Rappers love to discuss the topic of urban crime.1 Self-righteous condemnations, permissive glorifications, ribald tall tales, melodramatic jeremiads, reductionist polemics, and empathetic treatments clash in a crowded town hall meeting. Some songs oversimplify without presenting contextual clues that might render a narrow view understandable or relatable, relying on shopworn narratives toÂ pitch far-fetched solutions.Â Others successfully combine a number of approaches to capture and objectively present a range of responses to the issue,2 acknowledging that one’s physical or social proximity to the commission of crime inevitably colors his perspective and can change over time.
On “1st Hand” relative newcomers Dirt Platoon3 speak upon the temptations of street life from the perspective of vets who have not only seen it all, but possess the capacity to contemplate the immediate repercussions and broader implications of doing dirt. The grit and swing of their deliveries, their focus on the community that both enables their criminality and guides them to a new frame of mind, and their willingness to empathetically instruct those under them brings to mind the mid-90s rap group the Bushwackas. If “Caught Up In The Game”4 is the prologue to a life path that must detour towards a harrowing prison experience, “1st hand” is the transformational epilogue related from a position of earned freedom. —Thun
- I put together a compilation titled “All You See … Is Crime In The City” a while back. Download it here. [↩]
- Both Crooklyn Dodgers songs come to mind immediately, as they are really about the deterioration of the social order and not simply big-up-your-boro anthems. [↩]
- A Baltimore duo brought to my attention by Blast of Steady Bloggin’. You can sample and/or purchase their album Deeper Than Dirt here and read up on them in this interview. [↩]
- You should know this song, but here’s a youtube link anyway. [↩]