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Tracy 168

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Tracy 168
Michael Christopher Tracy

(1958-02-14)February 14, 1958
DiedSeptember 3, 2023(2023-09-03) (aged 65)
MovementGraffiti, street art
ChildrenSean Tracy
  • James Tracy (father)
  • Florence Martinez (mother)

Michael Christopher Tracy (February 14, 1958 – September 3, 2023),[1] known as Tracy 168, was an American graffiti artist. He pioneered the art form known as wildstyle. Tracy 168 came to be known as one of the most influential graffiti and street artists of all time, as variations of wildstyle writing spread around the world.[2] He is acknowledged to have been a seminal figure in the development of street art.[3] Books about 1970s graffiti feature his car-long paintings with their characteristic kinetic script embellished with flames, arrows as well as cartoon characters and the "Tracy face," a grinning shaggy-haired visage in wrap-around shades.[3]

Early life[edit]

Tracy was born in Manhattan, the son of a truck driver, James Tracy, and Florence Martinez. He grew up there and in the Bronx.[4]

Tracy 168 was an honorary member of the Black Spades. He formed his own group called The Wanted in the 1970s. The Wanted headquarters were in the basement of a building at 166th Street and Woodcrest Avenue in The Bronx.[5]


Tracy was featured extensively in the documentary Just to Get a Rep. He discussed wildstyle and the troubled relationship between graffiti and the established art world.[6] In July 2006, a 1984 work by Tracy covered a subway car door. The work was shown at the Brooklyn Museum of Art during its month-long exhibit, "Graffiti".[7] Tracy was the mentor to many graffitists; Keith Haring and SAMO among them. Despite appearing in major gallery and museum shows, Tracy maintained a solid street presence with his street murals in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Tracy 168 is famous for his tags of a drawing called Purple Haze which relates and serves as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.[8] The artwork was part of the Experience Music Project.


Michael Tracy was discovered unresponsive inside a Wendy's restaurant on September 3, 2023 and reportedly died there of an apparent heart attack at the age of 65.

A memorial was held for him at the Norwood’s Valentine–Varian House, on Saturday, November 18, 2023 to remember the local artist. Organizers said the location, home to the Bronx Historical Society, was chosen due to its proximity to the Williamsbridge Oval park, where Tracy spent much of his youth, according to his son Sean Tracy.


  1. ^ Pape, Chris (October 18, 2023). "Tracy 168: Remembering the King of Wild Style Graffiti". Rock the Bells.
  2. ^ "The top famous street artists ever".
  3. ^ a b "The Vivid Tombstones of Fordham; In the Bronx, a Painter Keeps Alive the Names of Victims". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Williams, Alex (October 28, 2023). "Michael Tracy, Who Made Subway Trains His Canvas, Dies at 65". New York Times.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Randall. (December 2007). LAbyrinth : a detective investigates the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the implication of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the origins of the Los Angeles Police scandal (First Grove Press ed.). New York. pp. 71–72. ISBN 9781555847432. OCLC 881686209. TRACY 168 was a white street kid so tough that he became a sort of honorary member of the Black Spades, until he formed his own group, The Wanted, which maintained a permanent headquarters in the basement of a building at the corner of 166th Street and Woody-crest Avenue.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ "Just to Get a Rep - graffiti/hip-hop documentary - Deluxe Edition". Vimeo. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  7. ^ "Michael Tracy - Crazy Tracy - 1984". About. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Gallery of Wall Murals by Michael Tracy, TRACY 168, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Bronson and Others". Retrieved 8 October 2014.

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