‘Street Music’, Urban Ethnography and Ghettoized Communities


Hip‐hop is a definitively urban movement, born in the crisis of the Fordist city and rooted in the 1970s street culture of poor and working‐class African Americans and Latinos in New York City. Engaging with the contributions of Beer and Lamotte, this essay addresses two questions. Firstly, can we understand hip‐hop as a politics of resistance, a social movement rooted in a claim on urban space and a practice of urban citizenship? And secondly, is hip hop, and particularly rap music, a form of urban and regional research? I argue that as a primarily artistic movement and black expressive culture (subject to commercial imperatives), hip‐hop has a layered and complex relationship with the social, political and spatial fabric of urban America. The complexity of this relationship renders problematic attempts to understand hip‐hop as urban ethnography or as a resistance politics. I conclude by discussing the potential of an engagement between hip‐hop and critical urban studies.