were some of the most influential times in his life and career.

“[RIME] had a theory of motion, that the first time that you make the motion of the spray paint can, doing the line, is the most natural motion…it’s the same thing with the tattoo.”

NORM has been one of several notorious members of famed graffiti crew “MSK,” also known as “Mad Society Kings,” for decades. The Los Angeles-based crew is well known across the United States for their rather ostentatious, large-scale pieces, caught on billboards and occasionally spanning entire city blocks. Some members of MSK include EWOK1, SABER (famed for the world’s largest graffiti piece, formerly located by the LA river, now whitewashed, which in and of itself was not a simple feat) and REVOK. Whether they are getting caught getting up or just getting up, MSK do it in the most conspicuous of ways.
MSK member REVOK headlined the news when he was arrested at LAX in 2011 and held on $320,000 bail (a higher amount than many major felons have receive for violent criminal acts). This is a clear testament to the city of Los Angeles’ contempt for the crew, its members and their flagrant disregard for the law. NORM has not been immune to the consequences of getting up as a member of MSK, though his transition to the world of tattooing has certainly saved him a lot of bail cash and lock-up time.
Norm’s handstyle, informed by various writers and styles, is easily recognized for its heavy LA influence. His work, in terms of both graffiti and tattooing, is typography-centric. While talking to 12oz, Norm admits that his tagging wasn’t the best. But with some inspiration from Jersey Joe, also known as RIME, Norm compares the lines necessary for drawing a tattoo to those of a tag (fortunately for his patrons, Norm knows about the difference in permanency, as the life of a tattoo is almost eternal compared to the precarious and mostly temporary life of a tag).

“That’s why you make things, so you know what’s in there. Second reason why you make it, may be cost effectiveness, third reason you make it is because it’s fuckin’ fun. Fourth reason you make it, because it makes you money.”

Aside from tattooing, Norm likes to hand-cast and build custom tattoo machines, some of which were on display at his most recent joint exhibition with 2SHAE at The Seventh Letter‘s flagship store in Los Angeles, titled “We Out Here.” If you need a business plan for your next DIY startup or venture, Norm’s hustle and grind philosophy behind making his own machines is pretty rock solid.
Be sure to check out Norm’s instagram and personal website for some insane tattoos and lots of typographic eye candy.
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