There’s no denying how influential graffiti has been on urban culture since graffiti went global in the mid-1980s.
Spreading far beyond its birthplace on the East Coast of the US, graffiti writers hungry to stand out from the noise needed to put their names up as much as possible.
After all, gaining recognition and respect is one of the biggest reasons graffiti is so appealing.
Although putting out high-quality work with style is great, it’s not usually enough for graffiti writers to gain infamy or legendary status.
Being a notorious graffiti artist is about quantity. Bonus points if you got style, and/or consistently paint hard-to-reach or dangerous spots.
With that out the way, here’s a look at some of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists.
Note: There are thousands of notorious graffiti artists out there. This list is based on the author’s opinions and the information available.
Klops began his graffiti career back in 2010, and ever since, he’s been known for his unique approach to graffiti.
Klops isn’t your typical rinse-and-repeat graffiti writer. He’s not afraid to mix things up with different styles or to add his iconic cartoon characters.
Klops keeps his letter style clean and legible too, so don’t expect any hard to read wildstyle lettering any time soon.
Although his home country is the US, his graffiti spans far beyond that. He’s been known to travel to South America and Europe to link up with other writers for street bombing sessions.
Wekman (A.K.A Weck, Wek, Wekboy) is part of Russia’s infamous OSM crew. A graffiti crew filled with some of the most notorious graffiti writers from Russia, Eastern Europe and beyond.
Wekman is well known for documenting his graffiti missions on his YouTube channel. Everything from street tags, throw-ups, track sides and train bombing can be found on his channel, including graffiti supply reviews.
His brazen, no f***’s given approach to putting his name up everywhere is what earns him a spot on this list.
Wekman isn’t afraid to tag anything in his path with variations of his name and crew letters.
18. Lady K
In a male-dominated subculture, Lady K is an artist that makes us think twice about the person behind a tag.
Originating from Paris, Lady K has been painting since the 90s and has made a name for herself ever since.
Like most graffiti artists that were active around that time, Lady K was inspired by the NYC subway train scene. Writers featuring in graffiti books and documentaries like Subway Art and Style Wars became her inspiration.
Lady K is a solid example of a well-rounded graffiti writer.
She can drop insane, complex full-color pieces at a graffiti jam, whilst also not being afraid to hit street tags right in front of the public.
Rens is undoubtedly one of Copenhagen’s most infamous graffiti legends, playing a big part in pushing Copenhagen’s train bombing scene in the 80s.
Like the start of many graffiti careers, graffiti media coming out of NYC in the 80s inspired a generation of graffiti writers across the globe.
Copenhagen was no exception, as writers like Rens replicated NYC’s train bombing scene in their own city.
From straight letters to tags and throw-ups, Rens can do it all. He’s part of the infamous TAV crew too, which stands for The A-Line Vandals (a favourite train line for bombing).
Rens still paints the occasional piece to this day, so keep an eye out if you’re ever in Copenhagen (or anywhere around the world, in fact).
Originating from Paris, Kidult isn’t your typical graffiti writer. His destructive style of art mixed with activism separates him from other graffiti artists who only care about getting their names up.
Kidult is infamously known for vandalising the shop fronts of luxury fashion retailers across global cities like Paris and New York. His main tool for causing damage is a fire extinguisher filled with paint, which allows for massive quick tags.
His most recent stunt came after Balenciaga stole Kidult’s graffiti style and used it on a handbag. To which he reacted by wishing them a ‘Merry Crisis’ (image below).
If you’ve travelled on a motorway in the UK during the last few years, I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen a Helch piece on your journey.
Across the UK but most notably in and around London, Helch has been at the forefront of the roller graffiti scene along with other artists like 2WINS, Man and Artik.
Helch’s infamy status came after he made national news in the UK for painting a 60ft tall piece on a viaduct near Windsor Castle – one of the Queen’s royal residences.
Seen is the first of many NYC legends appearing on this list – and for good reason. He was by far one of the most infamous graffiti writers throughout the 70s and early 80s and is now enjoying legend status along with other artists in his era.
Seen is well known for his work on NYC subway trains, which landed him a feature in Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant’s iconic Subway Art book.
From straight letter pieces to tags and throws, Seen can pretty much do it all. It’s no wonder he’s known as the Godfather of graffiti.
Cap was one of the most notorious artists of his era for his outright disrespectful approach to graffiti.
During the ‘Golden Era of Graffiti’ between the 1970s – 1980s in New York, Cap was infamous for tagging his name over other graffiti artists’ pieces on the NYC subway system.
His approach to graffiti started many beefs with other writers during this time, constantly going over each other whenever they could.
Cap is so influential in graffiti culture, that even today going over someone else’s graffiti is known as ‘capping’ someone.
12. Taki 183
Taki 183 is known for being one of NYC’s first graffiti artists ever since he began tagging his name around the city whilst working as a foot courier during the late 60s – early 70s.
He gained infamy status in 1971 when The New York Times published an article on how NYC teen Taki 183 started to be joined by other graffiti artists writing their names across the city (image below).
Many see this as the start of modern graffiti writing. Taki 183 and others during this time started with simple tags. But over time this transformed into the graffiti styles we know today – from throw-ups, straight letters all the way to murals.
Zomby is one of the most influential graffiti writers to come out of the London graffiti scene ever since graffiti made its way across the Atlantic in the mid-80s.
Part of the infamous DDS crew along with writers like Sub and Cos, Zomby’s style paved the way for a generation of London graffiti artists.
He’s well known for painting the London train system throughout the 90s and remains active in the scene to this day.
