Nuthin' but a "G" Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap

By Eithne Quinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4 Straight Outta Compton
GHETTO DISCOURSES AND THE GEOGRAPHIES
OF GANGSTA

OF ALL PLACES, “the ghetto” increasingly gripped the public imagination in the 1980s. The charged, now-ubiquitous term “underclass” first featured in political debates in the presidential election campaign of 1988, when it was used to great effect by the Republicans.1 The urban “underclass” connoted moral permissiveness and criminal threat, both figured in terms of race. It was shorthand, according to Jacqueline Jones, for “poor blacks in general, and a predatory youth culture in particular.”2 The strategy of dubbing poor black communities as “dangerous” and “dependent” helped consolidate the white, rightward-realigning political imagination. “Continuing to feed off the fears of its majority constituencies,” Edward Soja argues, the “neoconservative regime opened an offensive against the inner cities, which were perceived to hold the most serious domestic threats to the new world order.”3

The axiom that labeling other places in exclusionary terms helps to forge one’s own territory—that defining other people in stereotypical ways consolidates self-definition—was thus arrestingly illustrated by the conservatives’ underclass rhetoric. But this “othering” axiom also came to characterize mech

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