Heartbeats from the Streets: Exploring the Relationship between Youth and Rap Music in Chicago

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By Maureen van de Water

“In reality a black man dies everyday//in Chitown you can times that by trey” – Johnny B, rapper killed January 2013 due to gun violence in Chicago

Chiraq

I moved to Chicago the summer of 2012 after I graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors degree in Psychology. I knew little about the extreme violence there but had heard that some neighborhoods were dangerous and no-go zones. Sleeping on a blow up mattress at a friend’s apartment I searched for my next step in life. I knew I wanted to work with teenagers but wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump right into the field after college. An opportunity arose through AmeriCorps, a yearlong volunteer based program designed to help young people enter the work force. The position I took was the Academic Success Coordinator at an organization called Boys Hope Girls Hope.

The BHGH mission statement is “to help academically capable and motivated children-in-need to meet their full potential and become men and women for others by providing value-centered, family-like homes, opportunities and education through college.” To put it simply, I lived in a house in a nice suburb north of Chicago with three other staff members and eight teenage boys, a majority African American. They received scholarships to go to Loyola Academy, a prestigious private catholic school, where tuition is about $15,000 a year. Many of these youth came from these no-go neighborhoods in Chicago that I had heard about. Some experienced gang violence and drug dealings and many came from single-parent homes, low-income families, and/or multiple generations living in one home. They often called it Chiraq because it’s been said that more people are killed in Chicago than at war in Iraq. Continue reading

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Pride or Prejudice? Contradictions of the Gay Scenes in Los Angeles, Berlin, and Amsterdam

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By Sam Sciarra

Within the context of western democratic nations, unprecedented human rights advances have characterized the past fifty years for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Of course, we cannot deny that there is still a very long way to go—LGBT citizens of certain nations like the United States still face much discrimination and lack crucial freedoms (such as the right to get married, among others). However, it is still important to recognize that this increased societal acceptance of LGBT people has resulted in the creation of distinct yet similar gay youth subcultures throughout the cosmopolitan west. These gay ‘scenes,’ which primarily revolve around the nightclubs and various nighttime happenings of large urban centers, have become the preeminent space in which homosexual youth form their identities and engage in a decision making process concerning the type of gay person they want to become. This is most likely because, as Cattan and Vanolo (2013: 1166) suggest in their research on the emotional geographies of gay nightlife, “clubbing entails seeking people, places, relationships, and ways of being which provide physical and emotional security, which are often denied in the heterosexist world.” Continue reading

The Soundtrack to My Life: A Deep, Funky, and Uber Geil Odyssey into the Dance Music Scenes of Amsterdam and Berlin

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By Krabin

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein

Day 7,348 of existence. Vinyl spinning. Bass thumping. Snare and kick drums pounding. Cymbals sounding tsssss tsssss tssssss. Body swaying. Sweat dripping. Whooooosh. A train passes by, horns blaring. “9-1-1, I think I’m having an overdose…okay, an overdose of what…of marijuana.” Oh relax, that’s just the vocals kicking in. Where’d the DJ go? Wait, the fuck is going on? Why are the visuals now the Pac-Man game? Ohhhh, I see now. The DJ has casually thrown on a Pac-Man suit. Continue reading

Join the fun! An ethnography of fun and subcultural entrepreneurship in the skateboarding scene of Puebla, Mexico

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By Kaj Dekker

Scene 1: Another sunny day at the Xonaca skate park in Puebla, Mexico. People are skateboarding, filming or having conversations while secretly sharing caguamones, a bottled liter of beer. A group of friends is sitting in the hot sun, enjoying their conversation as well as their beer. Suddenly, one of them challenges a friend. “I call a bet! If the next guy jumping down the stairs makes his trick, I buy you a new board. If he lands the trick, you buy me one, alright?” The friend agrees and they wait until someone approaches the stairs. In the meantime, cigarettes are shared, jokes are made and fun is had. After some time, a skateboarder starts checking out the set of stairs, clearly trying to visualize his trick. As he takes a few steps back to gain some speed for the jump, he accelerates. He approaches the stairs and jumps. In the middle of the jump he fails to get his position straight. As he lands he breaks his board, he sees the bunch of friends going wild. Seemingly out of nowhere a guy comes up to the skater and asks him if he would like to buy a new skateboard. The friends overhear this conversation and whistle to signal the salesman to come over. What does a shop-less salesman do at the skate park of Xonaca? The friends buy a skateboard from him, which he gets from the trunk of his car. They give the old deck to the skater who broke his board. In the end, one skateboarder broke his boards and two got a new one. How does this informal economy come about in a commerce-free setting as the Xonaca skate park?

