FSD Feature: Segregation Nation [Part I]

| May 11, 2012 | 40 Comments

Words by Marisol “Pinqy Ring” Vélez (@PinqyRing)

If a newcomer were to maneuver through Chicago in its entirety, they would notice a trend that has been apparent to Chicagoans for decades: Segregation. In a city with over 200 neighborhoods, the separation of sides spans as far back as the 19th century. A study performed by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research as recent as this year awarded Chicago with the infamous title: “Most Segregated City.” Neighborhoods named China Town and Little Italy point to an almost-celebration in highlighting separation. Is the Chicago music industry inherently affected in a negative fashion by the fact that Chicago is reining champ in segregation?

Interviewing four people; YP, a Chicago rapper with One Off Ent., J Niice, one of the morning show hosts on B96, Kevin Coval, Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors and co-founder of Louder Than a Bomb, and DJ Nonstop, DJ to DMX and resident DJ on WGCI, we started our conversation by playing game. A side of the city would be mentioned, (West, East, North, South), and the interviewees would have to name as many MCs from that area as they could think of. It was a daunting task for some, and relatively easy for others, but more important was the correlation between which side of the city they were from and how many more MCs they could name from there, as well a how many artists they could name from a side of the city that had received a predominant music industry push.

When asked the question of whether or not there was a segregated music community in Chicago, Kevin Coval gave a resounding yes. Mentioning that “spatial segregation represents a sonic segregation”, it was not a question to him of whether it was segregated, but more so of how those lines can be and have been crossed. “Hip Hop has been a way for young people to traverse those borders”, he mentions, recalling the cross-city journeys MCs, BBoys/BGirls, DJs and graffiti artists took in order to get with the larger Hip Hop community in Chicago. That melting pot of sides in Chi City hints that the thin lines that define us spatially can be treaded upon and torn down through music.

YP, an East Side inhabitant, had a different view. He did not feel the music industry here was disconnected, even though he acknowledged that Chicago is the most segregated city in North America. He mentioned a time where South Side artists wouldn’t collaborate with West Side artists, for whatever reason, but feels strongly that the Chicago industry has recently changed. He has gained notoriety in the current wave of Windy City musicians who, in his opinion, are not operating under the context of segregation. He pointed out that even though “where you’re from gives you validation”, “‘hoods are not determining” and his experience in the industry has not been informed by where he’s from.

DJ Nonstop, a proud Humboldt Park representative, focused more of his frustrations on the lack of music attention paid to the North Side of Chicago. His experience as a working and well-respected DJ in Chicago helped him to name artists from each side of the city, but while listing off his North Side rappers he concluded by saying they were basically “everyone without a deal.” This viewpoint was solidified when almost ever interviewee became stumped and at a loss for North Side artists to mention. “It seems like the North side is overlooked”, said Nonstop. When asked why others weren’t so on-board with a North Side movement, he says: “We’re the only people that give a shit because we love where we came from. Why would anyone else? It’s not their neighborhood.”

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  1. DJ Wrek says:

    Very dope blog post/article, can’t wait to read part 2.

  2. Arianna says:

    Great article and insightful.

  3. BillahgansIsland...Billah says:

    MAN I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT THIS I DONT KNOW WHERE 2 BEGIN… I BEEN SAYIN THIS

    FOR YEARS CHICAGO IS DEFINITELY SEGREGATED AND IT DEFINITELY AFFECTS THE HIP-HOP

    SCENE IN A NEGATIVE WAY AND AS AN ARTIST YOU WOULD BE NAIVE TO THINK OTHERWISE.

    FOR EXAMPLE YP HAS A DEAL AND HE CAN WALK DOWN MY BLOCK OUT WEST AND NOBODY

    WOULD EVEN RECOGNIZE HIM.

    AND THAT’S NOT YP’S FAULT ITS THE SYSTEM OR LACK OF A

    SYSTEM IN CHICAGO.

    YOU THINK KENDRICK LAMAR CAN GO ANYWHERE IN LA AND NOT GET

    RECOGNIZED, I DOUBT IT. AN ARTIST GETS A DEAL IN CHICAGO AND THE FIRST THING

    PEOPLE SAY IS WHO THE HELL IS THAT I NEVER HEARD OF THEM.

