Ben Adler of the New York Times writes, “For many, the word “Brooklyn” now evokes artisanal cheese rather than rap artists. The disconnect between brownstone Brooklyn’s past and present is jarring in the places where rappers grew up and boasted about surviving shootouts, but where cupcakes now reign,” in his recent piece “Brooklyn, The Remix: Hip Hop Tour.” It’s a well crafted gallery of indelible events that subtly reaches at both sides of gentrification: the marginalized and the finically endowed. Adler may be saying more about American culture and what it deems as expendable than simply reflecting on the transformation of neighborhoods that have slowly bled out one culture and transfused it with the spirit of another. This procedure has become all too common within urban communities, but could these real estate endeavors be alluding to a fluid exchange of intellectual creativity or even cultural individuality?
A Metamorphosis or Refurbishing?
Crime in Brooklyn during the 80’s and 90’s isn’t something anyone wants to relive, but was a product of neglect. Hip Hop designed a platform for creative expression that would later amplify politicians’ disregard for poverty, unemployment, and low graduation rates not only in Brooklyn, but in many inner cities around the country. Nonetheless, Brooklyn became the new frontier as law enforcement grew more aggressive, and Manhattan restate prices pushed pioneers to explore the outer borough with potential. As Hip Hop received worldwide credibility, the money began to flow in, and the streets where it all began became more of a footnote in rappers’ lyrics. Many artists were over enthused to leave the place of their youth because getting out represented improvement and accomplishment. Who wouldn’t? After all, for decades Brooklyn residents believed in better which couldn’t be used in the same sentence with Bucktown until recently. Much of Brooklyn was financially abandoned allowing opportunist to focus on overhauling vast sections of the borough that could be redefined for profit. Many Brooklyn neighborhoods began to trade in their grit for a twinkle.
Hip Hop That Represents…
Of course poverty doesn’t hold a monopoly on lyricism, but there are aspects of Hip Hop that would be impossible to recreate without a dire atmosphere. Perhaps you can make this statement about art in general, but we do know there was a working of soul, location, creativity, and timing that produced some phenomenal Hip Hop artist from Brooklyn. Where will this history be remembered after these communities are officially out priced? Gentrification is a needed process in building communities, particularly in cities because much of the funding for renewing comes from its efforts. One might make a similar argument for the mainstreaming of Hip Hop, for it brings in more revenue and invites involvement from those with distinct backgrounds. Although Hip Hop’s growth and popularity is a sign of the music genre’s success, coupled with transforming communities that bred lyricist and producers, the art form could be losing it cultural ties.
there are definitely aspects of hip hop that would be impossible to recreate without a dire atmosphere. and i believe that the belief that dire atmosphere’s only come as result of lacking financially, or even primarily as a result of lacking financially, has been very damaging to hip hop’s growth.
aside from that, no one should use the term gentrification. it is an insult. the root word “gent” means “well born” or “well bred,” (as in “gentle” or “gentleman”). the term gentrification explicitly means “good people moving in.” obviously, the implication of such a term is that the ungood, or less good people are the ones being pushed out. we should be more mindful of the terminologies that we choose to adopt.
well written piece brother mateo/
Great point. The process of gentrification seems to only benefit those that are moving in and whatever is left from the uprooted neighborhood is usually displaced. You’re right, if someone chooses to use the term without acknowledging the elitist implications then there is an issue.