We are pleased to announce the historical release publication of “Subway Writer” Duro CIA Top. In this intriguing and fascinating adventure of one of New York City's prolific underground artists of the mid 1970s, a subculture in which, depending on your point of view, has raised debates among the art community and the New York City officials who spent millions of dollars to eradicate and destroy the only contemporary American art form in history.
What started as a youth rebellion and political unrest in the streets of New York City has become a worldwide phenomenon, which has encouraged hundreds of thousands of young artists across the globe. Notwithstanding the criticism of their community and their family’s scrutiny; although in this publication Duro has covered the years 1957 to 1985, he intends to write the second publication of the same title ”CAUSE I AM” that cover the years 1986 to 2012, revealing a few subjects that not only will entertain you, but also state the facts about his life.

Unlike many books of this subject that deals with statements or quotes from different individuals, Duro conceived, wrote and has published his book himself. This achievement is a passionate undertaking considering that Duro has a learning disorder, little education, and no editorial experience. Duro with the help of today's technology is able to convey his desire to communicate to the public, that anything is possible when you are committed to following your dreams.

History manifests itself by past events, and outcomes that are remembered by civilizations and individuals, and once it is written down, it is not changeable, it is what it is, and very few of us, actually get to participate or be one of the subjects of history. Our dreams are connections of our self-consciousness. It is our desire to reach the unreachable; to dare you to overcome your limitations and boundaries, which is only attainable if you do not give up on yourself. “CAUSE I AM” who I say I am. The News Breaker Himself.

EMAIL -  to be added on pre-order list.

Below are a few sample pages

Mare139 - ‘His’ Story ‘Our’ Story

Futura Out-Takes from The Creative Lives on Vimeo.


RELEASE DATE / MID 2012 /  until announcement is posted!

self-publish by Duro Cia Top &

THIS BOOK WILL NOT BE available in stores

124 pages over 110 pages in colors


Hey Duro,
I've begun to read your book. It is a big achievement and I'm very happy that you have written it. I have always said, that after outsiders like me have written what we did, the important thing was for people like yourself, the actual participants, tell their story. Your book gives confidence that you are telling it like it is, no exaggeration, not embellishment, just the facts and first hand emotions straight from the horses mouth.
Henry Chalfant.

It has been over 10 years in the making; I had promised that one day I would tell my story. What I am about to do now, is to take you back to the mid-1970’s. We were just kids running around playing, and doing what I guess is what every kid around the world does, in search of adventure.  I have symptomatic and artistically composed some of the many adventures throughout my years. I have touched many subjects, in which I believe will entertain you and at the same time, I will share with you some truth behind my true-life stories and escapade, in a world full of stars legends kings, and icons.  Cause I Am / Who I Say I Am

Some of the subjects I write about are as follows.

1. Truth behind the CIA KINGS.

2. The truth and facts behind the shooting of PG 3

3. The real story behind the Graff wars of the 1980’s.

4. The death of family, and friends

5. The gallery do, and don’ts

6. Fame and destruction

7. Drugs and treatment

8. Vandal squad

9. Friends, enemies, and betrayals

10. Lies and liars

11. Families and Friends, that I have forgiven, and the love of God

I do intend on publishing the second half of this title “CAUSE I AM”, in the meantime, in this release I have covered the years 1957 to 1985. I have left out many important aspects of my life, mainly from the years 1986 to 2011. However, in this publication I have shared, the truth about false lies and rumors, Now that I have written down my story, I expect that there is going to be a bunch of haters, they will come out to play. In closing, My advice to the young artists of tomorrow is, this observation.

When you make friends, or acquaintances which ever you prefer, keep in mind the following. If the person you hang out with, or you  sharing your life with, begins to talk bad about someone in your presence, listen carefully to what he, or she is saying, because what is stopping them from talking about you, this is the way you know, what kind of character, and person he or she truly are. It is not the contents of the skin, but the content of integrity and honesty.

Final words: I forgive but I do not forget, God is love,


In this section, I have composed a list of writers that were part of the New York City Transit Authority Art Movement. My goal is to take back our rightful terminology of our art form.  “Subway Artist- Subway Painters” or “Subway Writers” is more appropriate in describing our activities and adventures.

