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by Gresham Harkless and Selam Aster

Rappers often give ”shout-outs” to their childhood neighborhoods and pile on the descriptions of their home environments to illustrate their overcoming of hardship, to demonstrate respect for fellow friends, family, and supporters that have hailed from their birthplace, or to better autobiographically detail their original works.

These lyrics will often convey images of widespread economic turmoil, violence, and general strife within a rapper’s former dwellings. From Bed-Stuy to the Southside of Chicago, the county’s most depressed areas have been glamorized and popularized throughout the world thanks to rapper’s far –reaching lyrics and storytelling; however, many would agree that certain locales have been stigmatized by these recollections of rappers, who have lived 5, 10, or even 15 years outside of the neighborhoods they wax poetic about (hello Jay-Z).

We decided to take a look at how these neighborhoods have changed and if they still reflect the testaments of some of our favorite rappers. The tie that binds all these mentioned hoods is crack – the destructive drug that ravaged most Black American neighborhoods in the 1980s and shaped the experiences of all these rappers as they were coming up.

But since then, some hoods have improved,  some have gentrified, some have stayed the same, and some have sadly gotten worse.


“So I guess you know the story, the rap-side, crack-side; how I smoked funk, smacked b_tches on the backside; Bed-Stuy, the place where my head rests” – Biggie Smalls

The Notorious B.I.G, is one of the main rappers, who has seared the image of a rough and rowdy Brooklyn on the minds of many all over the world. He repped Bed-Stuy, although now his childhood home is more associated with the neighborhood Clinton Hill, which was once known for its crime rates, drug violence and homicides during his youth.

Wallace, after dropping out of high school at the age of seventeen, stirred trouble for himself after becoming involved in the local drug dealing scene, like his hood-mate Jay-Z. Although Biggie was brought up in a crime-ridden, crack-infested area of Brooklyn, if he wa still alive today, he may not recognize his blocks anymore.

That’s because bakeries, galleries, boutiques, and organic markets have replaced many of the old facets of the “ghetto.” Housing prices have flourished in the last fifteen years in the Clinton Hill area and the demand for real estate in Bed-Stuy and many other once-crime-ridden sections of Brooklyn have drove prices up dramatically. Biggie’s childhood apartment unit/condo last sold for $575,000 in 2011. Now, that tells a story.

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