“Hood” is the short form of “neighborhoods,” and “ghetto” is used for describing slums or places where a large group of people live. Though “hood” is a word that is a shortened version of “neighborhoods,” it has more meanings attached to it. Like “ghetto,” “hood” is also termed as a slum or a poverty-stricken place within the precincts of an urban area. The poor areas in the rural areas are known as a ghetto rather than a hood. By tradition, the word “hood” referred to the areas where the majority of the population was African American. In modern terms, a ghetto is an urban area where a specific racial or ethnic population is consolidated.
“Hood” and “ghetto” are places where one does not want to live. These are places where crimes are prevalent. These are places where the drug trade flourishes. Hoods and ghettos are places where the crime rate and poverty are high. These are places of illiteracy and unemployment. Life in the hood and ghetto is very difficult. Though some people have come out of the life in a hood or ghetto, there are still hundreds who fight hard to make a living here.
Hip-hop culture is a way of knowing. It has its own set of customs, beliefs, practices and schematic understandings that are unique to those immersed in the culture(Emdin, 2010). Hip-hop also represents a place of comfort for black boys who are often separated from the mainstream school culture through racially stereotypical practices (Forman, 2000). When black male youth experience feelings of alienation from the school milieu they respond by closely aligning themselves with hip-hop cultural aesthetics. This response allows them to assume a hardened exterior that hides their desire to be a part of the mainstream school culture. As a result, black boys submerge themselves in hip-hop music, including spending a significant amount of time studying the lives of rap artists and chronicling it through the use of social media.
Hip-hop culture is a rare occurrence in American history that has permanently altered the social conscience of a generation for the last four decades (Brown, 2010; Stovall, 2006). Moreover, this popular culture phenomenon has generated passion and enthusiasm among young people (Ogbar, 2007). To this end, it has permeated the social constructs of race, class, ethnicity, and gender. According to Emdin (2010), the term “hip-hop” constitutes more than just another type of popular music. Furthermore, he advocates that hip-hop is, indeed, a culture that enables young people all over the world to connect through their common experiences. It is through these common experiences that school age youth develop identity and resist the oppressive nature of American public education.
The lineage of the 1960s and 70s soul music represents historical snapshots of revolution, innovation, community, tradition, and cultural preservation. As a soul artist, Scott captures the essence of soul music, but reinterprets and transforms soul music to embody the personal yet collective experience of many blacks of the post-Civil Rights generation. Although Scott grew up in a working-class environment, she was exposed to different cultural elements. Those different cultural elements are revealed in her lyrics, videos, and fusing various genres into her music approach. After listening to Scott’s eclectic lyrics referencing collard greens, jazz, and diverse religions implications, I realized part of her identity encompasses contrasting archetype class characteristics. Scott’s ability to apply various identities reflects her ability to navigate between classes, making her a cultural mulatto. I define cultural mulatto as a person who can be a black urban, working-class person with middle-class aspirations and who navigates between working-class and middle-class.
The idea of cultural mulattoes first appeared in Trey Ellis’ The New Black Aesthetic (1989). This project expands Ellis’ concept of cultural mulattoes. Cultural mulattoes encapsulate blacks of the middle-class who are “educated by a multi-racial mix of cultures and can navigate easily in the white world” (Ellis 235). Unlike the historical concept of mulattoes, meaning black and white mixed heritage, mulattoes in this project expresses a combination of multi-cultural class influences. Cultural mulattoes consistently negotiate and perform various archetype class identities in different social situations. Class archetype identities occur through behavioral spaces such as language, dress, and demeanor that carry social meaning.
The rise of cultural mulattoes has grown more so than previously, which makes the dynamic of the post-Civil Rights generation so interesting. Cultural mulattoes have existed throughout history, but the rise of cultural mulattoes is a by-product of Civil Rights activism, garnering access to certain social institutions and paradigms. Since cultural mulattoes stem from the socio-political and economic gains of desegregation, cultural mulattoes engage with different communities of classes. They are able to pull from different cultural influences seen through television, film, and news, as well as their life experiences and incorporate a hybrid class identity.
Brown Sugar (2002) centered on the lives of two young black professionals who have a love affair with each other and with original hip-hop. The characters grew up in the projects of New York, but entered higher economic classes in esteemed professional positions after receiving college degrees. The film reconceptualized hip-hop from the pronounced violent and misogynistic images. Brown Sugar revealed the love/hate relationship many post-segregation generationers had with hip-hop’s over commercialization and degrading images, yet the potential to empower generations (Harris 2012). The film placed focus on music as art and as a unifying mechanism, hip-hop’s, MC rhyming skills, and the calmer conscious message rather than the violence of hip-hop’s subgenre, gangsta rap. Brown Sugar and Love Jones presented music hip-hop and jazz and poetry in an intellectual space, cloaked in middle-class aspirations. The black romance films displayed the importance of love at a time when black on black crime was at an all-time high. This film signified a reclaiming of hip-hop as a community, and reclaiming its intended message and image out of white mainstream marketing.
