A few weeks ago, this article tried to explain what it was like being an AzN in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It was real cute and they had the little disclaimer at the end saying how it was for fun. But yo, that AzN shit was serious biz back in the day! Dudes were really getting stomped out trying to live that yellow pride. Also, a lot of the qualifiers on the other list could be applied to other minorities and Asians you wouldn’t consider AzN.
For the Asian community of today and non-Asians-in-the-know, ‘AzN’ got the mad negative connotation. They were the high school delinquents, the thugs, the gangsters, and even the wannabe gangsters. Every ethnicity has those but being Asian added significant cultural differences that will seem strange to outsiders but make perfect sense to those who were about it.
So, here it is, Gumship with the uncut version because who else is going to document these little bits of Asian American culture? Also, don’t worry if you don’t meet all these qualifications and you’re not *Gasp a real AzN. That might be a good thing…
*disclaimer – this is written from the perspective of an East Coast Korean so not everything will apply.
Other races like to smack people too. But in the AzN world, it was like an epidemic. Somebody was always getting smacked. Sometimes a dude just got caught slippin’ and was surrounded by an army of people ready to stomp them out. The only way to get out of a hospital visit was to basically admit defeat and receive a humiliating smack by the one dude you had a problem with or the whole crew. Sometimes, you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Cafe & Bakery Loitering
I had pool halls and bars on this list and then I cut those out because that wasn’t uniquely AzN. But cafes and bakeries… yo, who is really doing that?! Also, imagine getting jumped to the tune of the most popular Korean drama theme song with cake aromas in the air. Shit is real!
Spit Puddle Huddle
If you were like a Steve Irwin-type tracking down the AzN species, one of the tell-tale signs would be a spit puddle sprinkled with cigarette butts. My bad, I ruin your lunch? AzNs loved to loiter (in front of cafes) while smoking cigarettes (newports or marlboro lights, of course) and spitting into the center of the cypher. You could also tell how long they were there by the size of the pool. Yeah, just skip lunch.
Self-inflicted Cigarette Burns
Cigarette burns were shows of machismo and loyalty to gangs. It was also something a lot of cats did out of boredom. I remember my boy gave himself four in a row (into a cross shape) and that was badass until the next time I saw him and he was whining about an infection. Dumbass.
A common joke non-Asians like to make about Asians fighting is the incorporation of martial arts into street fights. That shit is funny until they catch the roundhouse kick to the grill or like a muy thai skull bash. I remember seeing a dude step up to another guy, like really get in his face, and still kick a cigarette out of his mouth. Obviously not everyone was kungfu fighting, but there was Bruce Lee shit going on every now and then.
Access to Weapons
THEY GOT BEEF? I’LL BE BACK WITH MY BUTTERFLY KNIFE, LEAD PIPE, AND BRASS KNUCKLES. Everyone really did have a friend with one or all the above even if they weren’t in a gang.
Respect for elders
There are varying degrees of this depending on whether you were Korean, Chinese, whatever but you had to respect your elders. And by elders, that could mean a dude one year older than you. To show respect, you would bow to them or use honorifics. Vice versa, you had a bunch of little dudes who bowed and called you ‘hyung’ or ‘dialo’. But not everyone went along with it. Witnessed a lot of fights over someone trying to son a younger dude that felt they didn’t earn that right. It wasn’t all hazing though. A lot of older heads would look out when there were any conflicts.
Every AzN smoker got scolded by another older AzN about smoking while clouds of smoke billowed into their eyeballs and nose. And it was a real thing too, like you’d see dude go ‘oh shit, that’s so and so’ and he’d scramble around the building to throw some cologne on his fingers. And when he got caught, he might get a talk, a smack, or some wild shit like ‘eat all the cigarettes in your pack’. This goes for drinking, getting high, and cutting classes too.
Older generations pulled their guns out and placed them on their sides while they prayed. Younger generations were mostly getting high or drunk before service. But they were all at church. Sometimes, you would witness an AzN get beat up by the pastor aka reformed older generation AzN because they exist too. (Editor’s note: as homie in the comment section pointed out, this might be more of a Korean thing)
Internet Cafe Fight
You ever seen people scrap over a game of Starcraft or Counterstrike? Haaaaaaaaa!
Befriend or Beware the Fobs
Every AzN knows fobs are unpredictable. Either you’ve picked on one and you saw them snap and get the crazy eyes or they were in your crew and you saw them snap and get the crazy eyes. I seen a dude with a kpop/anime hairstyle beat the crap out of a guy twice his size and then turn around and beat the crap out of a tiny kid with a log for not knowing his place. What in the hell. I don’t know if it was because they got to watch Dragonball Z without the subtitles or what, but you always had to have one in the group.
Fuck it, Sanrio was a real thing. The girls were into it so you either had to roll up in there to cop that overpriced Badtz Maru plush doll with an overcompensating mean-mug. Related: you also had to hide a jar of fucking anniversary paper cranes/stars that your girl gave you because that shit was terrible for street cred.
Everybody knows Asians love karaoke and that includes the AzN as well who know at least one rose petal soft tune out the karaoke book. Usually it’s a boyband joint, “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack, or some tearjerker ballad in the native tongue. Always end the hour with 2pac “Life Goes On”, though. No exceptions.
Ravers and Breakdancers
Singing isn’t the only hidden musical ‘talent’ of an AzN. Throw on some house or a breakbeat and you could see some moves.
Yo, I don’t know what brand of bugspray dude was huffing on the other list, talking about Asian people like rocking yellow. That shit looks terrible on us. You usually could catch an AzN in the black or white tshirt, blue jeans, leather jacket combination. I mean, there was all kinds of trends like the visor, the wide legs, manhattan portage, tommy hilfiger, northface, stussy, mossimo, ralph lauren, ufo’s… and a bunch of shit other people were rocking. Yellow was definitely not our main shit though. C’mon son.
Not gonna lie, Asians got some luxurious ass hair. It’s too bad we only rocked with like three hairstyles though: the bangs, the spiked hair, and the shaved head. And it was always dyed. Like, even the shaved hair dude had the mean Sisqo.
Yo, it’s a lot of knucklehead shit on this list but the most important thing was you had pride in being Asian when it wasn’t the ‘cool’ thing to be. Obviously there were other Asians who also felt pride and showed it. But the AzN was down to get into those fistfights over name-calling (chink, gook). So you have to respect that even if they DID live by a really bizarre set of values and beliefs. Salute.
Today, the term ‘AzN’ is more of a punchline and I hope today’s youth aren’t on that. There are enough Asians in pop culture to offset any reason to rebel for acceptance and gang culture is slowly fading or at least sinking more deeply into the shadows. Let’s make non-Asian friends and expand our horizons up. Let’s not put hands on each other for disrespectful stares. And let’s not land face-first into a spit puddle. It was a good time though.