Since the very beginning, the foundation of our art form has always been in the name. I have used the term graffiti many times in the pass, but by no means have I ever considered myself, a graffiti vandal. I myself wrote on the inside of subway cars, to me it was a statement that had to be made, It was one of many tools of the trade, that I use in getting up, going bombing, going hitting.

Traveling from borough to borough, trying to put up my name up in every spot or places as possible. The way I have seen it, was if you wanted to call a king. Then you had to do everything that was requited of you. In order for me to succeed in acquiring my goals, by going all city, tagging, throw-ups, whole cars, and “Top to Bottom” was part of my determination, to gain status only given to you by your peers.

                                                                                                                                                                             Simply put, we were writers, and what we created was art, we were expressing our condition in our ghettos, and against the establishment.  I will try to name the many writes that gave their lives, to this art form. I am acknowledging their contributions to our history.

If I forgot some names, I apologize. We have all played a little part in this art form, so I respect each, and every one of you, that dare to dream. I honor you. When I wrote the following statement.                                                              

The Legends, Thou Kings, The Icons, from the people to the people.



I felt my body shake, and I was out of breath, I could not hear myself screaming, I was gasping for air! I was trying to tell my mom, please mommy please don’t, I will be good However, as I was observing my surroundings, I saw that I was not the only kid there, that was screaming and crying. Hearing and seeing that I was not alone, I grab on to one of my mother's legs, as tight as I could, I was yelling, that I did not wanted to stay there, no please! I wanted to go home. Then I heard my mom telling me to stop crying. She told me that she was going to be right outside in the hallway, look at your brother he is not crying, she said, everything is going be okay, I will stop by the store, on our way home, and I will buy you a big bag of candy.

However, I did not care, if she was getting me a big bag of candy; the candy still was not enough for me to stop crying, for sure, I thought, it was a trick. I heard these promises before, what I really wanted was to get out of that place. You see that was my first day of school, I did not understand what the hell this school thing was, all I saw was a bunch of tables, chairs, and all those kids screaming and crying, I thought that this got to be a bad place, Why did I had to stay there? I wanted my mother to tell me, come on Cuco we are going home.

PS.175 - Brownville Brooklyn 1965

Then from behind me, I heard a lady’s voice saying, it is ok Raul," this was the very first time, that I had ever heard my real name. She said, your mom is not going anywhere, I thought to myself, who is she talking to, who is this Raul, as far as I knew, that was not my name, my name was Cuco, it could not have been me that she was talking to! Again, she said, your mother is going to be staying in the back of the classroom. I refuse to believe what that person was telling me, I did not know who she was; it turns out that she was my first grade teacher. She told me to sit down here, and she pointed to a row of tables and chairs, and then she told me they are yours, I thought, this woman must be crazy; I was not going to sit anywhere, but with my mother.

After a little while, I sat down, but still I was not feeling any safer, every now and then, I would turn my head around to see if mom was still sitting, in the back of the room. Then I heard the woman saying to all the kids, that it was now time for snacks, I thought to myself, Oh No! What now, I did not understand what she was saying. But then I saw that she started walking around the class, and she begun to hand out cookies and milk, by this time, I was very beat, tired and very hungry, after I  had finish eating, I started to feel a little better, that was because I knew, that my mom was still in the back of the classroom. Then she said okay kids, we were going to take a little nap, and again I thought in my mind, what is this woman talking about this time? I look back at mom to get some kind of reaction from her, but by the look on her face, I knew she also did not understand what that woman was saying either.

Then the clock struck 12 noon, she announced to the class, that it was recess for the day. I was still hungry, so I thought that she was going to give us some more cookies and milk. To my surprise, it was finally all over, one by one, I saw all the kids in the class, started to get up from their chair, and started running towards their parents, in one swift move, before I even realize it, I had my arms tightly around my mother’s waist. Once again, I was holding onto my mom for dear life. I was going to make sure, that my mother was not going to leave me there.

For the next couple of months, my mother had to come to school with me; and she had to stay in the classroom, until I began to feel better, and more comfortable in that place. One day I had a funny feeling that something was very wrong. I turn my head to see if my mom was there, but she was gone. I stood up, and immediately I ran, as I was getting close, I felt that somebody was running behind me, then she grabbed one of my arms, I started screaming for my mother. I was telling her, where is she, where is my mother; I was reaching out to grab the door, but just as I got to the knob. My teacher pulled me back from the door, picked me up, and then she took me back to my seat, as she turned to walk away from me.

