The Uncertain Future of Lowriding's Infamous Strip
An odd calm has come over this once bustling, six-lane, divided boulevard. For a large, main street in the heart of South Los Angeles, it's actually almost quiet. "No Cruising" and "No Parking" signs line the curbs, cops on bikes and in patrol cars roll down nearly every block, and Highway Patrol cruisers sit idling in driveways and side streets, ready to pounce. There are almost no lowriders to be found. This is the new Sunday night on Crenshaw Boulevard.
Long regarded as one of the most important and symbolic lowrider cruising spots in the country-and the world-Crenshaw's current place in the culture has recently come into question. Regular riders say the police are cracking down harder than ever before, due to complaints from the neighborhood's residents, who want the car clubs to leave their streets for good. Many of the cruisers now find themselves migrating toward the car show circuit, or just hanging out in parks and parking lots, in order to escape the police presence that now controls the Boulevard.
The situation hasn't always been so dire. Crenshaw's early scene started as a small but popular Friday and Saturday night gathering, whose roots can be traced all the way back to the '60s. The lowrider numbers picked up in the late-'70s, and by the mid-'80s, they eschewed Friday and Saturday nights in favor of Sunday rendezvous. As Individuals member Switchman recalls, the Sunday ritual was quickly established. "The day started out as we'd go to Venice Beach, hang out at the beach, then take Venice Boulevard all the way to Crenshaw, and then hang out on Crenshaw," he laments. Crenshaw afternoons bled into Crenshaw nights, and eventually the police would come by and run everybody off until the next weekend. And so it went in this glorious hey-day, as the scene continued to grow with no signs of slowing down.
Crenshaw began to garner national attention, thanks to late-'80s/early-'90s gangsta rap videos and classic SoCal inner-city films such as "Boyz N The Hood." Around this time, Sundays on the 'Shaw became a wild, massively crowded sort of block party, with entire stretches of road virtually shut down by lowriders. It was, and remains, a primarily black scene, led by a few long-standing clubs, Majestics, Individuals, The Professionals and Mafia IV Life, among them. "On Sundays, we would have traffic stopped," recalls Majestics member Wally Dogg. "We had guys hopping in the middle of the street, double parking. There's obviously residents that are one block away that probably complained. Too many people, too many cars. I wouldn't even say it was getting out of control; it was just unacceptable [to the police] to have that many unorganized gatherings with no one responsible. They couldn't put their finger on 'these people or this organization is responsible for doing this,' because really it was just the wild, wild west. Everybody showed up." The early- and mid-'90s saw a major increase in the number of lowrider clubs centered around the Crenshaw area. That meant even more people showing up to the Sunday scene, which in turn, brought even more cops to the area.