Archival photos courtesy of Joel Rodriguez, Chris Lo, Angel Oz-Lo,
Danilo Cabral, and Optimo NYC
In the late 80s, death was all around us in Brownsville and Marcus Garvey Village. We supported each other through some of the harshest times in Brooklyn’s history—crack was raging and guns went off daily. Before we were known as the Lo-lifes, we were just friends who wore Polo and Ralph Lauren. We spent days in the pool and at the local jams, bagging pieces, and living our lives. Our only concerns were money, hoes, and clothes. We had reputations for bringing home the finest pieces and staying fly. At first, cats around us took this as a weakness; they thought we couldn’t get busy. We proved them wrong on many occasions.
The Lo-lifes were unified under a single label. We weren’t thought of as greedy cats, killers, or thugs—we were original, trendsetters, and go-getters. And now we’ve spread around the world: Spain, Brazil, Australia, France, and too many other places to name.
We lost many of our brothers along the way. I did their names on walls, looked at their young faces in coffins, and cried with my brothers. Every tear, drop of blood, and funeral added weight and value to the name Lo-life. We hold it in high regard; we don’t take it lightly or allow it to be abused. We are a family first, call us what you want after that. 2LLs: love and loyalty!