Tag Archives: gang

“On blood”: Los Angeles Inner-City Gang Saying

Informant:

Due to some self-incrimination, the informant wishes to remain anonymous, and thus I will only use his first initial. A is a 22-year-old, African American male who grew up in Southern California. He dropped out of high-school and did not attend college. He now lives in Southern California and works as a mechanic.

Background info:

A and I grew up in a similar environment. We met when we were both around 12 and 13 in the Los Angeles foster care system. Because foster-parents rarely kept track of the children and usually did not keep them fed or clothed, A has been heavily involved in gang-related activities since I met him. His home environment was abusive, and he was subjected to drugs early in life, as well.

Context:

Because A and I lived in a few foster-homes together, we have a shared tragedy, and thus a bond where he felt comfortable to talk to me. I invited him over to discuss how he had been since I last saw him, and we eventually began discussing the state of current Hip-Hop music. This piece is a phrase popular in his vocabulary, and, for context, the following is a transcript of the conversation we had that led to the phrase being said. (I will be represented with a J.)

Main piece:

J: “Have you heard the diss tracks between Joyner Lucas and Tory Lanez?”

A: “Yeah, I heard ‘em. I can’t believe this fool Tory think he can just come into the rap game and claim to be the best. Joyner clowned on this fool on his own track.”

J: “Yeah, his song was fire. He’s actually pretty lyrical, as well. I’m glad he and Eminem did a track together. I thought for sure they’d get an Emmy for it.”

A: “Man, you know Eminem is done. That man ain’t getting any more awards – his whole career was built on being the only white boy who could spit. The hype has been over for years. Ain’t nobody out there listening to him, only the white people who want to think they apart of it.”

J: “Do you think Eminem should get praise for his lyricism, though?”

A: “On blood, if Eminem tried to blow today, he wouldn’t sell a single track. Half the stuff he be saying goes over everybody’s head, man.”

Thoughts:

Growing up in the poor areas of Los Angeles, without help from home, a lot of children and young teens end up joining gangs. The gangs become their new families, and people would die for that. A was one of these kids and ended up joining a subset of the Bloods gang. I was familiar with this when I met him. Because he was so young, the gang influence became a major part of his life. “On blood”, or “On the blood”, is a common street phrase among Blood gang members. It is typically used as a promise or swear, meaning “I swear to the Blood gang”, like when people say, “I swear to God” or “I swear on my mother’s grave”. Swearing to something important represents a promise that you would never break without breaking faith with the thing you swear to. This phrase is common because the culture of gang life is to value the gang over everything else, even religion or one’s own life.

Headlight Gang Initiation

Item:

Me: “So if you don’t believe it, why not go and just try it and see what happens?”

Informant: “Yeah but if I’m wrong that’s going to be really shitty.”

In Florida, if you see an old, beat up car driving on the freeway at night with it’s lights off, don’t flash your high beams to signal it. According to the informant’s high school friends, members of gangs purposefully drive around in these conditions to bait high beam flashing. Once someone flashes their lights to try to tell the gang car to turn its lights on at night, that person is marked. What this means is that the members of the gang will drop back and follow the person to their destination. Once there, the gang member(s) shoot and kill the person. It is a form of gang initiation.

 

Context:

The informant said this was the distinct scenario his friends described. He said they had heard it for a few years and heard of at least one instance of it happening. While he himself saw no truth to the urban legend, he stated he would not like to go looking for trouble by driving at night and flashing his brights at cars.

 

Analysis:

This is an urban legend and fear that seems to be very widespread. I personally have heard similar instances of this story in Los Angeles, with variation. It’s well-recognized by many states, and almost entirely shown to not have truth behind it. While it’s hard in some cases of road or gang violence to determine exactly what the inciting event was, many reports have been issued saying this type of initiation ritual is not real. It’s a pretty strong example of how something like an urban legend actually puts a lot of people in danger — should someone be driving around without lights on, they endanger other drivers at night. Not reminding that person of their lights being off because of a fear like this could very possibly result in negative consequences for that driver and other people. For information on more instances of the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlight_flashing#Urban_legend

Dance – Portland, Oregon

The Crip Walk

An explanation of how to Crip Walk, or C-walk, is very difficult but videos can be obtained by going to www.youtube.com and simply searching for C-Walk.

Jude Graves is a friend of mine at USC who experienced quite a bit of gang culture back in his hometown of Portland. Most of his friends were affiliated with the notorious Crip gang, known for wearing the color blue and having a feud with rival gang Bloods who wear red. Jude told me that gangs are all about street credibility and respect, so in gang lore, any chance you get to disrespect a rival or assert dominance over an area, you take it. One way Crips stand out over Bloods is by performing a dance, called the C-walk, where they insult their rivals by spelling out Blood with their feet and then crossing it out. Crips also spell out their own names or their gang name, add special moves to the walk, or gesticulate gang signs with their hands while performing. Jude says the C-walk is not just performed to insult Bloods though; it can be used to show allegiance to the Crips, it is done at initiation, or in celebration of a robbery or killing of rivals.

The C-walk became mainstream around the same time as the infamous West Coast-East Coast Rap war was going on. Artists like Ice T, Snoop Dogg, and WC helped make the dance famous by performing it at concerts and shows or on television. Because of this, the C-walk caught on and quickly became a popular method of dancing to any kind of Hip-hop or Rap music. Since the 90’s, when the C-walk began gaining popularity, new variations have been added to it such as the V, the Shuffle, the Heel-Toe, and the Snake.

Jude actually taught me how to do the dance, which is not difficult to learn. Although it was once used only by the Crips to intimidate others and assert their name on the streets, it has now reached a level of popularity that dilutes the seriousness of its origins. The C-walk can be seen performed at parties and dance competitions alike, for it has steadily shifted from gang lore to mainstream Hip-Hop and Rap.