In Northern Ireland, towns and cities have long been segregated along ethnic, religious and political lines. Northern Ireland’s two main communities are its Irish nationalist-republican community (who mainly self-identify as Irish or Catholic) and its unionist-loyalist community (who mainly self-identify as British or Protestant). Ghettos emerged in Belfast during the riots that accompanied the Irish War of Independence. For safety, people fled to areas where their community was the majority. They then sealed off these neighborhoods with barricades to keep out rioters or gunmen from the other side.
Many more ghettos emerged after the 1969 riots and beginning of the “Troubles”. In August 1969 the British Army was deployed to restore order and separate the two sides. The government built barriers called “peace lines”. Many of the ghettos came under the control of paramilitaries such as the (republican) Provisional Irish Republican Army and the (loyalist) Ulster Defence Association. One of the most notable ghettos was Free Derry.
A Jewish quarter is the area of a city traditionally inhabited by Jews in the diaspora. Jewish quarters, like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, were often the outgrowths of segregated ghettos instituted by the surrounding authorities. Jewish ghettos in Europe existed because Jews were viewed as alien. As a result, Jews were placed under strict regulations throughout many European cities. The character of ghettos has varied through times. In some cases, the ghetto was a Jewish quarter with a relatively affluent. In other cases, ghettos were places of terrible poverty and during periods of population growth, ghettos (as that of Rome), had narrow streets and tall, crowded houses. Residents had their own justice system.
The venom that suffuses rap had little place in black popular culture—indeed, in black attitudes—before the 1960s. The hip-hop ethos can trace its genealogy to the emergence in that decade of a black ideology that equated black strength and authentic black identity with a militantly adversarial stance toward American society. In the angry new mood, captured by Malcolm X’s upraised fist, many blacks (and many more white liberals) began to view black crime and violence as perfectly natural, even appropriate, responses to the supposed dehumanization and poverty inflicted by a racist society. Briefly, this militant spirit, embodied above all in the Black Panthers, infused black popular culture, from the plays of LeRoi Jones to “blaxploitation” movies, like Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which celebrated the black criminal rebel as a hero.
Rap’s musical accompaniment mirrors the brutality of rap lyrics in its harshness and repetition. Simmons fashions his recordings in contempt for euphony. “What we used for melody was implied melody, and what we used for music was sounds—beats, scratches, stuff played backward, nothing pretty or sweet.” The success of hip-hop has resulted in an ironic reversal. In the seventies, screaming hard rock was in fashion among young whites, while sweet, sinuous funk and soul ruled the black airwaves—a difference I was proud of. But in the eighties, rock quieted down, and black music became the assault on the ears and soul. Anyone who grew up in urban America during the eighties won’t soon forget the young men strolling down streets, blaring this sonic weapon from their boom boxes, with defiant glares daring anyone to ask them to turn it down.
Hip-hop exploded into popular consciousness at the same time as the music video, and rappers were soon all over MTV, reinforcing in images the ugly world portrayed in rap lyrics. Video after video features rap stars flashing jewelry, driving souped-up cars, sporting weapons, angrily gesticulating at the camera, and cavorting with interchangeable, mindlessly gyrating, scantily clad women.
Given the hip-hop world’s reflexive alienation, it’s no surprise that its explicit political efforts, such as they are, are hardly progressive. Simmons has founded the “Hip-Hop Summit Action Network” to bring rap stars and fans together in order to forge a “bridge between hip-hop and politics.” But HSAN’s policy positions are mostly tired bromides. Sticking with the long-discredited idea that urban schools fail because of inadequate funding from the stingy, racist white Establishment, for example, HSAN joined forces with the teachers’ union to protest New York mayor Bloomberg’s proposed education budget for its supposed lack of generosity. HSAN has also stuck it to President Bush for invading Iraq. And it has vociferously protested the affixing of advisory labels on rap CDs that warn parents about the obscene language inside. Fighting for rappers’ rights to obscenity: that’s some kind of revolution!.
The attitude and style expressed in the hip-hop “identity” keeps blacks down. Almost all hip-hop, gangsta or not, is delivered with a cocky, confrontational cadence that is fast becoming—as attested to by the rowdies at KFC—a common speech style among young black males. Similarly, the arm-slinging, hand-hurling gestures of rap performers have made their way into many young blacks’ casual gesticulations, becoming integral to their self-expression. The problem with such speech and mannerisms is that they make potential employers wary of young black men and can impede a young black’s ability to interact comfortably with co-workers and customers. The black community has gone through too much to sacrifice upward mobility to the passing kick of an adversarial hip-hop “identity.”
