For most graffiti artists in Beirut, the two stores in town are way too expensive. “You can find spray paint at any regular paint store in this city,” local graffiti artist PHAT 2 says.

PHAT 2’s been writing since 2008. He’s 25 now, and runs one of the top crews in Beirut, ACK (All City Kings). BAROK is the newest member of ACK, he’s 20, his tag a variation of the French art baroque, which he studied in college.

First stop: a common paint store, which sells spray paints for about $2 apiece. They both look up at the jugs of paint that line the ceiling. “All that paint makes you want to do something big,” PHAT 2 says.

Next stop: a quiet back road down a hill, revealing a large, beige-colored wall (filled with mostly irrelevant tags) that abuts a highway.

Using eight cans (four black, two chrome, two orange), a pair of cement blocks they found nearby, and, at times, PHAT 2’s shoulders, they get to work. A few random people walk through the alley, no one seemed to care; ACK didn’t once seem to notice them.

It takes two hours. At the end, PHAT 2 tags the bottom “Ass Cheek Klub.”

“I had ass cheeks on me all day,” he says, meaning BAROK’s.

They leave, tagging ACK on their walk back up the hill. The three main crews in Beirut are ACK, REK (Red Eye Kamikazes – “They wanna legalize what gives you red eyes,” according to PHAT 2), and Ashekman (twin brothers who are also rappers and sell merchandise out of their Beirut store).

They say the scene is really only about 10 years old, but that it’s is growing here, even if PHAT 2 says what they do is technically illegal.

“They have laws against painting on public property without permission,” he says. “Like every city in the world. It’s just easier to get away with it here.”

(Photos: Amy K. Nelson for ANIMALNewYork)