I broke loose, and I started running to the closet, I was still shouting, and gasping for air. I open the door, and I went in, then I pulled down all the coats, that were hanging, and I cover myself, I found a little corner in the back of the closet, I rolled up in a fetal position like a little ball, still crying my little lungs out, I was screaming Mami, I want my mommy. Underneath that mountain of sweaters, and coats, I had found my comfort, and soon I had fallen asleep. Later on, I had learn that the school, had sent somebody to pick up my mother, they wanted her to help them get me out of the closet, and year’s later mom told me the story.

We were living in Brooklyn, in the Brownsville section; it must have been in the mid-1960, around 65 or 66. I always remember, that my brother and I, was always sitting by our front window. Our apartment was on the fifth floor, my brother, and I would spend days, just watching all the kids in our block playing. We were never, allowed to go outside. Mom would always tell us, that it was too dangerous for us, to be outside; through those windows, I saw many fights, people sniffing glue. I did not know what they were doing, but mom would explain to us that it was something bad; it was not until a few years later, that I found out, that the group of people that we saw running that day, was actually a street Gang. That was pretty much how our lives were back then. It was like watching a movie on TV, everything was in fast motion, at times the action would slow down enough, that we were able to watch the cops, chasing a bunch of those kids, going up and down the block, they were still holding on to their bag of glue, running into the abandoned buildings. They looked to me as if they were cartoons, but in living color. Not the way, we always saw it on TV, where everything we watched was in black and white.


A few years later, I finally graduated to the 8th grade, and I was going to be attending, Bushwick High School. In 1974, we have moved back to the East New York section of Brooklyn, this time our new apartment was on Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Avenue. I kept going to Bushwick High School; I never inform the school that we had moved. Having to take the train to school, it gave me a chance to tag on the trains. I thought this was the only way, which writers were tagging on the trains. We use to call it motion tagging, but later on, I found out about the train lay- ups, and train yards. Even though I thought that I was a writer, little that I knew, that I was not a real writer. Until 1975, we were playing handball, in the back of Maxwell High School for girls. That summer I began to notice around my neighborhood, many throw-ups.


There were some tags by the EX Vandals, and the Top Crew. Then one day I began to see the name CD a lot, I knew it was short for Crazy Dike from the Top Crew. Edwin, who I have met already, but I had no idea he wrote Sid the Kid, or that he was Dike’s brother. He use to play handball with me, I finally knew a real writer and they were from the Top crew, even if you was not a writer, you knew who they were. Back then, they had bombed, every single train car; you could not miss seeing their names, Especially IN TOP AKA KILL3, TOTOP AKA MICKEY 729 OITOP AKA HURST, DY 167 JESTER, IO TOP, and JEE2 AKA JAMES TOP they were legends in the game back in those days, and continue to be today.

Later that year, I met most of the writers in the Top crew, in those days everybody in our neighborhood was writing too. The media had labeled our writing as vandalism; they called it graffiti of the ghetto. They had written in a newspaper article that it was mostly Hispanic kids, and African-American kids, that were out of control, defacing the city. Nevertheless, the truth was that graffiti was not exclusive to the slums of New York City there were plenty of white kids in the rich neighborhoods, that was writing graffiti also.

One day we were all hanging out in the back of the schoolyard, we were tagging up the walls; we had just finished racking up some spray paint (stealing). When this kid that we knew, who also use to fly pigeons with us, back in them days. He was with a friend of mine who also wrote “NONO” came into the park. We knew him as Don, and his friend as Pnut, they had seen us tagging. Then Don ask little IK, it’s short for (Crazy Ik aka Incredible Hulk) if he could take a tag, Ik then gave him a can to tag with, we were surprised that he was a tagger too, he said yeah, I tag up too. He took a tag that said, Naco, I was like you kidding me right, you are the one who is writing Naco? I have seen those tags around the neighborhood, and on the trains, but Dike quickly whisper to me that he was not the original Naco, I really did not care back then, I was not a full-fledged writer anyway, and I hardly knew the history. All I knew was that he was, like one of us kids that wrote around the neighborhood. From that day forth, he came almost every day to the park, which we all hanged out in, we would be drinking beers, and smoking weed. Don became my handball partner, we both were good handball players, and unstoppable, we beat everybody,

