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20 Year Radio Veteran, Sean Anthony is the Host of "Flow of Wisdom Radio." It airs live Sundays 3p-5p EST on the GCN Radio Networks (gcnlive.com.) Call in 877-300-7645. He is also the author of "Conversations With Hip Hop" available on Amazon.com

Floating in the Stream

"Live Life, Get Wisdom & Let it Flow"

“Live Life, Get Wisdom & Let it Flow”

Written By: Ray Ford

It’s easy for us to criticize today’s youth (Generation Y)–their fashion sense, tastes in music, and overall lack of appreciation for what we, Generation X, consider cultural authenticity. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of this generation’s music (save a hand full of artists), style of dress (the skinny jeans trend baffles me), or their somewhat passive aggressive interactions with the world (social media). This is, however, their way of life in this 21st century version of the stream, that is to say, the mainstream of popular culture and it is dominated by the same sociocultural premises that caused my generation to write their names in and on public spaces–to be recognized by society–tagging.

Although the social landscape has changed since the late 1970s, 80s, and 90s, today’s youth have continued the trend, however, it has transitioned to a virtual tag on Facebook-go figure. Again, I don’t particularly care for this generation’s cultural stream and there are many of us who believe that today’s youth are being “brainwashed” by the stream-but are they anymore “lost” than we were when we floated in the stream?

Or is it that we, now the elder generation, have fallen victim to the generational culture gap? The truth is, I no longer float in the stream, which is why none of this generation’s trends appeal to me-they aren’t meant to. It’s no wonder why I feel like Generation Y is being cheated and, for lack of a better phrase, lead astray-they are old enough to be my children and my appreciation is floating somewhere between Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall Michael Jackson Off The Walland Notorious B.I.G’s Ready to Die.

When I listen to the radio and see the younger generation out and about, I feel like a foreigner watching the culture that my generation created and shaped float on by. However, what I came to realize is that I am, as most of Generation X is, nostalgically frozen in time-longing for the days when we floated in the stream. I came of age with the anger of N.W.A., the melodic genius of Whodini, sociopolitical messages and sonic artistry of Public Enemy, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest. We wore Air Jordan’s, Timberland, Cross Colors, Karl Kani, high top fades, caesars, our hats to the side or back, Starter jackets and at one point, every stitch of clothing had to be baggy-or risk being referred to as wack, or worse. We didn’t have skinny jeans, we wore jeans and depending on what era it was, some were more form-fitting than others. The question is, however, are today’s kids any more “brainwashed” than we were? Or are they simply floating in their own stream?

For as much as we love Tribe, Cross Colors, and the like, we also had 2 Live Crew, MC Hammer and his parachute pants, stylish overalls, the gumby, Young MC, and Vanilla Ice. MC Hammer "You Can't Touch This"No disrespect to any of these artists or styles ( I love them all), but it goes to show that we have a tendency to forget that we objectified women (to the highest degree), requested the cross-over radio artist, had some questionable fashion sense, and let us not forget that we made the “weed song” infamous. This was our stream and we loved it, but our parent’s generation despised it-just as we take issue with our children’s stream. This certainly isn’t a new phenomenon because preceding generations, historically, have a propensity to reject most, if not all, tangential social and cultural trends of subsequent generations and vice versa.

The baby boomers (our parents’ generation), for example, cast-off the social conservatism of their parents (the silent generation), with a counter-cultural agenda that literally spat in the face of their parent’s traditional values with rock and roll (Woodstock), Motown, disco, women’s liberation movements, black power movements, anti-war protests, and gay rights movements. Moreover, the baby boomers traded in their parent’s monolithic fashion sense for bell bottom pants, mini-skirts, psychedelic and paisley printed shirts and dresses, afros, bouffant hair styles, experimented with sex and took drugs that made marijuana’s high feel like child’s play. Then the baby boomers, in all of their rebellious glory had children, us-Generation X.

Think about it this way-in a scene from the Hudlin Brother’s film House Party (1990), Mr. Strickland, a baby boomer, played by John Witherspoon, perches himself on his bedroom window seal in protest of the loud “noise” coming from his neighbor’s ill-advised house party. He refers to the music as “noise” because of his lack of respect for rap music and hip-hop culture to boot. Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 8.32.38 PMHe doesn’t even take the time to pronounce Public Enemy’s name correctly, which he refers to as “Public Enema.” Although it’s one of the funniest scenes in the film, which I consider a masterpiece, for its depiction of hip-hop culture’s migration to black suburbia, it also projects the generational culture gap that is the subject of this essay. The question is–how do we nudge the generational gaps closer together, or can we?

Last Sunday, Sean Anthony shared a story about how he and his son were listening to music together as they rode in the car. After the show, we had an hour-long conversation about how he and his son exchanged music-they each waded in the others stream. They listened to Kendrick Lamar together and then turned around and listened to Slum Village. They affectionately nudged the gap closer together and learned something in the process. As much as we criticize Generation Y’s stream, it goes to show that we may be able to learn something from it and vice versa. The key is that we will never know if all we do is criticize. Generation Y will never be able to appreciate the stream of Generation X if we don’t expose them to it. If we want the youth to be enlightened, we must be willing to help the process.

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One Comment on “Floating in the Stream”

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