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"My people. My people. My people, people, pe-people!"
-Mos Def


HOW WE RELATE:

My Theory of Relativity

 

I always used to think that I was a really rare breed: a Black guy raised in the South Bronx, NY, with South Bronx ways, mixed with a prep school and private college education. I felt a certain sense of pride at being able to adapt to virtually any, person, place, or situation, because where I was raised was very different from where I was schooled. In essence, because I was educated in two different “schools,” I thought that I held a huge advantage over my peers because I was able to relate—and relate rather well—to two very different worlds. I could feel equally at ease at the neighborhood Block Party or a friend’s Bar Mitzvah.

I merged my two worlds together with the help of my best friend, whom I met in high school. Like me, he was a Black guy from what people called “the inner city,” (he was from pre- gentrification Harlem) and as such, we hit it off instantly. Although we were lucky to be getting a prep school education, we were proud of our neighborhood and roots, and we wore those roots as a badge of honor. Conversely, we felt a little uncomfortable when we were on our blocks and were asked, “What school do you go to?” We weren’t sure if they thought that we were stuck-up because we went to a “fancy school.”

We shook off the negative by focusing on the positive. We even went so far as to make some money off of it. We sold candy like Now & Laters, Cherry Clans, and Lemonheads that were only available in the hood – not in “downtown” Manhattan—to all of the Upper East Side kids in school. We hit ‘em with a markup on the very high side because we knew that they wouldn’t go Uptown and buy it themselves. Supply and demand, indeed. Being unique did have its privileges.

But as I got older, I realized more and more that my breed was actually larger than I originally thought. Over the years, I’ve met a good number of dudes that were just like me. I even met some ladies that were much prettier versions of myself. They were from “around the way” and they too had opportunities to visit and live in that other world. I found that we grew up on the same music, TV, movies, clothes, and other cultural norms. This gave me a sense of community, a third world to visit and live in. A world where I actually felt the most comfortable. There aren’t too many things that feel better than vibing with someone who can remember rockin’ a stopwatch in ’88 or remembering where they were when they saw the Pharcyde’s “Passing Me By” video for the first time.

I decided to do this site because I know that there is a lot more of our breed out there and I want to use the site to gather them so that this third world of ours can expand. I also wanted to celebrate my friends and acquaintances that I’ve connected with over the years mostly because we were part of this class.

To this very day, there are times when we still talk with street slang; listen to ‘90s hip-hop and R&B—real hip-hop and R&B; still get “dipped” when going to the office, and to that networking mixer; or even sometimes running errands on the weekend. We do these things because we’re the original children of the hip-hop generation and these are things that make us, us.

We’ll conjure up memories of the past through retro-reviews of classic albums in the “Boom Bap-erang” section. We’ll search and find some albums that are being made now that remind us of music we grew up on—music that’s creative, music that makes us think AND feel—and discuss them in the “Dig, Boy, Dig!” page. We’ll even hit you with some grown (but not grown and sexy), looks that show our very unique sense of style.     

So, let’s celebrate a place that’s an amalgamation of two worlds, both of which we hold so dear. “Nah mean?” Or in other words, “Can you relate?”      

Sincerely Yours,

Brian Gillard
Cap'n of the Relate Team