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

By Eithne Quinn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3 Alwayz Into Somethin’
GANGSTA’S EMERGENCE IN 1980s LOS ANGELES

Behaviors of young inner-city Blacks … are consciously propagated via special socializa-
tion rituals that help [them] prepare for inequality at a very early age…. Thus, they form
the basis of a “survival culture” that is significantly different from the so-called culture of
poverty. Notwithstanding its reactive origin, survival culture is not a passive adaptation to
encapsulation but a very active—at times devious, innovative, and extremely resistive—re-
sponse to rejection and destruction.

—Douglas Glasgow

[Post-Fordism] is characterized by more flexible (vs. hierarchical) production systems lo-
cated in transactions-intensive clusterings of predominantly small and middle-sized firms
intertwined to achieve increasing “external” economies of scope through complex subcon-
tracting arrangements … the use of numerically controlled (i.e. computerized) machinery
,
and other techniques that allow for easier responses to market signals, especially in times
of economic recession and intensified global competition. With the increasing disintegra-
tion of the postwar social contract through union-busting, wage give-backs, corporate re-
structuring, government withdrawal from most sectors of the economy (with the major ex-
ception of the defense industry), and the weakening of the federally sustained welfare safety
net, traditional Fordism was no longer sustainable.

—Edward Soja

“I got forty-four ways of gettin’ paid”

— NWA, “Alwayz into Somethin’”

UNDERPINNING THE New Times outlined in the last chapter were profound changes in the economic order of Western capitalist societies. “Post-Fordism,” as Edward Soja describes, marked the end of the era of mass production based around manufacturing, and the move, since the early 1970s, into increasingly flexible modes of accumulation. This new economic phase is characterized by the shift from manufacturing to service-sector work, the increasingly global flows of goods and services, and flexible but corporatized modes of production. All these trends assisted and even incubated production trends in the cultural industries such as gangsta rap. Like the St. Ides case —where niche-market signals and increasing brand differentiation in the malt liquor market were seized on by McKenzie River, which in turn hived off its campaign work to creative agent DJ Pooh —small rap operators seized on new market, technological, and infrastructural flexibilities in the entertainment industries.

However, though the post-Fordist terrain provided certain pull factors in the emergence of rap music enclaves, there were many more push factors. Global changes were harnessed by the neoconservatives who dismantled the postwar

-41-

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