Hip‐Hop as Urban and Regional Research: Encountering an Insider’s Ethnography of City Life


This essay suggests that hip‐hop music may reasonably be thought of as a form of urban and regional research. The essay draws upon a recently published book by hip‐hop artist Jay‐Z, which provides biographical information alongside translations of the lyrical content of his works, to show that hip‐hop is full of insider ethnographic insights into urban life. This, it is argued, can be thought of as an answer to Daryl Martin’s call for a more ‘poetic urbanism’, an urbanism that captures the material, sensory and emotional aspects of the city. The essay uses Jay‐Z’s text to illustrate the type of insights and ideas that we might obtain from hip‐hop, giving some specific examples of these insights and concluding with some reflections upon this alternative insider account of city life — and how it might provide us with opportunities for expanding our repertoire.