Scratching the Surface: Rocko

February 17, 2015 | Aymann Ismail

ANIMAL showcases a different street artist regularly in our feature, Scratching the Surface. This week, we profileRocko.

Naoufal Alaoui aka Rocko

Decade you were born in:

City you currently live:

Drugs or natural highs?
Hey, I’m from Morocco — the Hashish land.

How did you get your name?
When I was selling Arabic tattoo designs in Sunset Park they were calling me “Morocco.” It started to sound like “Rocko.”


Why do what you do?
Working at the Brooklyn Tattoo Gallery in Sunset Park was an important part of my art career! Being on the streets and involved in the tattoo business and getting to know all the gangs and all the emotions and the drama that come with the tattoo, it felt like a dead-end road at some point. Frank, who was the owner of the shop and a mentor, told me to get out there and start selling wall pieces and do commissioned murals. I’ve been practicing Arabic calligraphy for 34 years and it feels good to paint an Arabic mural and show the world what has been hidden in the studio!

How does your mother feel about your art?
You know in the Arab world, calligraphy is a divine thing. My mother is very happy with it and thinks it’s a blessing.

Are you making a living off your art? How’s that working out so far?
I sell tattoo designs and wall pieces and paint commissioned walls for Middle Eastern businesses. It could be better…

Fuck the art world or embrace the art world?
Art is freedom of expression, feelings, stories, emotions, lessons shared with others through colors and brush strokes. So I say YES to art!

Do you bring your smart phone into the bathroom with you? Why?
Nope! It’s called restroom for a reason.


Do you ever feel like giving up?
Yes! I give up on humanity when I hear comments on my work being unoriginal or fake without knowing who I am. what I paint is actually Arabic lettering and accents with a mix of Arabic architectural arts that’s been around for 1,500 years!

Suggest an artist to follow.
Vers and Zimad.