Zomby also made a successful career with his graffiti too as he went on to open one of London’s most iconic graffiti stores.
Along with graffiti writers like DONDI and Seen, Skeme is another one of NYC’s graffiti legends – playing a founding role in pushing graffiti worldwide.
Skeme rose to fame after being featured in the graffiti book Subway Art and the graffiti documentary Style Wars in the 80s. His drive for getting up all over the city made him an infamous character in the subway painting scene.
Although you’re unlikely to find Skeme on a subway train any time soon, he’s still active in the New York graffiti scene and is enjoying legendary status.
Everyone involved in London graffiti knows who Oker is. He’s one of London’s most prolific graffiti writers with ties to infamous global crews like XTC and GSD.
Oker tags (including his iconic OK two-letter throw-up) can be found across every corner of London and beyond. His style takes inspiration from NYC’s street bombing scene, where throw-ups and tags are seen as the best ways to get your name up.
Oker has been active since the 90s and still remains on-job to this day. There’s no denying that he’s one of London’s most infamous.
There’s only one word to describe 10Foot: prolific.
He’s by far one of the most dedicated graffiti writers on the globe, having been active since the 2000s.
Although 10Foot tags can be found on pretty much every continent (honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had tags in Antarctica), London is the city he rose to fame in.
There’s no denying 10Foot is a true graffiti bomber. 10Foot has little time for other styles like street art, which he’ll swiftly go over with his iconic tags and throw-ups at any opportunity.
Regardless of whether the city you visit has a graffiti scene or not, chances are 10Foot has his name up somewhere.
7. JA One
JA One is a legend of the 90s NYC graffiti scene – infamous for his two-letter JA throw-up which can be found in every borough of New York. He hasn’t slowed down much too, as you’ll still find him painting to this day.
He’s another graffiti writer focused only on bombing, which is a way of getting your name up as much as possible by painting it everywhere.
He’s hit everything from subway trains to heaven spots, even managing to paint some of the most dangerous spots across NYC and beyond.
He’s part of the infamous XTC crew, which is originally from NYC but has members across the globe.
Zexor (RIP) was an extremely dedicated graffiti writer from NYC, known for his brazen approach to graffiti writing.
Zexor has been known to paint in broad daylight in front of passers-by, not caring at all about what the public thinks of his work. If there’s ever a sign of someone being a dedicated graffiti writer, this is it.
Tributes from other graffiti writers after his death in December 2019 proved how much of an influence he had on the scene. He was undoubtedly one of the most infamous of his time, and we’re sure to see his name around for a long time.
Melbourne graffiti legend Jisoe became one of the most infamous characters in graffiti following the release of the Jisoe Documentary in 2005.
The cult classic graffiti movie follows Jisoe’s life as an active train writer in Melbourne – showing everything from footage painting in the yard to his struggles at home.
The documentary doesn’t romanticise the graffiti lifestyle, unlike some other graffiti movies. The film’s raw and uncut look into Jisoe’s lifestyle is what makes it so enticing.
Although Jisoe isn’t active anymore, he’s left his mark on the Australian graffiti scene and beyond. He still remains one of graffiti’s most famous writers to this day.
Cornbread is widely considered to be one of the world’s first modern-day graffiti artists.
After Cornbread and a group of friends began tagging their names across Philadelphia in the late 1960s, it’s thought that this started the graffiti movement we know today. Graffiti quickly made its way north from Philadelphia to New York City, and the rest is history.
Cornbread is an infamous graffiti writer because he’s believed to be the first to do it.
Cornbread set the fundamentals for graffiti – pick a name and put it up as much as you can. What followed is the graffiti scene we have today.
Robbo (A.K.A King Robbo) is well known as one of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists after starting his graffiti career in the mid-1980s.
Robbo painted his first train in London in 1985 but gained notoriety in 1989 after his ‘Merry Christmas’ train piece alongside Drax WD made the national news (image below).
What followed was a successful graffiti career for Robbo as he became a central part of many of London’s most infamous graffiti crews at the time such as WRH and PFB.
Robbo is also well known for his feud with Bristol graffiti artist Banksy. In 2009 Banksy painted over an original Robbo piece from 1985, which resulted in a back and forth battle for the Camden wall.
Robbo sadly passed away in 2014, but the legacy he left behind means he continues to be influential in the London graffiti scene and beyond.
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Bristol-based Banksy is one of the most infamous artists of the 21st century.
He’s gained worldwide fame for his politically driven graffiti and street art, whilst remaining completely unknown to the public since his career began in the early 1990s.
Although many argue that he’s a street artist and not a graffiti artist (myself included – see graffiti vs street art), he’s still widely recognised as inspiring a generation of graffiti and street artists.
Banksy is still active to this day as he continues to paint occasional street art pieces and host exhibitions throughout the world.
Tox is one of London’s most notorious graffiti writers and was prolific during his most active era throughout the 2000s.
During the peak of his career, ‘Tox’ usually followed by the current year (e.g. TOX03) could be found on every journey of London’s train network. He was known as the ‘King of Taggers’ as his style was focused mainly on illegal tags.
Tox made a breakthrough to infamy following Sky Travel’s Tox Graffiti Special, where the short documentary shows the British Transport Police’s battle to find Tox and bring him to justice.
Tox was eventually jailed in 2011 for his damage across London, much to the controversy of the graffiti world as other artists like Banksy are spared criminal charges for their art.
Nonetheless, Tox is a legendary figure in the graffiti world for his dedication to tagging his name everywhere.
Who did I miss off this list? Drop a comment below and let me know who’d make your list of the most infamous graffiti artists.