    AND THEY HAVEN’T CUZ THE INDUSTRY IS JUST AS SEGREGATED AS THE CITY.

    THE ONLY PEOPLE THAT YOU CAN SAFELY SAY THAT EVERYONE CHICAGO HAS ATLEAST HEARD ABOUT IS CHIEF KEEF, KING LOUIE, & LEP.

    SOME PEOPLE ARE POPULAR IN SOME CIRCLES AND AREAS

    THE REST OF US ARE INDUSTRY POPULAR @ BEST

    EVERYONE THATS ON THE SCENE MAY KNOW YOU BUT DO KIDS THAT GO TO WESTINGHOUSE KNOW WHO THESE RAPPERS ARE???

    DO NIGGAS ON CHICAGO AVE AND CICERO KNOW WHO THESE RAPPERS ARE???

    DO NIGGAS ON HOWARD OR 79TH AND ASHLAND OR 71ST AND JEFFRY KNOW SOME OF THESE RAPPERS???

    THE ANSWER IS NO, NOT UNANIMOUSLY

    ONLY WAY TO TRANSCEND THE SEGREGATION IS TO BLOW UP ON YOUTUBE OR GET TO KANYE’S LEVEL

    AND I WISH ALL OF US THE BEST OF LUCK WITH BOTH

    THE END

    • PinqyRing says:

      Not only blowing up or getting on Kanye’s level, but repping for Chicago as a WHOLE once you’re there. And bringing a viable music industry back to the ‘Go. It’s not the artists fault, but it is once they put on and don’t come back to rectify the established norms.
      Great insight. Thanks for the comment!

  4. and I wonder says:

    I really could have provided plenty of insight to this. As a black man I’ve lived in China Town, Little Italy, the northwest side with nothing but Eastern European immigrants, Rogers Park with mainly Indians and Middle Easterners….Chicago is a diverse city but the cancer of this city comes from people who come from the northwest suburbs like Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows…..these are the racist upper middle class caucasians who never grew up around people unlike themselves…they unfortunately are the people who make Chicago the great city with their money and power but at the same time kill Chicago with their lack of tolerance for differences. Their mindset and viewpoint permeates to other ethnic groups in this city.

    • BillahgansIsland...Billah says:

      TRUE AND DONT 4GET THE NORTH SHORE WILMET,DEERFEILD ETC… THATS WHERE THE MONEY IS @ 4REAL AND ITS ONE PERSON OF COLOR PER CLASS @ NEW TRIER HIGHSCHOOL WHICH HAPPENS TO BE THE RICHEST PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT IN ILLINOIS

  5. BillahgansIsland...Billah says:

    ALSO DJ NONSTOP DEFINITELY HAS A CASE FOR THE LACK OF LOVE AND SUPPORT FOR NORTH SIDE ARTIST.

    BUT I CAN SAY THE SAME FOR OUT WEST.

    AS A MATTER OF FACT I THINK THE SOUTH SIDE HAS A STRONGHOLD ON THE WHOLE SCENE.

    SURE THERE ARE A FEW NON SOUTHSIDE PEOPLE GETTIN SOME SHINE LIKE TREE AND BO DEAL

    BUT SHIT IT AINT NO WEST SIDE ARTIST ON THE BILL FOR THE SUCKAFREE SUNDAY EVENT.
    @ ADRIANAS.

    TREE AND BO DEAL THE ONLY PEOPLE ON THAT BILL THAT AINT FROM OUT SOUTH.

    TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THERE ARE A LOT OF TALENTED PEOPLE ON THAT BILL AND SOME THAT ARE NOT SO TALENTED

    BUT NOBODY ON MY BLOCK HAS HEARD OF ANYBODY ON THAT BILL.

    THE SCENE IS SEGREGATED AND US GUYS OUT WEST AINT HAPPY ABOUT IT .

    THE END

    • Charles Barkley says:

      Man thats a good point. I know that alot of north side cats don get love (which they should cuz there is ALOT of talent up there) but Where has the west side been lately? I mean the only ones I hear about now, besides mainstream like twista and lupe, are Bodeal,yung buk, Skooda (who TBH aint been makin much noise lately), big wiz, mick luter and………..thats it. It’s crazy cuz the west side was big in the 90’s with DOD, crucial conflict, twista, psychodrama, Da Brat, etc. Where is the love for them????

