Ah, the 1990s. They seem like yesterday, don’t they? Kids reading this might have no idea what ‘hardcore’ is, but it was all the rage in the 1990s. Now, I know some people reading will, inevitably, be thinking I’m mad crazy, but take a chill pill, I say. Nobody really remembers anything before they turned six, so, in reality, everybody born after 1994 will have no memory of the 1990s. If you were born in 1995, you’ll now be 21. I know the 1990s seemed like yesterday, but… 21! Even if you don’t subscribe to my theory, those born in 2000 are now 16. And let me tell you young’uns, the ‘90s was a mess. Slang was all the rage, to the point where you didn’t even know what someone was saying. Think of it as talking to your grandpa in text speak. Not a clue. ‘Hardcore’ was only the tip of a dope iceberg. If you weren’t saying ‘gnarly’ and ‘radical’ along with a healthy dollop of ‘awesome,’ you were nobody. Everything was trippin’ and cool beans, bogus or dissing, dudes. Things got crunk and people talked to the hand. We said hello to the internet and word, that was some good granola. As if, said the teens. Whatever, I’m too busy keeping it real. And, for some bizarre reason, people kept wearing each other’s names out. I mean, really, you 2000 babies do not know how lucky you are. The ‘90s was a hardcore hellhole…
But perhaps the ‘90s wasn’t all that bad. Some good things came out of it. Me, for a start. Kidding. And the ‘hardcore’ philosophy. Something those of us who lived through the ‘90s can’t really define. A belief and a way of life almost without definition. Maybe it can be best described by comparing it to the ‘50s bad boys, what with their leather jackets and motorcycles, rebels not worth a damn. An intense, thrilling and often erratic life, lived on the edge and done to appear cool to those we socialise with. A dangerous life lived as if consequences were nothing but a speck of dust floating through the cosmos. If you were hardcore, you were the talk of the town. And not for the right reasons. A beach bum with deep and complex emotions beyond anyone’s understanding but your own. You can’t be understood. You’re a mystery and the girls love it. They crave you yet you remain stone cold towards them. If you were dead before you were 30, you would be cemented in history as the hardest of the hardcore crowd.
These individuals endured. Tough, strong and willing to try anything, damn the cost. Such was the power of hardcore that it became an adjective, used of anything tough and strong. From the bad boys on the streets, it evolved into something nobody could control. No longer the preserve of the rebellious and misunderstood. “Jane, that awesome swimmer friend of mine, is hardcore. She trains all day in the pool, like a dope robot.” Although, for the record, I think all robots are dope. Erm, probably. “How would I describe my friend Jack? He’s so hardcore – you know, brave and fearless.” Perhaps this dilution of the word devalued it to the point whereby in simply fell out of use.
This subculture became a beast, one that was slain by its own hubris. It lives on, sure, and not just in the minds of the ‘90s generation. Music can be hardcore. Hardcore has even leant its dirty name to the dirty act of extreme pornographic shenanigans. Indeed, anything that is the most active, the most committed, the most doctrinaire, of anything, really, can be described as hardcore. It went from being the voice of the disenfranchised youth, one speaking out against the status quo regardless of the consequences, to one that others adopted for their own needs. And that, according to the laws of the ‘90s, made it inherently uncool. And so the next generation of youth moved on to another outlet for their rage, a rage against the new millennium. As has always been the way. Now, the ‘90s hardcore, a fractured offshoot of the sparks of rebellion of the ‘80s, remains a dusty old relic on a shelf in a room marked, ‘Wasn’t That a Hoot? Fads.’ But it wasn’t a fad. It was a lifestyle, man.
It’s hard to know how to view these people. On the one hand, you want to hate them for being a burden on society, living a life of excessive whimsy in the name of some unknown and indefinable message, one buried deep in the heart and rooted to the very fabric of where they lived. Rage and anger, boiling in a pot that constantly threatened to overflow and burn those who stood in its way. But, on the other hand, you can’t help but admire them. They stood up for themselves. Did what they believed in. Followed their hearts. Yeah, it wasn’t always for the right reasons and people were hurt, but the fundamental message they lived by was entirely just. The tree can’t blame the seed for being rotten, but the seed can blame the tree for besmirching its good name. That seed is a seed that all young people have to live by, at some point, even if it’s just for a few years. Because, in those few years, you’ll experience life on an unimaginable and unreal scale. That’s part of being human. We’ve all been there. It’s jolly fun.
But am I hardcore, now? To borrow a phrase from the late ‘80s that, most certainly, spilled over into the ‘90s, I’m too old for that shit. I really am. But those who are still living the hardcore dream, man, I admire the gnarly journey that you radical dudes are on. One that is always bucking the trend. You are well dope. I think.
I was never entirely sure what that actually meant…
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