The Buff Daddy: The Guy Who Paints Over Street Art

Nov 30, 2016

Buffing is what it’s called when you paint over someone else's work, erasing it. The Buff Daddy has been doing this for decades and he’s the guy people won’t see as they flock to Wynwood this Miami Art Week to see the new street art that’s going up on the walls of stores and warehouses.

Trained as a professional painter and part of the well-known graffiti crew MSG, the Buff Daddy is the go-to person for refreshing walls and providing other artists a blank canvas. We’re not going to use his real name, because in addition to being The Buff Daddy, he’s also Kemo, an artist who doesn’t always have permission to paint.

The Buff Daddy's buffing setup.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

“I  got into graffiti through skateboarding back when I was like 11, 12, back in the mid 80s,” he said. "And then it just kind of escalated from there.”

It escalated, in part because his dad was a contractor and had a lot of painting equipment.

My dad always had bucket paint. You know, he's a foreman for his company. So I was always taking the truck and  nobody wants to paint on a wall with a bunch of graffiti on it, especially graffiti guys. So it was always nice just to roll the wall out and then have a clean canvas,” said The Buff Daddy.

After high school, he got into commercial painting. He learned to paint high-rises and recently started his own company: MSG Concepts, named after his graffiti crew.

The Buff Daddy early one morning in Wynwood. He usually arrives at or before 9 a.m. to beat the crowd and the sun.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

Part of why he gets calls all the time to do buffing gigs is that he shows up on time, something he prides himself on.

He also brought commercial techniques to the street art scene. The Buff Daddy figured out that you could use these spray poles designed to paint the ceilings of department stores to cover walls outside.

The Buff Daddy at work in Wynwood.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

And this is a lot faster than the traditional way of buffing a wall with rollers.

“I've done something on every block down here,  every block. Every block without a doubt,” he boasts.

People now pay him to paint over old work, but he’s been on the other side of it too. Back in the 1990s, when he used to write a lot of graffiti in Wynwood, the Boy Scouts would come through and buff over walls in an attempt to clean up the streets.

The Buff Daddy paints a wall in Wynwood.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

“Definitely things have changed,” he said. “On Sunday mornings, it's crazy down here. They’ve [got] little breakfast places over here, you know they're doing tours and stuff.”

But certain aspects of this change trouble The Buff Daddy. He says the popularity of street art has sort of eaten into the old way of doing things--the code.

The following is a short excerpt from our conversation:

WS: So, how do you fit into this moral code as the person whose job it is to cover it up?

TBD: Oh yeah, I've gotten some rude comments like, “whoa, you old man, why don’t you get a real f****ing job,” like I do got a real job.

WS: So, have you ever covered up something that you're like “man I really wish I didn't have to cover this up’?

TBD: No, I do all the time. You go to my Instagram page and I'm like oh I really like that one.

WS: And you're the one who's covering it up…

TBD:  Yeah I've had a paint where my own s***, my own crew’s stuff. And [sometimes they’re like] “yo, why are you doing that?” and I’m like, they're paying me.

WS: So do people look down on the stuff that you do?

TBD: I would say some people would. The art’s ever changing down here all the time. You know, that's what keeps people coming down here is the changing art. This wall right here we did two or three years ago. It's fading, you know.

The Buff Daddy sees himself as part of the cycle of creating more work and some of it that new work carries the Kemo signature.