      At this point I think even the BURBS get more recognition than other parts of the city.

      • PinqyRing says:

        Agreed, to an extent. Not to not make a case for lack of recent West Side light, but the North Side barely has ONE artist that “made it” in any sense of the word at ALL. This deserves more exploring.
        Thanks for your input!

  6. MC Geary says:

    Damn, is there ANYTHING Pinqy Ring can’t do?! Great article. I look forward to reading Part II.

  7. PinqyRing says:

    For the purposes of this article, I didn’t want to include any areas outside of Chicago. I do agree, though, that those outside more “well off” areas contribute to the segregation because of their financial clout and ignorance to diversification. But, listeners have power. Fans. Those replying and contributing to this discourse can help pick away at the established system (which by the way was MEANT to keep us where we are). Chicago as a whole should unify in solidarity because we’ve been looked over too long to be looking over each other because of what side we’re each from.

  8. TEMPER FAN says:

    CHICAGO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST LESBIAN RAPPERS 2. THIS GIRL TEMPER GO HARD. BUT I GUESS THATS PART OF THE CHICAGO SEGREGATION ALSO. WHY SHOULD WHO SHE HAVING SEX WITH EXCLUDE HER FROM GETTING POSTED ON HERE. SHE GO HARDA THEN 100% OF BITCHES & 99.9% OF THE MEN ON HERE

  9. TEMPER FAN says:

    CHICAGO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST LESBIAN RAPPERS 2. THIS GIRL TEMPER GO HARD. BUT I GUESS THATS PART OF THE CHICAGO SEGREGATION ALSO. WHY SHOULD WHO SHE HAVING SEX WITH EXCLUDE HER FROM GETTING POSTED ON HERE. SHE GO HARDA THEN 100% OF BITCHES & 99.9% OF THE MEN ON HERE. THIS VIDEO DEDICATED TO ALL THE HOMOPHOBES. WATCH THE WHOLE MINI MOVIE

    • PinqyRing says:

      I agree that Hip Hop is not as receptive as it should be towards the LGBTQ community. I do, however, feel that in general it’s the Lady MCs of Chi City that are overlooked, as they are all over the US, and that’s why it is the next FSD article that I will be working on. :)

      • Mr. Darren says:

        I agree with u partially PingyRing, cool name by the way. I say partially because, yea of course I feel that hot female Mc’s dont get the look they deserve, but at the same time I think that the tom boy female rap artists dont get a second look at all. For example, I’ve seen both Chella & the girl Temper perform. I think Chella is more pleasing to my eyes but Temper is lyrically better than her. It should be more about the bars but who do u think more people are gonna be drawn too, of course Chella because of her looks and the way she dresses and her music not half bad either. They are gonna overlook Temper bc most men dont wanna hear a chick talking just how they talk and looking like them and rapping better. At the same time its no cause to discriminate. Temper is a beast musically. She has great concepts. The only thing I don’t like is when she talks about lesbian things in songs but thats only bc im a straight man so I cant relate. That don’t mean I can’t support her or enjoy some of her other songs about various other topics. On another note while I support this site I do agree that the owners or staff need to do more to support the female rap scene. Its a shame when they post Katie and her she is not that great at all. I mean if they’re going to post horrible people female rappers then they need to at least have a balance. Post lyrical females sometimes too. In the end I wish everybody the best I hope that since this site has so much power that they’ll learn how to support different artists and not just those with a buzz. And PingyRing keep coming with the articles sir. This was refreshing and a breath of fresh air from the usual.

      • PinqyRing says:

        Mr. Darren –

        We can get into that debate when I work on that article.

        P.S. My name is PinQy Ring. And I am a womyn. ;)

      • PinqyRing says:

        Do male rappers have to be appealing in your eyes in order to get a second look? Notice how you are functining within the sterotypical restraints that keep women MCs, such as Temper or myself or whomever, unnoticed.

