Man, I wish I had just one Spalding to have on my shelf—that was so key to so many games. It only cost 50 cents, and you got to play for hours and hours, or until you lost that damn ball. We’d play dozens of street games. Kick the can; stickball; punchball; stoopball; red light, green light, one, two, three; ring-the-levio—which some people call ringolevio, and some people coco-levio. The hand-clap games—the girls would clap and slap their hands together. Skelzies, where you draw this kind of boxy diagram with numbers from one to thirteen and shoot bottle caps into the little playing field. On almost every street you’d see either jump single rope or double Dutch. The girls did that all day. I could jump the single rope, but to do double Dutch—that was unfathomable! And they would have these cool, rhythmic chants that would go along with the jumping. You didn’t need much. You needed some chalk; you’d get on the street, you’d draw this, you’d draw that. There were other things that would come up at different times of the year—there would be a certain time period when the little corner stores would sell yo-yos, and it would be yo-yo season. And then there would be these spinning tops where you’d wind the string around a top, and you could flick your wrist and throw it on the ground and it would spin. Water pistols would pop up periodically. You would run to the corner store to get these things, and you’d all be into that until that next thing rolled around.
Recently I started to wonder, Wow, what happened? Where did all of this go? And then I remembered: Crack and guns began to really hit the streets of New York. Street games almost grew extinct.
Later I was into the whole comic-book concept. I guess a lot of kids would split their comic-book interest—either DC Comics or Marvel Comics—but I was into all of it. I thought the Silver Surfer was pretty hot. Of course, the Black Panther was the Marvel comic where they had a character who actually was an African-American—that was a pretty huge thing way back then. And the whole comic-book concept of adapting this alternative persona was a big inspiration on the development of hip-hop culture. Case in point: Since I’m the fastest D.J., I’m going to call myself Grandmaster Flash. You’d create this alternative urban superhero persona who could do all the cool things that you fantasize about doing—graffiti or rap or break-dancing. It inspired a lot of New York City kids. It made me a graffiti artist.