Category Archives: New York City
(Note: Webster defines Hip Hop as ‘rap music; also : the culture associated with rap music’.)
“When I first arrived to the U.S., Hip Hop quickly became my favorite genre of music. I had grown up in Germany and Italy and was therefore naive to most of it, American music was hard to come by overseas. I had also just entered my teenage years and could relate to most of the lyrics in most of the songs. Although I hadn’t grown up in the lifestyle that was often rapped about (drugs, violence, drug-use and life in an urban city), I could associate with the culture of it…fun, freedom, non-conformity and the expression of oneself through music and other forms of art. For many years recently, however, I’ve felt as if Hip Hop has changed into something that I no longer understand. It seems to be flooded with money, exorbitant living, disrespect to opposite sexes and races, and a bevy of one-time, one-hit, one-good-song artists. Not only has the music scene changed completely, but the culture associated with that music has also become unrecognizable.”
“I used to wonder why my parents (and the generation they belong to) still listened to music from fifty years ago when so much more has been released since then…I understand now. To continue enjoying the culture that I found so dear to me, I find myself holding onto the music, clothing styles and social scenes that I was a fan of years and years ago. As a New Yorker, that was easy to do…I simply had to look up the music or crowd I wanted to mingle with and then go to that location. Now that I live in Italy…it’s not so simple. Most of the city (and the country, for that matter) doesn’t listen to Hip Hop. It’s true that there is a very large selection of American music around, in locales as well as on the radio, but for the most part it’s music that I don’t listen to. In the rare instances that I do find a place where they’re playing the music that I enjoy, the culture of that music is missing. The crowd remains completely, well, Italian. The Italy of today is exactly like the Italy I grew up in 30 years ago; Hip Hop-less. Or so I thought…”
“Two weeks ago I stumbled upon an event here in town. It was billed as ‘the newest Hip Hop night to hit Verona’ and cleverly titled ‘Hipology’. I was asked to be the night’s photographer, and I was looking forward to it because I was told ahead of time that my favorite local DJ (my good friend Carletto) would be there. So even though I could trust the music would be solid, I wasn’t truly aware of what the scene would be until I got there. Some of the nights out I had experienced during my first year here in Verona were filled with my kind of music, but as I mentioned before, the environments had been different. I wasn’t entirely prepared for what was in store for me, but I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed in the least!”
“It was as if walking through the doors of the establishment was the same as jumping in a DeLorean and going back to 1995. Not only was the music exactly what I knew it would be, but he ambiance fit the bill as well. The attire was a recipe of 90’s dress code and NYC/LA outfits, with a pinch of the stuff ‘kids wear today’ thrown on top. Hairstyles, accessories and shoes were picked to match…with the occasional gold tooth and nighttime sunglass-wearer thrown into the mix.”
“Everything about the place screamed Hip Hop! The dance floor was packed, and counting the number of dance battles took two hands instead of one. Three separate DJ’s spun a never-ending supply of ‘that’s my jam!’ songs, interrupted only by a mid-party pause featuring a handpicked selection of some of the local b-boys and fly girls. The line outside was long, the bouncers were big and the VIP tables were perfectly typical: at first too empty, then before you could say ‘I’m on the list’, too few.”
“Finding Hipology not only proved that there is in fact a Hip Hop scene in Verona, but it gave me a taste of an Italy I had never seen. Black, white and mixed people were everywhere…there were no groupings of different creeds, colors or races. And even though Italian and English were the main languages spoken, many others had come out to play…giving it that NYC, melting pot feeling. I was happy to see a room full of multiracial friends, as well as multiracial couples, enjoying the night carefree…it made my job as a photographer not only easier, but more enjoyable personally. I’m certain it’s a bias, preferring to shoot environments filled with mixed race individuals, but I can’t help it…I am one myself.”
“Like the party flier said, the entire event mirrored the Hip Hop culture that I had adopted and made my own while in New York for fifteen years. No one was afraid to flaunt their own style, and those that were afraid flaunted it anyway…even as far as the race of friends you hung with or the person they called their own. Their people were their people, and their music was their music…period.”
“The only thing that mattered was Hip Hop.”
* All photos by me, except the first *
I was walking in Central Park one day, when near the Bethesda Fountain I spotted a flash mob beginning a performance in front of a man and a woman. After they were done dancing he got down on a knee and proposed. When she said yes he hugged her, it was touching. I put my camera to my eye to take a picture…and that’s when a giant bubble appeared out of nowhere and floated right into my shot. A street performer on the terrace below me was creating person-sized bubbles from a bucket full of soapy water.
Of all the pictures from all the cameras in all the cities in the world, that bubble had to float into mine…at that exact moment in time.
“Others say that racism is alive and well. They say thatblacks are still looked down upon by whites and that things will never change. They say the recent events in NYC (let alone the rest of the country) speak for themselves; those events being (but not limited to) a white officer killing a black man by choke hold during what appeared to be a non-threatening situation, and two officers being assassinated by another black man as revenge for the first incident.”
“I try tohide my eyes from stories such as these. I try to pretend that it’s simply a ‘cops vs the bad guys’ scenario and keep to myself. I try to remember what it was like growing up as a mixed-race kid, being accepted by everyone I knew because although I was a different skin color, I was still a pleasant human being. The only problem is that doesn’t work because I wasn’t raised in the United States of America...”
“Things are different here.”
“They are obviously not how they were in years past, but they are still nowhere near as good as they could be. I still hear stories of black on white / white on blackcrime, initiated simply because someone was black or white. I still feel uneasy feelings during certain instances in my life…instances caused simply by me being ‘not white’.”
“I still find newly-carvedswastikas every now and then, such as this one that popped up overnight on the same bench I sit on every day waiting for my 6 train ride home.”
“Perhaps one day things will be different…REALLY different. Perhaps one day black and white, Jew and Gentile, male and female will all be considered equal…TRULY equal.”
“And perhaps I’ll still be alive to see it…”
The United States of America. I love this country, I love another country as well because I grew up there and consider it home, but having lived here the last 20 years or so makes makes me as American as I am Italian (as does the combination of my American father and my Italian mother). One thing that I’ve seen, in the USA as well as Italy, is the ever-increasing number of homeless on the streets. I feel a certain pain inside my soul when I see someone in those conditions, not because I don’t want to help, but because I can’t help…at least, not by myself. Although this is a beautiful country we live in, we can’t seem to find a way to take care of our own citizens…let alone anyone else’s.
There has to be a way to come together as a whole. There has to be a way to provide food, shelter and decent living conditions to the civilians of this great nation…especially to its veterans, who have fought tooth and nail for it. I know that it’s possible. I know because I have been around the world, and I’ve seen the good that mankind (and womankind) can do. I know because while in Union Square here in NYC one day, I saw a man approach another man. They didn’t know one another as far as I could tell. They had only the shirts on their backs and the bags in their hands. But when one asked another if he could have a cigarette, a cigarette is what he got…no questions asked.
If two people who have nothing can give to each other, why can’t we all..?