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Title:Cash rules everything around me: the high price of sustaining hip-hop community in Chicago
Author(s):Muhammad, Kareem R.
Director of Research:Nederveen-Pieterse, Jan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nederveen-Pieterse, Jan
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gille, Zsuzsa; Marshall, Anna-Maria; Magubane, Zine
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:This dissertation, entitled “Cash Rules Everything Around Me (CREAM): The High Price of Sustaining a Hip-Hop Community in Chicago,” contributes to the literature on hip-hop and culture by providing an ethnographic study on the various ways that those who defined themselves as being hip-hop go about constructing this identity in light of the unique socioeconomic challenges that all Americans are experiencing in these uncertain economic times. A sub-cultural cooption through consumer capitalism has forced those who want to be part of hip-hop subculture to go back underground. But to label all of these individuals merely “underground” would be as equally uninformative as labeling anyone who wears baggy blue jeans and can rhyme words together as being “hip-hop.” With so much confusion and misappropriation of the culture, it appears urgently necessary to take a more academic examination of exactly what this hip-hop thing is, who is authentically hip-hop and how membership in this community is defined. “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” contrasts the Hip-Hop Nation with the Rap Industrial Complex, which presents stereotyped caricatures of hip-hop culture. A central argument of this dissertation is that neoliberalism is one of the more significant contributing factors that explains the slow encroachment of the Rap Industrial Complex where it is often mistakenly blurred with hip-hop. This dissertation separates the two and reveals several complex layers to each medium. I present how these layered identities of the Hip-Hop Nation are being undermined by consumer capitalism much like has already occurred within the Rap Industrial Complex. My nine months of field research in Chicago revealed that five major identities emerged among my research participants who are categorized as the Hip-Hop Nation: Professional Headz, Refugee Headz, Hip-Hop Fundamentalists, Black Headz and Tech Headz. These identities were characterized by the personal values that my participants indicated were most reaffirmed through hip-hop culture. At present, however, my findings in this dissertation lead me to conclude that the high cost of participating collectively in hip-hop has made it increasingly difficult to, in fact, call my Chicago respondents a hip-hop “community” more than it is a collection of individuals. One major contributing factor to this breakdown in community are the individual edicts of neoliberalism that has informed hip-hop identities and behaviors in three important ways. Neoliberal ideology has helped to facilitate the decreasing space in which hip-hop headz can gather, it makes progressive outlets more costly and it forces many of my participants into an individualistic, survival of the fittest mentality. A central premise that this research works on is that as the cost of living has gone up in other areas of American life, so has the cost of being hip-hop. Hip-hop originally thrived on public participation but in big cities like Chicago over the last 30 years, public space –like many things- has been privatized in the neoliberal belief that the market knows best. These commercial limitations on the collective experiencing of hip-hop culture in Chicago is particularly troubling among my respondents because they are overwhelmingly more educated than the general population. If hip-hop’s supposed best and brightest can’t afford to kick it, then who can? What does this say about hip-hop? What does this say about the future of the American dream? “CREAM” provides some answers.
Issue Date:2010-05-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Kareem R. Muhammad
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-05-19
Date Deposited:May 2010

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