Saturday, August 08, 2009

50/50 Grind in Eagle Rock



Fab Five Freddy changed my world. I was in middle school in suburban central Connecticut, and then there was this show, Yo MTV Raps. It was more than just a show: it was The City, it was a wildly new musical form, it was a new language: it was a way out.



The a la carte identity options for suburban kids are well rehearsed (a nod here to John Hughes, R.I.P., even though he didn't quite know how to deal with certain outsiders [i.e., Asians, Blacks, etc.]): skater, goth, jock, prep, art/drama, church, math club, hacker, debate society, homeschool, delinquent/drug dealing, etc.



For a Bengali kid in leafy Connecticut, unable to accept being the perfect obedient, religious, traditional Bengali son, and unable to accept trying to pass as a white boy with a deep tan, wearing boat shoes and two collars, the world of hip hop felt like a welcoming home. The shoes, the music, basketball -- the shared sense of a struggle against something (often vague and amorphous), of being misunderstood, etc. -- it was something I could connect to, as a dorky misfit with a serious chip on my shoulder. I went out on the court in our town basketball league rocking Kareem racquetball goggles with "Run's House" blasting in my mind.



Recognizing how ridiculous and silly this all was (see, e.g., me pulling into prep school for classes on a Saturday morning at 7 in my dad's old 1984 Eldorado, blasting FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET, dressed in a suit for a J.V. basketball away-game against Choate), I have never lost my deep attachment to hip hop. I suspect that many other of my fellow native suburbanites, growing up in Long (Strong) Island, Jersey, Upstate, Maryland, Florida, the South, etc., regardless of race or whatever, had similar experiences, and share my abiding connection to hip hop culture.



All of this embarrassing exposition is here simply to explain why I think 50/50 Grind is going to make it. It might seem like a bizarre move to open a hip hop shoe and apparel shop in Eagle Rock, but I think it makes perfect sense. This neighborhood is full of former suburbanites like myself who religiously watched Yo MTV Raps in our cul de sac neighborhoods, in between prepping for the SAT and reading THE ILIAD, dreaming of escaping the tedium of suburbia, maybe later buying turntables in college and trying to DJ, trying to freestyle in our basements or in a friend's apartment. A lot of these people are now accountants, lawyers, middle management, gastroenterologists. But we are still grateful to hip hop, and we want to show it.

50/50 Grind (Natasha at 50/50 explained to me that "50/50" refers to the 50/50 partnership she shares with her husband, Robert McKay, and "Grind" refers to the grind of chasing the almighty dollar -- they were apparently unaware of the skateboarding maneuver of the same name, though, confusingly, they display skateboard decks under their front counter) has a decent selection of certified fresh sneakers (New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Puma [the presence of the New Balance kicks just shows that 50/50 is aware of the make-up of their clientele; CaCao Mexicatessen displays the same awareness with its sign about potential allergens]), a good selection of "hip hop" themed t-shirts (though a lot of the women's t-shirts I saw had no apparent hip hop connection and could have been sold at Regeneration), some hats, and some art. Anything you buy here will probably make you a little more legit. (We can discuss the problematics of this kind of cultural appropriation some other time.) Some of the t-shirts are sort of expensive, but there's always a sale rack in the middle of the store with t-shirts at 50% off. The shoes seem to be pretty reasonably priced. The husband and wife team that run the place are very helpful and willing to tell you all about their merchandise and their store.



This place is, in my mind, a critical ingredient in the rich and hearty tossed salad that is Eagle Rock. (50/50 might be that Bacos in that salad, or maybe the fat beets -- *sorry*.) You'd have to give me a thousand Heather's Stores for one 50/50 Grind. 50/50 is giving you a chance to connect again to that vibrant, rich culture that sustained you through your angst-filled youth. You know you were listening to "It Ain't Hard to Tell" before squash matches at Brown, your AP Econ exam, or the GMAT. Now it's time for you to show some love back.

You deserve some new kicks, and a fresh t-shirt. 50/50 Grind has what you need. Visit today.

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