One morning we decided to go racking up paint, (steal) because the day before Sid had told us that he and his cousin Ik, had gone to the double LL lay-up. He got my cousin Flin and I, all exaggerated up about it. We ask them if they would take us, I was saying to myself, wow this is what I always wanted to do, was to go hitting the trains. My cousin Ray and I, his tag was Flin, It is short for (Flintstone) wanted to go hitting too, because Sid had told us, that they was going bombing again.  I had one major problem, I had a 7pm curfew, I spent hours trying to figure out, how was I going to be able, to go bombing, Sid told us that the best time to go to the lay-up was after 11pm at night. I had to come up with an excuse, to tell my mom, I would tell her, that we were going to the movie theater in the city, we figure out that the last show ended at 11pm, so we had an hour to get back home from the movies.

I knew that we were going to need more time; but it was not that hard for me, because I had told my mom the same excuse before, that the train had been delayed we also had to figure out where we were going to hang out. It was a long gap between hours. We left my house at 8pm, it was 3-hour difference, and we decided to hang out at the corner club, where we always use to hang out, to play pool. I must admit waiting to go bombing was excruciating, not to mention that I knew that it was going to be scary.

Finally, the time had come for us to head to the lay-up. When we were leaving the pool hall, we had to make sure none of my parent’s friends would see us; we took the long way to the lay-up. The night was very cold, the wind was blowing hard, and the branches of the trees were breaking off.  When we finally had reached the block, Ik told Flin to hold his bag, then he proceeded to climb up alone the iron support beams, I could not believe that this was the way, to get up to the lay- ups. I told them I was not going to climb that beam; I said, shit bro this is too dangerous, I ask if there was any other way to the lay-up, I look up, and I saw that Ik was more than half way up the beam. Sid told me, come on bro I will help you climb up,


A few weeks later Kel, Dondi and I painted our last whole car together on the BMT’s J line. It was a Dondi, Sono aka Duro and Welch aka Kel First. CIA KINGS IS WHAT DONDI, KEL AND I CALL OURSELF, AND CIA’ERS AS WELL. I think the Dondi piece he painted in this whole car is one of his best pieces he has ever painted. Noc 167 was a big influence on Dondi back then.


During this period, I painted a few more whole cars on the BMT and IND’s subway lines in which I do not have photos of, I remember the pieces by name; I hope that one day I could find a photo of any of them. I am missing the following  pieces and whole cars.

An unfinished T2B whole car the Kid 56, Duro on the 4 line, A Criminals Invading Again on the BMT J line, A Kist, Duro T2B whole car, on the IND’S CC line, A Prisoners Of Graffiti window down whole car on the BMT M line, also I painted a few more piece on the IRT’s 2 line, We’re Not Criminals on the  IRT’s 5 line, A Min, Duro T2B whole car on the 3 line, A Duro, Crime 79 window down whole car on the BMT’s J line, A News Breaker, Kist on the  BMT’s J line.

But most important to me is my last piece on the trains, it was a Duroc T2B whole car on the BMT’s LL line, funny how I started my first piece on the double LL line, and I did my last piece on the trains in the same double LL lay-up.

It was a cold night out and Deal was coming to Dondi house cause they had plan to go to Utica lay-up and paint a Top Two Bottom whole car, Dondi call me up and ask me if I wanted to go, I had 11 cans, so I told him yeah I was down to go. This was my first one-man (T2B), whole car. I was drunk that night and we had been smoking all day, Deal finally arrived at Dondi’s house.  We then left, it was a full moon out and I was very eager to go bombing, it is a feeling that only writers would know about. This was my second trip to Utica lay-up. Everything that night felt as if I were moving in slow motion  some kind of suspended animation, we had to climb up this metal gates then we had to go through this hole in the fence. The entrance of the tunnel was like two long blocks away. We headed along the catwalk, there are three lanes of tracks, and one of the lanes was lower than the other two. I had to jump down, and then we had to run down this long ass tunnel, because if the train was coming we would have been trap between the train and the wall, there was no clearance where we had to go to, or for sure, a train would have run us over.