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Two cities, one genre, countless vibes: Exploring the hip-hop community in Amsterdam and Los Angeles

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By Ariella Abrams and Andrew Frantela

Growing up in Los Angeles has provided us with the ideal environment to be avid consumers of hip-hop music. Prior to exploring Amsterdam, we had never been exposed to anything but the American version of the genre. Conducting this research while on exchange in Amsterdam, it was intriguing to see a starkly different perspective of the hip-hop genre—the Dutch perspective, or ‘Nederhop’. Furthermore, we were particularly interested in the opposing concepts of ‘underground’ hip-hop and ‘mainstream’ hip-hop. The underground scene seemed more authentic to us, not to mention the fact that underground hip-hop is just cool. We delved into research that would enlighten us about what causes the differentiation and how the players in the scene interact with the genre. Since we both have our own experiences with the underground hip-hop scene in Los Angeles, we decided to compare underground hip-hop scenes in Los Angeles and Amsterdam. While approaching our research, we were mindful not to employ any prior biased opinions on hip-hop or particular artists. We allowed for our interviewees to come to their own conclusions about the purposes of the genre and the way they feel when listening to hip-hop. This resulted in many of them having very different opinions on the subject, and not hesitating to voice them passionately. Continue reading

Subbacultcha! – a fungi process: How space is experienced within a youth subculture

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By Marije Peute

‘It’s about this permeation of… light. A sort of irradiating and unstoppable expulsion of darkness, or something. I don’t think that the only way to read the world in 2014 is as a fucking endless cycle of doom. That’s not how I want to work, you know.’ (Ben Frost)

The best ideas occur on surprising moments. Like when I figured out the main concept to connect all the pieces of my research together. I was writing for this paper in a café in Amsterdam while observing the hipness of it. In this case hip means that the space was full of natural colours, garments and textures. Every object was something in its own, probably handmade or at least old. The lights were of a designer sort. A girl walked in and caught my eye. She was neutrally dressed but still fashionable and good-looking. Her hair was short like a nun and she just wore a short black skirt, a white t-shirt, some sneakers and a denim jacket. Her appearance was, despite the neutral look, very strong. When I left to do some shopping, I saw her again. This time it took me much longer to notice her. This wasn’t because of my absentmindedness, but because she looked different in this space than the one I had seen her in before. The first space seemed to contain certain hipness in itself and everyone who could look slightly hip or fashionable got an extra glow of hipness when entering it. Outside on the street, blended in with all kinds of different looks, this glow disappears and someone returns to being normal. My point is that on this afternoon I discovered how important space is in the way people look and feel. Space is defined by the meanings that are attached to it (Navaro-Yashin 2007). This is certainly so for the subcultural spaces defined by Subbacultcha! Continue reading

Fuck Art? Street art lost in transition

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By Ed Little

Abstract: This paper delves deep into the process of ‘commercialization’ of street art while looking to question why outsiders use the label ‘commercialization’. It not only garners the opinions of Amsterdam’s most renowned street artists but also tracks the history of street art in the city and its interconnectedness with graffiti. Through contrasting the life worlds of street art and fine art, it illustrates how subcultural misperceptions originate from different value systems. Contemporary fine art strives towards profit and success (with a tinge of elitism thrown in there as well) while graffiti writers and street artists (at least at first) tend to thrive for fame and reputation. Only once street art becomes commercial do definitions and labels begin to overlap as street art starts to weigh in on the fine art commercial space. However, while street art is transitioning into new spaces and market places, this transition in reality is much more natural and organic than presupposed and thus should be seen as a positive abridgement as the subcultural life world takes its first steps into the mainstream world. Continue reading