New York Hardcore- An Outsiders Perspective

“Can’t look ahead without looking back
All the hard times gave me strength
I chose to follow my own path – my life my way!
I found a place where I can be
You can say it’s destiny!
Either way I know it’s where I’m supposed to be
This one’s for the rebels!”

New York Hardcore is still as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. Many of the bands from that time are still together, still touring, and still rocking the shit out of their message. I remember being a young girl and bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Carnivore, Bad Brains, Biohazard and SO MANY OTHERS reached my ears, it changed my perception on music. I wasn’t from New York, but the message resonated with me in a variety of ways. Hardcore is also educational in the sense that it paint’s a very surreal picture of just what influenced these bands to create and perform, why they were who they were, why they needed this kind of music. They grew up in a city of violence, drugs, and sometimes no hope. What started off as something small and communal, exploded into something grand, forever changing the face of music. Whether you can understand the music, the dance, the way of life or not, you can’t ignore it. Once you begin to understand it, it’s so powerful that you can’t help but to listen just out of respect.

I remember when I first visited NY. I was working with a few hardcore bands and it was the first time I had been inside the city. It was a culture shock to me. I’d never seen anything like it. There were so many people, so many dialects, so many places to go, so much difference all around you. I remember being in Brooklyn and seeing nothing but concrete. I was used to living in the sticks with woods and trees and shit. I’d never seen a place so…concrete. I guess that’s why they call it the “concrete jungle”. Every building had graffiti. I saw Hasidic families hanging out on their front stoops or walking with their children. I saw people arguing on the side of the street in Brooklyn accents so heavy, it took me a moment to understand. There was garbage and dilapidation, there were delivery drivers trying to get their work done down the narrow streets crowded with cars, there were people just everywhere.

The era of “Crooklyn”, the 70’s, 80’s had already unpeeled its skin. New York was transforming yet again. Some old schoolers use words like “gentrification and hipsters” causing the demise of the hoods. Some people claim that while the change is good, it’s also losing the character it had. New people are moving in claiming these streets as theirs, thinking they know the boroughs. When in fact they haven’t got a fucking clue. The didn’t put in the work, the blood, sweat, and tears. They didn’t go through it with people who were born and bred there. They’re just tourists with a rental contract.

All these thoughts emerged on my visit and it really showed me a tiny glimpse into what really fueled the hardcore scene. I understood for a fleeting moment their inspiration. I understood why these guys felt the need to create change and how powerful the music was and is. It’s so fucking powerful that 30 years later people are still paying to see their shows and to watch them tour. It’s so powerful that it’s bringing forth a new generation that will hopefully follow in those footsteps to keep a positive change going in the music community. I still have my music magazines from the early 90’s that showcase old school hardcore bands. Even as a kid I couldn’t part with them and so they stayed stacked and safe in my closet. So now that there’s an underground movement of NYHC videos, documentaries, photo’s, interviews, and moments shedding light on this scene; it’s still here and it ain’t going no fucking where. It’s a global movement. When you’re walking along the street in your city, no matter where you’re at in the world, you may see signs of it. You may see it in that spray painted art on the garbage can. You may see it on a sticker on a light pole. You may see it in the form of a patch on some kids denim jacket. You may see it in the art of photography or paintings that hang in galleries now. You may even see directly in your face when you walk down the street or go to your local music venue. You can also see it in the political transformations in your small communities, you can hear it in your kids voice when they talk about the bullshit they’re learning in school, you can hear it in the struggle of mens voices when they’re fighting for their cause or country.

I had the privileged to be a small part of this movement, to meet some of these amazing guys, and to learn a lot about what shaped them as musicians and artists. That small local community in the boroughs erupted a movement. Those guys that were all friends and shared the same ideals became something that forever shaped the hardcore music industry. Take no fucking prisoners.

“If you can’t eat or fuck it, kill it.”

Check out the NYHC Chronicles on Youtube:

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