We finally got to the spot where we painted before, last time we were there; we had stashed two ladders we had found. One ladder was small and the other ladder was long. Dondi and Deal took the small ladder, I was stuck with the big ladder, and it was so big that I had to rest the bottom of the ladder against the back wall, the top of the ladder rested on the top of the train. I had to be careful walking on this ladder, at the same time I had to balance myself, just to reach close enough to reach the train to start my piece. I would bet that when Deal read this story he is going to die laughing.



Here I was dangling in the air trying to paint my piece. I do not know how I ever manage to paint my piece that night but I did, anyway during one of my climbs the ladder slip off the top of the train. I went flying in the air; I landed in-between two of the steps of the ladder and almost broke my balls. This is not the first and last time I would fall in a tunnel. I will explain it later in more detail in my next journey to the underworld. I ended up breaking off a piece of the ladder to make it smaller for me to use, the ladder was still long but I did not have to be dangling in the air with the greatest of ease.


Style for me is a way of life, from the very beginning of our birth God gives each one of us our very own unique style. If you stop for a second and look back at your life, you will find that more than 75% of what make you a person is what we have learn through out our short lives on earth, in one form or another from people just like yourself.

I define my style as having no ends, I can do and go anywhere, and I can determine in which direction I choose to create or do. I refuse to put limits on my process of thinking or seeing the world as being just a physical environment of my body, so with my God given talent I allowed my mind to experience a new world beyond my limitations.

                                                                                                                          DURO CIA TOP





I started painting model train over 10 years ago, the energy came floating back to me as if I was still in the yard in the mist of rusted metal. I felt the same drive that I had many years ago, where getting up and taking king of all the lines, was my goal. As I sit here, I cannot help but to remember my three friends Dondi, Shy, and Kist, whom went with me on many adventures, yes there is an empty space in my heart. I go on today knowing that one day I would get to be with them again in heaven. We will once again take kings of the all lines. Transit Original Printers I also would like to thank “Sain TOP CIA” for his support and love and who I consider one of my best friends.








Since I was very young, I had always been interested in the arts, drawing is one of the things that I have done in my life, where it felt very natural to me. In this place is where I could let my thoughts run free, I could create my own world, in which I could be in charge of my dreams. In a world, where I can choose my imaginary friends of characters, I can choose their personalities, the way they talk, walk, and even think. In this world, I have full control, on how I wanted to be treated; my characters accept me for who I am, with no strings attached. I would always spend hours sketching, and drawing what I saw around me, and I was good at it too. In my first art class in school, I found a place to hide in; my teacher would compliment me on my drawings. That encourages me to expand my imaginary characters. Even though my teacher had no idea of my secret world, she helped me from my tormentors at school. As I write this I realize that in one way, or another I have always been tormented in my life, it really never has stopped, but I always had someone by my side, even though I have known this person all my life, I was blind to the fact, that he has been with me every step of the way. He had created me, and at times I know I have failed him, but he has always loved me unconditionally, and there have been times when I thought to myself, I suppose If I was him I don’t think I would  have forgiven me, as easily as he is to forgive all of us, but time, and again he has. Not only has he forgiven me, but he has also taught me that before I can come to him for his forgiveness, I first had to forgive all the people that had hurt me in my life. All of a sudden, I realized how much sense it all makes, how I could have not seen it before, how can I expect to be forgiven, when I have not forgiven my tormenters, it's all so clear for me now. I most forgive first, in order to ask for forgiveness. I know that by now you are wondering, what this paragraph above has anything to do with how I started my story. When you are, accuse of something horrible, and you know it is not true; you can only go on with your life. I have forgiven them all. I am so great full that I have had a small part to play, in an art movement that has grown from the streets of New York City to the world. I find it funny now, that when this whole gallery thing, first came about in the 80’s, I chose to pass on it, because I love the secrecy of remaining unknown, and only a few knew my identity. I believe so much in what I had learned from the Top Crew, and in the traditions, they handed down to me. Ever since, I have carried the torch with respect and pride. I also saw that the gallery owners were very greedy, and wanted to get rich off the artist's hard work; I wanted no part of that. Years later Dondi told me that I was correct about them, he felt cheated. My dear friend Dondi had learned this lesson the hard way; he told me he felt betrayed, by those who were helping him when he first was making his transition from metal to canvas. Back then I also felt I was too active, and I knew I was wanted by the vandal squad, It got too hot for me, I had just been interviewed for a TV special, and Craig Castleman had published a book, and there I was on the front cover in the yard, showing the world how it was done.