Appearing at the close of the twentieth century, the genre reflects key shifts in the political imaginary and economic transformations of the ‘post-soul’ era. Drawing on two such texts, Barbershop (Tim Story 2002) and Barbershop 2: Back In Business (Kevin Rodney Sullivan 2004), studio films with all-black casts and directed by young African-American filmmakers, this analysis focuses on their engagement with contemporary cultural tensions over class and consumerism, their narrative containment of a transformative black politics, and their reconciliation of post-soul priorities with hegemonic discourses of the market. I argue that ghetto fabulous films are quintessential products of the post-soul era, their allegorical priorities in pointed accord with neo-liberal individualism and the promise of class transcendence. Performing crucial work of hegemonic cooptation, these texts offer archetypes of the ghetto entrepreneur and black enterprise itself as a salvational sphere for the urban poor. Reining in unruly desires, these texts draw working-class African Americans into the capitalist fold, articulating a post-soul politics that preaches black acquiescence with hegemonic discourses of advanced capitalism.
I will use the term (Neo)soul when citing critics and scholars, distinguishing between early stages of soul music and contemporary soul, and for the sake of mainstream understanding. Critics who write on (Neo)soul create distinctions between early forms of soul and contemporary soul that began in the 90s. The term Neo is placed in parentheses because most (Neo)soul artists consider themselves soul artists (David 698; Cunningham 240-242, 244; George 186). By (Neo)soul, I refer to contemporary soul music (circa 1990) that extends soul music of the 1970s in musical style and lyrical content (George 186-187). (Neo)soul continues the soul music aesthetic.
(Neo)soul’s contribution to understanding cross-cultural class exchanges may alter or perpetuate the present discussions of hip-hop. From the 1990s to the present, hip-hop has been an intricate part of academic and non-academic discussion circles. Many scholars and critics survey hip-hop’s cultural influence and social implications across the globe.
As hip-hop became a commercial success, commodified by major music labels, the discussions of hip-hop increased (Stewart 199). Hip-hop represents a youth movement with changing social and economic landscapes (Pough 4; Watkins 7). Within the context of class, the social implications of hip-hop revealed two prominent distinctions. First, hip-hop revealed the economic, social, and political disparities of the black urban landscape. Secondly, the popularity of hip-hop introduced the black urban landscape to a variety of class, ethnic, and racial diversities.
Scholars regard black music as an urban platform for working-class people to express collective consciousness related to social, economic, and political issues. Working-class people process their social culture and gain a sense of agency through music. Therefore, black music, more specifically blues, funk, hip-hop, and soul, has provided a way of self-expression for working-class people. As a working-class woman, Jill Scott through (Neo)soul provides insight into the current state of class identities resulting from social, political, and economic influences, which cultivate cross-cultural class exchanges that are unrecognized or underrepresented in current scholarship. Scholarship focusing on hip-hop and soul music will benefit from the results of this study to grasp a better understanding of music’s influences on the complexities and diversity of identities.
The creation of new jack swing provided opportunity for musically talented youth who
did not rap to express their music ability while still maintaining the same street credibility of
New jack swing attempted to bridge the gap between the segregation and desegregation
generations by taking music from artists of the segregation era and putting it into the parent of
gangsta rap, hip-hop. As music artists became more sophisticated with digitized technique,
many deejays and producers started sampling music from previous eras and from various music
genres. Sampling occurs when an artist(s) takes a portion of music (snippet) from another
artist(s)’ existing song and incorporates the snippet into a newly recorded song (“Digital Music
Sampling” 2011). Rappers often sampled tracks from funk, disco, jazz, and blues artists from
the 1950-1970s (Hunter 34). Sampling paid homage to artists of the segregation generation. The
union of old and new styles of music lined the pockets of artists through royalties, but did little to
bridge the generations in understanding each other aesthetically, socially, and politically.
Hip-hop culture represents a common bond that exists among black boys. For them, hip-hop represents an endless struggle to be recognized by their peers and gain social status in the community (Chang, 2005; Rose, 1994; Prier & Beachum, 2008). Theoretically, hip-hop gives cultural capital and social status to black boys who are often discriminated against in public schools.
The hip-hop cultural movement that began in the 1 970s has had long-lasting effects on society today. It is both dangerous and alluring. As a pop-culture phenomenon it is both loved and loathed. For music industry executives, scholars, artists, politicians and youth of all ages and ethnicities hip-hop culture represents a wealth of opportunity in American culture and capitalism. Between 1990 and 2005, the rap music industry experienced a 40% increase in sales. The year 2000 alone experienced for the first time the domination of hip-hop culture’s subgenre, rap music, surpass that of country music and become the third highest grossing art form in the United States. More importantly, it totaled an astounding $1.6 billion in sales worldwide. A