A ‘lil Left Coast History Lesson
Class is in session…
It is of no surprise that rap music is a derivative of the economic underclass. The themes, messages, and meanings that are contained in rap music are based upon the understanding that the information being relayed is of importance to the urban underclass. As Rose (1994) states, “these unusually abundant polyvocal conversations seem irrational when they are severed from the social contexts where everyday struggles over resources, pleasure, and meanings take place” (p. 2). Rose does a wonderful job at contextualizing her observations and understandings of the Hip-Hop culture, more specifically, rap music within the parameters of mainstream society. Black Noise takes readers on a socio-historical tour of the Hip-Hop culture. Beginning from the economic collapse in the South Bronx during the late 1960s, Rose (1994) begins to explain the behavior of rap music by drawing consistencies with the environment from which it was born. To fully comprehend the social depth of her chronological cross-reference, she makes it known that the economic depression in the Bronx was neither coincidence or community-inflicted. She makes it quite clear that New York City planner, Robert Moses, was strategic in his disrespect for communities in the ethnic minority: “Like many of his public works projects, Moses’s Cross-Bronx Expressway supported the interests of the upper classes against the interests of the poor and intensified the development of the vast economic and social inequalities that characterize contemporary New York” (Rose, 1994, p. 32). Her ability to state the cause of the economic depression in the Bronx, during this period in history, allows for recognition of the correlation between rap’s view of society and society’s ill treatment of these artists and their communities.
Cops patrol projects and the people livin’ in ‘em,
I was born an inmate, waitin’ to escape the prison.
Went to church, but don’t understand it. They underhanded!
God gave me these commandments.
The world is scandalous!
Blast ’til they holy high
Baptize they evil minds….rise…no longer blinded.
Watch me shine, Trick.
Which one of y’all wanna feel the degrees?
Bitches freeze when they see Black Jesus!
(Tupac Shakur, Black Jesus, 2000)
Arthur Pressley (1992) discusses the ill effects of economic depravity in his emphasis on psycho-theological interpretation of rap music. The first part of his argument addresses the psychosocial and physical needs that are lacking in many urban black communities due to lack of economic resources. He gives examples of staggering death figures that “include 920 suicides, 650 homicides, 20,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 500 deaths from cirrhosis of the liver” (Pressley, 1992, p. 93.) He speaks of urban black males, which he interviewed, who speak as if their only real choice in life is how they will die. He continues to construct a scene that consists of narcissistic individuals, who have only their dilapidated habitat to blame, as they attempt to build healthy relationships.