'Straight Edge' - Violent Street Gang or Fully Clean Lifestyle?

Photo Artist: James Ranka
Photo Artist: James Ranka

One Hardcore Music Song Creates a Gigantic, International Movement

In 1980, the Hardcore Music group, Minor Threat, recorded an original song serving as the backdrop for a new movement aptly labeled 'Straight Edge'.
Minor Threat's song lyrics, in part, reads:

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need
I've got the straight edge

© 1980 by Minor Threat

The Mosh Pit Experience


What is Hardcore Music?

People ascribe many adjectives in a vain effort to accurately describe the Hardcore Music sound, including 'loud', 'raw', 'violence-inducing', 'in your face'.

Lyrics are extremely violent in content and very liberal in their use of curse words.

ALL 'Straight Edge' members embrace Hardcore Music and many form separate musical groups. Hardcore Music concerts are frequently staged, complete with ear-smashing volume levels, mosh pits and a dance style that can only be described as wildly free. Audiences throw themselves into the filled-in pit comprised of hundreds of people. These individuals are then knocked around, pushed, and thrown at random.

To the inexperienced eye, the scene is chaotic, violent and out of control.

Group participants view the activities as a way to interact in ways perceived as fun and a good, healthy way to vent locked, youthful steam.

Some of the most popular Hardcore Music groups include:

  • Agnostic Front
  • Bad Brains
  • Cro-Mags
  • Black Flag
  • Hatebreed
  • Born from Pain
  • Biohazard
  • Terror (USA-1)


The Straight Edge Credo

Straight Edge membership requires a simple allegiance to a way of living that excludes alcohol, illicit street drugs of any kind, and abstinence from smoking or chewing tobacco products. A percentage are dedicated vegans and many forgo premarital sex.

Group members do not fashion any particular color. The one common identifier is the 'X' symbol. Most club associates choose to tattoo the 'X' logo on their bodies, although doing so is always a personal decision, not a prerequisite for membership.

Unlike most street gangs, Straight Edge has no central location nor elected or self-appointed leader or leaders. Their unique nature, though loose, requires a total devotion to the sobriety concept set forward within its creation.

The 36 year old movement is now established worldwide and is swiftly growing in membership numbers. Many experts agree the worldwide, total Straight Edge roll count numbers in the millions. Although no age regulations exist, most of the total club membership encompass males and females between the ages 15-29 years of age.

A dedicated 'Straight Edge' member

'Straight Edge' - The Positive

1. Members are, quite obviously, physically healthier than other non-subscribers within the same age groups.

2. Most members do not force their lifestyle on those who disagree with their hardcore beliefs.

3.'Straight Edge' membership presents a lifestyle attractive to young children who see the damage alcohol and drug abuse can inflict within a family setting.

4. Their decision-making processes are more coherent and sensible compared to clouded perceptions seen by drug and alcohol abusers

5. This enormous, mostly positive movement represent an undeniable rebellion against substances responsible for the destruction of countless marriages and familial relationships.

The negative militant side

All movements, organizations and groups no matter how noble, contain undesirable elements. 'Straight Edge' is no different.

The Reno, Nevada Police Department labels this movement as violent and are classified as a street gang by The Regional Gang Unit - a gang watched and patrolled no differently than "household names" like MS-13, Crips, Bloods, etc.

Reno Police Department's Lt. Doug Cardwell says, "We've had more crime attributed to Straight Edge than any criminal street gang" and that "It's ironic and disappointing that otherwise good kids are committing crimes to promote their own personal philosophy."

The Lieutenant goes on record to say some Straight Edge members attack non-members for something as seemingly harmless as a remark deemed to be offensive. He also says some group members use knives, baseball bats and shovels in the reported assaults.

Although his comments were made and recorded several years ago, Straight Edge is allegedly still on record as being a violent, Reno-based street gang.

This movement revolves around 'Hardcore Music' as a rallying cry to keep members in line. Members are quick to point out that Hardcore Music does not occupy a place within Heavy Metal, Heavy Punk nor any similar musical genre.

Hardcore Music concerts are extremely violent. The concerts are heavily attended by members and usually confined to a relatively small area. Every concert produces accounts of frequent fist fights, violent "dancing", and raucous behavior.

'Straight Edge' - A complex movement

The perfect description of this movement does not exist due to its enigmatic mystique.

Perhaps the difficulty in finding a conclusive picture resides in the young-aged demographic. Members are "finding their ways" to a rightful place and status in an esoteric world: An almost impossible undertaking for successful achievement within this age group.

One cannot draw a final conclusion based on the facts presented here, although the vast make-up that is 'Straight Edge', can only be seen as admirable.

Perhaps the video (below) sheds more insight describing the collective mindset that is 'Straight Edge'. As always, you, dear reader, will be the judge.

A Lifestyle

© 2016 James Ranka

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