Saturday, 6 April 2013

80 Blocks from Tiffany's...By Saul Wilks

I've always had a vested interest in NYC culture, from the different music scenes that have originated there right through to the origins of the city and how much it has changed over time. NYC holds a raw glint about it, after all, it's where disco, punk and hip hop were all born and street culture has always fascinated me. Perhaps there's a hidden sociologist in me, but I've always been interested with the story of NY, from the Bowery to the South Bronx, from Harlem to Brooklyn - it fascinates me and I'm relishing my first visit later this year.

Gang culture has always played a big part in inner-urban society and NYC is no different. During the 60s, 70's and 80's the predominantly Black and Latino neighbourhoods of the city held numerous street gangs that were later camped up in the cult classic 'The Warriors'. These street gangs were pretty much as bad as they came, formed of the toughest of tough ghetto kids who were lawless, but they held a certain charm that was sometimes lost in their misdemeanour's and it was a way of life that was unknown to those who were fortunate enough not to come from the most deprived areas.

in 1979, Gary Weis took a film crew into the South Bronx to capture everyday life in the poverty of one of the worse slums that the city had to offer and followed around two of the main gangs of the time - the Savage Skulls and the Savage Nomads. The resulting documentary was 80 Blocks from Tiffany' and was originally shelved before a brief release in 1983.

Deemed too raw for the time, the documentary was moth balled and with it the untold and unknown story of NYC's street gang culture was lost, becoming a holy grail for enthusiasts to track down with the original VHS changing hands for hundreds of dollars. Thankfully, the documentary was resurrected a few years ago having been kept in the archives of NBC for 4 decades and is now widely available and celebrated as an important corner piece in the birth of hip hop culture and NYC heritage.

I remember seeing this a couple of years back and being blown away but recently at a party somebody had the DVD with them and I watched it again. Having tracked down a copy since, I found that the full un-cut version was also on youtube, so it's now here for you to check out at your will.

If you're reading this then I can't stress enough how much you need to check this out; no if's, no but's, just watch it - it's arguably one of the most interesting and important film documentations of youth culture that exists.

I'll leave you with the full documentary along with my favourite quote...

'See no evil, hear no evil man, that's the most righteous women you could ever have...cos then that's the kind of women that'll stick by you, she don't need them all wedding bells and big fancy cakes and weepy poems and all that wise shit...Just a little lovin, you know, and eh a preacher there and a little rice and some herb and a beer man, and boogie all night man, that's it....'

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