Shy 147, who knew Hickey and ski, told me that they had told him, in so many words that if they ever caught me one day, somebody was going to break my hands. I was hot, on the IRT’s 2’s and 5’s line, so I laid low for a while, I had just stopped going to the BMT’s J lines, because of all the whole cars we had done on the line. Kist had gotten stopped by two cops that had busted his cousin, they ask Kist to give me a message, and they told him that I had gotten away last week, in the A yard by the skin of my ass. They told him how pissed off they were that they miss me by mere seconds, because they saw all the damage, that I have had done to the insides, they had wiped my tag with their hand, and they found out that the ink was still fresh and wet. Therefore, I went back to BMT'S lines again. I was not ready for the art world, Dondi had tried to encourage me to paint, we even went to all of  the abandoned buildings in our neighborhood, and we took all the wood panels that covered the windows, we decided to use them to paint on, and use them as canvases. Years later, we joke about it, we had 30 panels in his basement; people looked at us like if we were crazy. You will read more about this as I go alone. Flash forward to 1998, I had just come home,

That same week James Top got in contact with me, and asks me if I would like to stop by the gallery because, he had organized an exhibition to honor Dondi, I had no idea, that the movement, was very much alive. I went to the show, when I got there, this reporter stuck a microphone out, and started asking me all these questions, I was very much surprised. I had stopped writing, way back in 1985, but in an instant, I reverted back, to that Duro character again, you see because of my fame. I learn to stay away, from cameras or let anyone take a photo of me, I would have to guess, that's because I did not let anybody get too close to me, people didn’t like me much, I guess they thought I had a chip on my shoulders. The truth is that because I been hurt too many times in my life, I let my Duro character live again, very much antisocial. I bring this on myself, because I am the kind of person, that do not walk up to people, and say hey how you doing, or what is up. I do not mean to disrespect anyone. This is how I learn to protect myself, ever since I was a kid. I taught myself that I was not good enough to hang out with, or talk to anyone. My mechanism reacts, and kicks in to defend myself, it pops up at times, to protect my inner child. In other words, I have a hard time trusting anyone.

In the last 13 years, I started painting again; first because I had made a promise to Dondi, years ago that I would one day show my artwork in galleries. In the beginning, a few friends were helpful, better yet; those who I thought was my friends, had encouraged me to paint, it so happens they betray me, just as they had done to my friend Dondi. The difference is that, I always knew their intentions, and motives; you see when a grown man shakes your hand. Then turn around, and talk about you behind your back, in my eyes they are not man enough, or have no balls to tell it to my face, to me they are bitches. When you read this you will know who you are, one thing I have never been was a punk. I just had to put this in writing, stop making phone calls, or going on the internet, and step to me, when you see me, you see as little as I am I will fight you, if you beat me up that’s all good, but I will still walk away as a man. I am sorry for the interruption my friends. Anyway, below I have put together, a range of some of my artwork, each one tells a story, if you know what to look for, I  have hidden some symbols that have a more intense meaning, than what the ordinary eyes, is able to glance at first look. I added just a few of my works, I wish I can show my whole body of work, but publishing a book myself, I have to cut down on the cost. I have left out, most of my old work, I intend to leave it unpublished, for my family to manage when I am gone.




I have participated and been involved in many exhibitions, publications, and films but by far and biggest accomplishment has to be when the Whitney Museum published the American Century. To think that they would chose two of my whole car paintings, to grace the pages of the American Century is an honor that I do not take lightly. I am speechless that my artwork was included alongside many of the greatest artists in the last century, is a great honor to be among such masters, it does not compare to anything that I could have ever imagined.  These kinds of honor are basically bestowed upon artists who have passed away; and here I am alive and able to appreciate the magnitude of this accomplishment. I was the first writer to be feature on the front cover of a book and I was the first writer to be interview for a TV special.



The American Century Art & Culture by The Whitney Museum of American Art, by Lisa Phillips                                                                                            PHOTOS Henry Chalfant



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