Sick, tight, dope, hot and fly were synonyms of the word, fresh. It was a word mostly used to describe your clothing, looks and attitude.
This week’s photo challenge asks us to share a photo that expresses the word fresh. The word did not evoke images of delicious fruits and vegetables or flowers in the early morning dew. No, the word fresh instantly took me back, waaay back to a time where graffiti was art sprawled across buildings and subways, where fashion was everything, hip-hop music dominated the airways, greed was good and Reaganomics (or politics in general) was a word that was anathema to me.
Even the way you simply stood, with arms across your chest with a slight bent at the waist denoted your freshness.
Growing up back in the 80’s in Washington Heights (and in the Bronx), the word “fresh” meant to be really good, cool, and in style. Sick, tight, dope, hot and fly were synonyms of the word, fresh. It was a word mostly used to describe your clothing, looks and attitude. Freshly pressed Lee jeans (with prominent crease in the middle), Kango hats, Adidas sneakers and a tight fade made you one of the freshest and flyest cats in the neighborhood and in school. Even the way you simply stood, with arms across your chest with a slight bend at the waist denoted your freshness.
Many of my friends around the block were also fresh when it came down to throwing some serious lyrical beatdowns in street “battles” where rapping was the preferred non-violent method to show off your verbal skills and superior attitude. Break dancing, top-rockin’, and poppin’ over a very large piece of cardboard turned a quiet street block into a spectacular and highly energetic dance-off – no one could beat Andy “Love” and G-man, dear friends and brothers from another mother. I deeply regret not having any pictures of these dancing spectacles.
To be fresh meant to be at the top of your game with earned “street cred” and swag among your peers. Artists like RUN-DMC, Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B and Rakim, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel and Whodunit were our idols and the epitome of fresh we tried to emulate. Their music – and ultimately the burgeoning hip-hop movement – helped define who we were back then.
In the 80s, a city-wide crack epidemic, high murder rate, and a frightening new illness called AIDS took the lives of many good people. The odds were stacked against us but despite all that negativity around us, we not only survived, we learned valuable life lessons and formed strong bonds of friendship. We had fun and enjoyed life to its fullest. Looking back, I can honestly say that those were really the best of times. We were innocent, naive and so very young.
As that decade drew to a close, our fresh young minds embarked into adulthood and we discarded those things we thought defined us. Our fashion sense evolved, our musical tastes broadened (freestyle, house, dance, punk, electronica and ultimately alternative/indie music were genres I personally gravitated to), we educated ourselves with higher learning and we explored the world beyond our neighborhood. Our priorities and world view had changed.
Simply put, we grew up.
However, no matter how many decades have passed, looking back at these photos and remembering those fun times, I can’t help but think that we’re still cool, fly, tight and yes – fresh – no matter what our own children may ultimately think!