Every now and again I hear or read about someone referencing the infamous “back in the day.” “Back in the day” seems to be a magical time when things were pure, people had morals, and everything was better. This illustrious time period is as elusive as it is exclusive because it marks a certain period in time that cannot be defined for everyone yet anyone can harken back to it. If the United States government would release to the public the technology that will allow for time travel I guarantee most folks would want to go “back in the day!” This special place in time is near and dear to the hearts of people that wholeheartedly covet it with robust energy and overzealous imaginations. I know the “back in the day” is a source of nostalgic comfort and place where we get to relive the good times. My only issue with “back in the day” is was it really how people like to remember it and how much does the present inform our conceptions of “back in the day?”
When we think of “back in the day” in the realm of Hip-Hop it is subjective to the person or persons who solely or collectively agree upon what I am afraid are fallacies that bind folks of a particular mindset. Lets take the average 46-year-old male rap fan whose “back in the day” would include KRS One and Rakim. For him this is the Golden Era of rap and for him it is when rap was “pure” and “only about spitting knowledge and uplifting the community.” This conceptualization of “back in the day” rap is usually informed and juxtaposed to contemporary rap. Is this average 46-year-old male rap fan allowing his biases to inform his memories of a bygone era or is it exactly as he remembered it? I’m there is some truth to this man’s memories of the past, but I can almost guarantee with a high level of certainty that this man’s memory of “back in the day” was informed by his affinity for his own proclivities and his dislike of the musical styling’s of contemporary rap artists. If we can apply this made-up scenario of an average 46-year-old male rap fan’s memories of “back in the day” as an example of the of how our imaginations, biases, and disdain for the present can alter and slant the truth of a thing, than pretty much all of our “back in the day” sentiments are well-intentioned, but flawed.
I think people are creatures of habit and naturally fear change. I think people want to remember the pleasantries and forget the details that don’t fit the master narrative of the nostalgic memory they’ve concocted. If you grew up eating Frosted Flakes that came in a blue box God forbid they change the color of the box! This slight change to the box might have a psychological effect on you and you might say things like “back in the day when Frosted Flakes came in a blue box there was less sugar on the flakes, but now Frosted Flakes are too sweet.” This truth (Frosted Flakes being in a blue box) mixed with the falsehood (Frosted Flakes having too much sugar and being too sweet now) is exactly why the magic of “back in the day” will forever be subjective and subject to influence by the contemporary. In many ways our “back in the day” memories are a source of security and comfort and allow us to remember things how we perceived it to be and how we would like them to have been.