interview: jean-michel basquiat collaborator bomb-one revives samo & reveals exclusive pictures

June 1, 2017

Nearly 40 years after the “SAMO© IS DEAD” pieces went up, friend and collaborator Al Diaz, aka graffiti art pioneer Bomb-One, has revived the legendary moniker, posting new messages through the streets and subway stations of New York City. SAMO©’s timely resurgence comes in this time which perhaps most closely parallels the socioeconomic and political decay from the 1970s when SAMO© was born. Working in partnership with Massachusetts-based creative agency House of Roulx (pronounced ROO), Bomb-One is bringing back a new addition of haunting street-side think pieces that question consumerism, authenticity, and cultural norms. Treating AFROPUNK to an exclusive look at the SAMO© x House of Roulx partnership, Al Daiz answered a few questions for us as well as shared some of his photos from his days working with JMB.

Check out the SAMO© x House of Roulx partnership collection, here

Vintage SAMO©

Erin White: What inspired the return of SAMO©?

Al Diaz aka Bomb-One: The incident that actually “threw the switch” for the new wave of SAMO© graffiti was Donald Trump winning the election. I needed an outlet for expressing my disappointment with our nation as a whole. I can only say but so much with my WET PAINT signage due to the restrictions (3 vowels, 21 characters in total). Dragging SAMO© out of retirement was the natural solution.

SAMO© x House of Roulx

EW: What was it like creating new pieces under the SAMO© moniker without Jean-Michel Basquiat?

AD: Let’s not forget that JMB was the only person who ever wrote SAMO© IS DEAD…and then proceeded to show (early on in his career ) as SAMO©. It’s an awkward situation ONLY because it originated as a collaboration. We always had distinct voices. Our collaborations were always edited and finally agreed upon but we always had our separate ideas.These ideas were generally harmonious. The recent wave of SAMO©s are obviously in my voice. 40 years later.


EW: Urban Decay just released a Basquiat-themed make-up collection, thoughts on that? What do you think he’d think about it?

AD: I strongly believe that if JMB were able to witness the URBAN DECAY BASQUIAT THEMED MAKE’UP COLLECTION, he would be appalled, offended and find it depressing. I certainly think that it is ludicrous. Yet another greed motivated “Basquiat Burger” type exploitative venture.


EW: How did the collaboration between House of Roulx and SAMO© come together?

AD: House of Roulx and I were introduced through a mutual associate. We are currently involved in a variety of merchandising and promotion projects. The relationship has been mutually gratifying thus far.

Photographed by Al Diaz, circa 1976. Courtesy of Al Diaz and House of Roulx

photographer unknown, circa 1976. Courtesy of Al Diaz and House of Roulx

EW: What are you guys hoping people will take away from the SAMO© and House of Roulx collaboration?

AD:The collaboration is a commercial venture. The purpose being to make SAMO© ephemera, collectables etc., available to those who are interested in it.


EW: Will there be more in the future?

AD: I have no expiration date on the current SAMO© project ( or any other project for that matter) so it is quite likely that we will continue to see new SAMO© graffiti created.