Things are fucked up in Detroit. And they’re not just hidden-behind-the-scenes fucked up, but in-your-face fucked up. Throughout the city, there are deep pockets of half-collapsed buildings and blocks of burned-out homes. Once elegant places now look so abandoned that if it was not for the graffiti, there would be virtually no evidence of human activity. The decaying ruins and urban sprawl are what make “the D” such an inviting canvas for writers all across the nation; an aerosol mecca that warrants at least one pilgrimage.

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“Detroit is the best place to paint in America,” said Los Angeles graffiti writer HAELER. ANIMAL caught up with the notorious bomber while he was passing through Motor City. The prolific graffiti writer first started his career in 1987 and paints all over the country (and world), but he never forgets his roots. “Gang graffiti had a big influence on my style growing up,” he said. “It’s all I saw in my hood, so by the fifth grade, I had already mastered all the gang blocks and styles I saw.” He incorporated this signature look and fused it with his own flair, creating an outlawed body of work on the street that manifests itself in a variety of bold “typefaces” incorporating curved and straight letters alike.

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Elected officials, on the other hand, do not appreciate the illicit artform and are currently considering new laws to help combat it. Local council members are debating a change in the current statute that would allow the city to buff graffiti off private property. The proposed legislation could have a drastic effect on the city’s landscape and start chipping away at the graffiti epicenter that Detroit has become.

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Along with his brother-in-arms BEGR, HAELER agreed to paint two spots in the middle of the day, as if it was perfectly legal. “You call me what you want,” he said, “but at the end of the day I am a professional VANDAL.”

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Although he is thoroughly committed to bombing the streets, HAELER does eventually see a more legal avenue to display his work. “My time is coming in the gallery world,” he said, “I still got places to go and places to see and the longer I hold out the bigger the demand.”

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(Video/Photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)