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Chicago Hustle and Flow

Gangs, Gangsta Rap, and Social Class

2014
Author:

Geoff Harkness

Chicago Hustle and Flow

Explores the symbiotic relationship between gangsta rap and Chicago street gangs

Set in one of the largest underground music scenes in the nation, this book takes readers into the heart of gangsta rap culture in Chicago. Geoff Harkness presents gripping accounts of the lives, beliefs, and ambitions of the gang members and rappers and illustrates how class stratification creates and maintains inequalities, even at the level of a local rap-music scene.

In shifting the emphasis away from textual analysis of rap songs and toward artists’ understandings of their own practices and identities, Chicago Hustle and Flow avoids the most common pitfalls of hip-hop studies texts. Many scholars have written about gangsta rap, but Geoff Harkness’s committed qualitative approach and vividly drawn setting are deep breaths of fresh air.

Michael Jeffries, author of Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop

On September 4, 2012, Joseph Coleman, an eighteen-year-old aspiring gangsta rapper, was gunned down in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Police immediately began investigating the connections between Coleman’s murder and an online war of words and music he was having with another Chicago rapper in a rival gang. In Chicago Hustle and Flow, Geoff Harkness points out how common this type of incident can be when rap groups form as extensions of gangs. Gangs and rap music, he argues, can be a deadly combination.

Set in one of the largest underground music scenes in the nation, this book takes readers into the heart of gangsta rap culture in Chicago. From the electric buzz of nightclubs to the sights and sounds of bedroom recording studios, Harkness presents gripping accounts of the lives, beliefs, and ambitions of the gang members and rappers with whom he spent six years. A music genre obsessed with authenticity, gangsta rap promised those from crime-infested neighborhoods a ticket out of poverty. But while firsthand experiences with gangs and crime gave rappers a leg up, it also meant carrying weapons and traveling collectively for protection.

Street gangs serve as a fan base and provide protection to rappers who bring in income and help to recruit for the gang. In examining this symbiotic relationship, Chicago Hustle and Flow ultimately illustrates how class stratification creates and maintains inequalities, even at the level of a local rap-music scene.

Awards

Midwest Sociological Society Book Award

Chicago Hustle and Flow

Geoff Harkness is assistant professor of sociology at Morningside College.

Chicago Hustle and Flow

In shifting the emphasis away from textual analysis of rap songs and toward artists’ understandings of their own practices and identities, Chicago Hustle and Flow avoids the most common pitfalls of hip-hop studies texts. Many scholars have written about gangsta rap, but Geoff Harkness’s committed qualitative approach and vividly drawn setting are deep breaths of fresh air.

Michael Jeffries, author of Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop

While the title of this rather academic text hints at Harkness’s intimate, sometimes engrossing perspective on Chicago gangsta rap, he cast a wide enough net to show the challenges aspiring Chicago MCs faced when this city was still considered a hip-hop flyover zone.

Chicago Reader

A must read that will make an impact on and contribution to the literature on the political economy of black music.

CHOICE

A worthy read about a worthy region.

Roy Christopher

It is not just about rappers and gangs. It is about a bigger picture, one that is a reflection of a class and racially divided society.

Criminal Justice Review

Harkness’s approach is wonderfully refreshing. . . Chicago Hustle and Flow is required reading for anyone wanting a peak inside a major city’s underground rap scene.

American Journal of Sociology

Geoff Harkness’s book is a sincere and genuine urban ethnography of the underground rap science in the post millennium period. . . it is plainly apparent that Harkness had a genuine connection with the artists he interviewed.

Ethnic and Racial Studies

[Chicago Hustle and Flow] offers a much-needed alternative representation of young men struggling with a daily life of inequality.

International Journal of Urban and Regional Research

Chicago Hustle and Flow is a compelling book. . . The author does an excellent job of humanizing his interview subjects (again breaking down stereotypes) and providing readers with a perspective that few would otherwise get to experience.

Popular Music and Society

Chicago Hustle and Flow

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction. Welcome to the Terrordome: Chicago’s Gangsta-Rap Microscene

1. Who Shot Ya: A Tale of Two Gangsta-Rap Rivals
2. The Blueprint: Social Class and the Rise of the Rap Hustler
3. Bangin’ on Wax: Recording Studios as Symbolic Spaces
4. In Da Club: How Social Class Shapes the Performative Context
5. Capital Punishment: Crime and Risk Management in the Rap Game

Conclusion. Rap Hustlers or Sucker MCs?
Epilogue. Six Years Later

Notes
Bibliography
Index