Recently I was in NY city for a long weekend, and what a roller coaster weekend that was. I will not spend too much time on all four days but focus on day two, when my buddy and I went to a charity basketball game in Brooklyn. The evening started off with a bang when we hit the streets of Broadway, a street that brings together dozens of performance theaters; this is the epicenter of the performing arts in New York. Huge neon lights and digital billboards exhibiting powerful multicolored lights, it felt like walking inside a giant pinball machine. We watched the Broadway musical “FELA!“, a massive production that reenacts, in dances and songs, the prime years of the legendary African musician and activist Fela Kuti. A fascinating, mind blowing and highly recommended production!
After the five minute standing ovation I gave FELA, I hopped on a subway on my way to Brooklyn. To my surprise, Brooklyn wasn’t the borough I had grown up watching on television or hearing tales of through various hip hop records. This Brooklyn was the young and trendy neighborhood where the majority of the black population was replaced by young bourgeois bohemians aka hipsters. All I saw around me was addicts of mini shorts (both men and women), excessive tattoos, retro mustaches, thick Buddy Holly type glasses, skateboards and bikes everywhere, etc … basically everything that makes you seem hip. The street was littered with stores that sold vintage clothes and objects of old. There were all types of exotic restaurants with almost all of them having vegetarian menus. I stood there in amazement, replaying in my head all the hip hop songs that gave me a completely different image of what Brooklyn was.
We never ended up making it to the basketball game because we were caught up exploring restaurants and socialising with our new hipster buddies. When I went back home I decided to look into the whole hipster culture to trace its origin, and after a few profound google researches and deep wikipedia studies, I discovered that the term hipster was introduced about 40 years ago to identify young people – mostly white – who listened to bebop jazz and said to themselves: “Hey how come those bebop jazz musicians look so much cooler than us? Let’s all start dressing like them, talking like them, imitating their attitude and coolness.” (That was the paraphrased version). Today, a hipster has evolved to a person who dresses like cool people, hangs with other cool people, is an avid member of the underground scene, very counter-cultural, hates the establishment and meticulously avoids anything mainstream.
After the Brooklyn experience, I realized that I had a few things in common with hipsters, mostly in appearance and style, but diametrically opposed in state of mind and ideologies. Either way, I learned that next time I decide to go to Brooklyn, I should brush up on my liberal arts history and not forget to pack my hipster glasses.