Chicago Hustle and Flow

Chicago Hustle and Flow: Gangs, Gangsta Rap, and Social Class

Geoff Harkness
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt9qh30j
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Chicago Hustle and Flow
    Book Description:

    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. InChicago 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 Flowultimately illustrates how class stratification creates and maintains inequalities, even at the level of a local rap-music scene.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4398-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction. Welcome to the Terrordome: Chicago’s Gangsta-Rap Microscene
    (pp. 1-32)

    On September 4, 2012, Joseph Coleman, an eighteen-year-old aspiring gangsta rapper who went by the moniker Lil JoJo, was gunned down in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, the victim of a drive-by shooting. Chicago police immediately began to investigate the connection between Coleman’s murder and an online war of words and music he was having with another Chicago rapper, seventeen-year-old Keith Cozart, better known by his stage name, Chief Keef. The feud between Coleman and Cozart had all the trappings of a media sensation, as evidenced by breathless headlines in the local press: “Chicago Hip-Hop War of Words Turns Violent”...

  6. 1 Who Shot Ya? A Tale of Two Gangsta-Rap Rivals
    (pp. 33-70)

    When a man who served nine years in prison for armed robbery, assault on a police officer, and unlawful use of a weapon tells you to be there at 8:30 p.m., you get there at 8:25. I’m standing at the address Habit gave me on the phone earlier, a nondescript two-flat with faded side paneling and a small yard surrounded by a rusty chain-link fence. Habit is Puerto Rican and lives in the Logan Square area of Chicago. Logan Square—which boasts a Latino population of more than 65 percent and where the median household income is below the city...

  7. 2 The Blueprint: Social Class and the Rise of the Rap Hustler
    (pp. 71-104)

    No one would ever mistake Phillip Morris for a gangsta. A self-proclaimed “nerd” from Chicago’s western suburbs, he sports thick black eyeglasses that would make Clark Kent envious and a neatly pressed button–down shirt that he probably wore earlier that day to the office where he works in electronic medical billing. An army–green messenger bag is slung around his shoulder. A fish out of water in many rap circles, Morris is especially conspicuous at Club Exedus tonight, where the lineup consists entirely of hardcore gangsta rap, and the audience is made up exclusively of hardcore gangsta rap fans....

  8. 3 Bangin’ on Wax: Recording Studios as Symbolic Spaces
    (pp. 105-138)

    Less than two weeks after Phantastic’s death, Grafta received a call from a local radio station that wanted to broadcast one of the fallen rapper’s unreleased songs. Phantastic appeared on most of the tracks on Bully Boyz’s debut mixtape, and had been hard at work in the months since its release, recording as much new material as possible. At the time of his passing, Phantastic had recorded almost fifty songs that had never been heard by the public. Many of these were tunes that Grafta and Bully Boyz were working on in preparation for the group’s sophomore release. Graft a...

  9. 4 In Da Club: How Social Class Shapes the Performative Context
    (pp. 139-166)

    Nearly six months passed before I saw Bully Boyz again. Although I ran into some of the guys from time to time, and attended a birthday party held in Phantastic’s honor, the group mostly kept its distance from the gangsta-rap microscene. There were no shows, no new songs, and only the occasional online rumor that a Phantastic mixtape was in the works.

    “The last year has been the bumpiest year in our fuckin’ lives,” Shank told me when I finally caught up with the group at its recording studio. “We lost our brother, our best friend, our backbone. It’s like...

  10. 5 Capital Punishment Crime and Risk Management in the Rap Game
    (pp. 167-190)

    The waiting room at Cook County Jail isn’t a fun place to kill time. You can’t bring anything with you, and the only entertainment is a rack of tattered romance novels and worn-out children’s books slumped in the corner. We’re sitting in Division Ten, the jail’s maximum-security wing. One of the floors of the division is on lockdown today, and the prisoners housed there will not be allowed to receive visitors. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know this in advance, so a steady stream of wives, girlfriends, parents, friends, and children are turned away and told to come back next...

  11. Conclusion: Rap Hustlers or Sucker MCs?
    (pp. 191-202)

    On January 17,2013, Keith Cozart, better known by his stage moniker Chief Keef, stood before a Cook County judge, tears streaming down his cheeks. “I am a very good–hearted person,” said the seventeen–year–old rapper, who added that he had two young daughters to support. “I am sorry for anything that I have done wrong. . . . Give me a chance” (Main 2013).

    It was a bad time for the Chicago gangsta–rap sensation to wind up in court. His career had exploded in the months that passed since the gangrelated slaying of his adversary, Lil JoJo....

  12. Epilogue: Six Years Later
    (pp. 203-210)

    I’m standing at the address Shank gave me on the phone earlier,in front of a nondescript brick warehouse in the southern end of Chicago’s downtown Loop. It’s early November 2012, and the icy winter air has arrived. I haven’t seen or heard from anyone in Chicago’s rap underground for a couple of years. This is largely because I finished gradaute school in 2010 and took a teaching job in the Middle East.

    When I returned to Chicago a few days ago, I assumed that tracking down my former contacts would be easy, but none of the information I had amassed...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-244)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)