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Youth crew is a music subculture of hardcore punk attributed to bands who were primarily active during the mid-to late 1980s particularly during the New York hardcore scene of the late eighties. Youth crew is distinguished from other hardcore and punk scenes by its optimism and moralist outlook. The original youth crew bands and fans were predominantly straight edge (abstaining from alcohol and drugs) and vegetarian advocates.
Early musical influences included Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Negative Approach, 7 Seconds, and Black Flag. While some youth crew music is similar to melodic hardcore, other styles can be very thrash metal influenced and also includes breakdowns intended for the hardcore dancing style associated with live performances.Youth of Today was a very thrashy youth crew band, with abrasive vocals and fast songs too short to include a lot of melody (similar to early Agnostic Front, and contrasting with the other big New York City youth crew bands such as Gorilla Biscuits). Later youth crew bands took increasing influence from heavy metal.
The term crew was used by many first wave hardcore punk bands of the early 80s. 7 Seconds named their debut LP record "The Crew" in 1984 Which also contained the song The Crew. Some other notable examples of this are Boston Straight Edge bands like SS Decontrol, Negative FX, DYS and other associates calling themselves the "Boston Crew", bands in the Reno area (most notably 7 Seconds) used to refer to themselves as the "Skeeno Crew". John L Hancock III (aka RatBoy) designed a T-shirt and wrote the Youth of Today song "Youth Crew" which appeared on their 1985 "Can't Close My Eyes" 7". Later on Warzone also had a song called "We're the Crew" on their 1988 album Don't Forget the Struggle, Don't Forget the Streets. Judge also had a song called "New York Crew" in 1988.
Youth crew was most popular from 1986 to 1992, primarily in New York City tri-state region and, to a lesser degree, California. It was inspired by bands such as 7 Seconds, Minor Threat and SSD, whose members were all straight edge, and lyrical concerns included brotherhood and community values. The sound was largely defined by a series of releases by labels such as Revelation Records, including albums by Youth of Today,Chain of Strength, Gorilla Biscuits,Bold,Judge,Side By Side. However, many of these bands were more aggressive in their attitudes. Ray Cappo eventually converted to the Hare Krishna faith, and 108 and the Cro-Mags also participated in the Krishnacore offshoot. The California band Vegan Reich established the hardline wing of straight edge youth crew hardcore. Although hardline had few adherents, its attitudes and militancy had a notable effect on later bands such as Earth Crisis and Racetraitor. The "Youth Crew" scene also included the participation of skinheads, many of whom were fans of Warzone, Cro-Mags and Youth Defense League. Youth crew bands were contemporary to, though noticeably distinct from, crossover thrash, thrashcore, crust punk, melodic hardcore, and emo bands.
In the 1990s, bands inspired by this scene became increasingly influenced by thrash and death metal. These bands, including Earth Crisis, Snapcase, One Life Crew, Integrity, Strife, Hatebreed and Blood for Blood, recorded for Victory Records, and were partly responsible for the contemporary metalcore scene. Groups on Trustkill Records, such as Walls of Jericho, Racetraitor and Shai Hulud, were also part of this current. There were some bands, such as Mouthpiece, who were still keeping the original sound of youth crew.
Youth crew bands first achieved visibility in popular culture through CIV (featuring the former singer of Gorilla Biscuits). Later youth crew-derived music became increasingly associated with metalcore, particularly in the cases of Earth Crisis and Strife. The late 1990s saw a revival of the youth crew style, revisited by bands such as In My Eyes, Bane, Ten Yard Fight, and Better Than a Thousand.
The youth crew fashion, different from the stereotypical skinhead fashion worn by many NYC-area hardcore music fans circa 1988, is preserved in record-liner photos, videos, and zine photos from that era. The look was more conventional than a lot of punk fashion. In an interview in 2004's All Ages: Reflections on Straight Edge, Cappo described the youth crew look as being "Tony Hawk meets Beaver Cleaver".
Youth crew fashion included bleached hair, crewcuts and similar haircuts, athletic wear, letterman jackets, sportswear, army pants or shorts, oversized T-shirts bearing band logos or straight edge slogans, hooded sweatshirts and hightop basketball shoes. 7 Seconds and their fans often drew black lines under their eyes in a similar manner to athletes. Hardliners and more militant straight-edgers sometimes wore camouflage and military surplus gear. The Swatch X-Rated became popular in youth crew fashion. Sports brands, such as Adidas, Nike or Champion, were popular in youth crew fashion.
1988 is often considered to be the peak of youth crew straight edge New York hardcore, so the abbreviation '88 sometimes appears in songs, T-shirts, album cover art or other media. 1988 is also commonly remembered as a year that was very violent and dangerous in the New York hardcore scene, when a lot of clubs closed or banned hardcore concerts.