Return of the Boom-Bap (and the Crime That Also Embodied New York?)
Interesting parallels abound.
NaS Jones is bringing that boom-bap, 1990s original rap back. Hip-Hop is otherwise dead and those of us who grew up in the Golden Age — not just for Hip-Hop, but for TV, movies, music (erstwhile, apart from solely Hip-Hop), sports, LIFE — are appreciative. Along with the likes of Pete Rock, Boot Camp Clik members Ruck (Sean Price), Rock, Smif ‘n’ Wessun and a few others, that feel-good early-mid 1990s New York gritty rap is coming back.
Is it too little, too late?
Boom-Bap embodied rap music in the early 1990s; however so did crime, heroin, crack-cocaine, rampant poverty and the byproducts therein.
SIDE NOTE: Please do not try to blame Hip-Hop for society’s ills; if anything it has helped REMEDY them — and there is massive proof of such.
Sights of Squeegie Men (yes, I’ve seen them this summer — first time really since the late 1990s when I saw them all day, every day in Newark and Harlem, where I spent most of my time outside of school in Brooklyn — where I also saw them on Flatbush Avenue outside of my campus’ gates), people pulling random B&E’s, grand theft auto/murders and various other get-rich-or-die-tryin’ tactics are making a comeback.
You didn’t see this when virtually everyone had a job, and even the neighbor’s sickly dog could secure a $200,000 home loan to buy one of those $1 brownstones in Harlem in 1995. Dr. Ron Paul predicted that we would end up in this mess with NAFTA and other free trade agreements going into effect in the early 1990s. People scoffed at him and others who expressed the same, but they were correct.
When I was finishing high school in North Carolina, I saw the beginning of the end for the majority of the people there. It has become a veritable welfare state since, as have almost all of the United States, with the dollar being virtually worthless since 9/11.
Some people claim to have loved the late 80s and early 90s life. The struggle is beautiful, they say. To an extent, I agree. I’ve lived it, and you definitely can develop serious character while enduring the struggle. However, when everyone on your block and 1 in 2 people in your entire section of a borough is either unemployed, homeless, broke, despite getting paid twice a month and working three jobs, then what else can you really say about life?
The only difference between the 80s and today is that inflation hadn’t spiraled completely out of control as it has since 2002. You could manage on minuscule wages, because commodities and bare necessities were still at manageable prices. I laugh when people tell me how they scraped by in the 1970s during the gas crisis and how they managed during the rampant blackouts in New York City and the city teetering on bankruptcy every other year from 1973-1988. Different era, fewer concerns, across-the-board lower costs.
When I first came to New York in the late 80s, we were wading through the height of the crack epidemic in Harlem. My aunt had been working at the State Office Building for a few years at that point, and she brought us through that summer. I routinely spent summers with her and my beloved cousins (her grandchildren) both in Newark (where the Squeegie Men were beyond aggressive, to the point of assault in the late 90s) and out on Staten Island up until I moved back to New York for good three years ago. I remember seeing crackheads passed out on (1)25th, burned out buildings (that are now selling for $5 Million and renting for $3,500 for a STUDIO), rampant prostitution, drug deals going down, gunshots galore and just a depressing sight. People brag about these times (Dipset), but that was no place to live.
I have a ton of family that grew up in St. Nick (the worst projects in West Harlem) and I never got to know any of them until I moved back on my own a few years later. Things were slightly better, but you still remembered the 80s if you ever witnessed life here at the time. My mother undoubtedly never forgot and forbade me from going to high school here, most likely as a result.
With this economy, which is only going to get worse, with businesses having fewer incentives to create jobs than the hairs on my head (i.e. NONE). The U.S. Dollar is worthless, and it’s going to be less than worthless without any Gold Standard (thanks, Dick Nixon). The 80s and 90s were a pleasurable time as a kid, whether in NC, VA, NJ or NY, where I spent my time, but as an adult, I shudder to think about life here again reaching those levels. Because they are. And quickly. And unlike in the 70s and 80s, you can barely get by on $50,000 salary in New York (less if you’re well-connected, as I am, fortunately), but that tells you how wages have remained stagnant or even gone down, which they have here in NYC in the past three years, on average, versus the exponential and exorbitant rise in the cost of basic commodities in the past 15 years. This can’t last.
I predict more crime, riots, when the few remaining rent-stabilized/section 8 voucher holders get forced out of the projects, so that they can be converted into “condos” for unsuspecting transplants from Kansas with the wide-eyed look like Reche Caldwell circa 2007 New England Patriots, and “Empire State of Mind” forever ringing in their heads.
You just wait. Harlem is becoming a war zone again, but this time, much more dangerous, because the problem is not readily visible to others, and for those who know what the issue is (and helped create it), they’ve created literal and figurative bunkers financially and housing wise, in order to shield themselves from it. People are going to begin to act like savages when food shortages, oil and gas costs go through the roof and housing shortages/force-outs leave people with no alternative (in their minds) but to resort to survival tactics.
And then there’s this:
AND THAT’S FOR THOSE WHO CAN EVEN AFFORD THE COST OF HAVING A CAR: PARKING, GAS ($4.19/gallon as of 9.20.2011) AND USURIOUS INSURANCE RATES IN NEW YORK CITY.