Introduction: Hip-hop as Critical Conscience: Framing Dissatisfaction and Dissent
Originating from youth cultures in the South Bronx during the late 1970s, the performative musical genre of hip-hop represents “a form of rhymed storytelling accompanied by highly rhythmic, electronically based music” (Rose, 1994, p. 2), one frequently portraying narrative experiences born from socioeconomic desperation, structural oppression, and other forms of perceived hardship (Flores, 2012; Neal, 1999). The social conditions lived by the first hip-hop artists were significant in shaping lyrical content. The South Bronx area of New York was known at the time as “America’s Worst Slum” (Price, 2006, p. 4) with Black and Latino communities facing “high rates of unemployment, extreme poverty, and other social structural barriers, such as a change from a manufacturing to a service-sector economy, along with urban renewal programs that pushed many black and Latinos from their residences” (Oware, 2015, p. 2). This situation was expedited by the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway (1948 and 1972), which resulted in the large-scale displacement of Blacks and Hispanics from razed neighborhoods into the South Bronx. Rose (1994, p. 33) explains how these displaced families were left with very little, and in particular with “few city resources, fragmented leadership, and limited political power”.
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