        P.P.S.
        Thank you, so much, for your input and compliment on my writing. Even if you thought I was a man. :p

    • Ness Lee says:

      Stop tryin to make this about this bitch Tempa
      being gay. It aint that she just trash.Them overused
      punch lines & them tired azz tats not gon help her.
      Her music is boring ass hell. This dont got shit to
      do wit who she decide to fuck. her ass just not that
      good & she has no buzz so thats why she not getting
      posted. Get off Andrew nuts. He can post wtf he want.
      its a reason he dont post Tempa cuz he dont kno her
      azz like we dont know her either. If she was so good
      where her 100 thousand views on her page? Exactly,
      she dont got none. Only people thats supporting her iz
      other gay bitchez thats crushin on her. Well this the real
      world that gay shit dont work ova here u gotta have real talent.
      Which she dont got. I checked out her other videos to give her
      a chance & still aint hear 1 orignal punchline. Fuck outta here.
      Andrew & FSD keep doin yo thing.Why this bitch still tryin to play
      the gay card

  10. Arturo says:

    Dope article! As I read, I began asking myself the same questions you proposed but about the theatre scene in this city. There are many parallels–which says something bout the overall art scene in this city.

    I’m a fan.

    • PinqyRing says:

      You’re right. Most scenes (club, poetry, theater, etc.) operate under that context of pre-formed segregation. It’s having these conversations that changes it. The powers that be sure won’t change it, why would they, they benefit from those contructs.
      Thanks for your reply!

  11. Jordan Knight says:

    Chicago sucks compared to New York….always has always will…..Firstly its a midwest city….and midwesterners are cut from a lame clothe period they are very safe and closed minded, so thats the root of Chicago. People from other midwestern states like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa flock here after college to make it in the “big city”….bringing along their prejudices and closed minded viewpoints. Secondly, this is a city of polar opposites, A lot of poor blacks and a lot of extremely wealthy whites a recipe for disaster, there isnt enough middle ground to balance it out!! Mexicans are caught in the middle but they basically lean towards the whites because they have all the power, money, and jobs to offer…they are poor just like blacks but they receive favor and opportunities because they will work like slaves for crumbs, which isn’t a bad thing! Most Chicago Mexicans are programmed to hate black people…PERIOD!! Then you have immigrants who are in a neutral position, but they learn to hate blacks based off of the Chicago news outlets who have made an institution out of painting black people in Chicago as pieces of shit! So imagine coming from Europe or the middle east to America and you watch the news every night and you see black people as nothing but thugs, dealers, and murderers…the city brainwashes EVERYBODY to see black men as the enemy….and all black men do is reinforce stereotypes….this is not the place for black men!! Trust me this city seems big but its very small, and to control how people think is very simple. The city government, companies, broadcast news, and newspapers all work together.

    • PinqyRing says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as saying Chicago “sucks”… I mean you are on a Chicago blog. I would say it operates differently, and that’s unfortunate. But that’s why we’re having this conversation.
      I don’t agree that “working for crumbs” is okay, even with the poverty that Latinos escape, it’s never okay. It’s exploitation.
      You are 1,000% right, though, that what is taught and shown in media becomes the system that they function in. I am a Puerto Rican woman who history and media taught to ignore the beautiful African roots we grew from. The only thing that can change people’s perceptions is education. And how much access to that do we have? It’s a vicious circle.
      The segragation of Chicago was/is purposeful, so that groups don’t interrelate and unify in common solidarity. What I’m exploring in this article and in part II is how do we change that? How do we use music to defeat those odds and traverse those borders?
      Thank you for your feedback!

  12. Shuling says:

    Thank you for sharing, Pinqy. Certainly gained some insight here. My music taste was definitely influenced by what i was able to access via the radio in my country. Interestingly enough, it’s less of a geographical segregation there (because of how small the place is), and more of a language one.

    • PinqyRing says:

      Thank you for reading, Shuling! There are barriers (metaphorical/physical) most everywhere. Here there are just more clearly defined and intentional. We should be careful not to function within those borders in order to counteract their purpose.

  13. lillittle says:

    wow, good to see pinqy ring still on the scene and great article so far.

    • PinqyRing says:

      Hey, thanks! I’m Chicago, ’til I go, like YP said. Even if I’m moving to Japan I will always make music, write, educate, and rep my city!

  14. DT says:

    I think gang culture and mentality play a very big role in the lack of unity. A bigger part is lack of education and access to proper means of communication and information. Many of the consumers are also programmed into only liking what the industry tells them to like, many youth sadly prefer and can name national artists but rarely ever know local ones. They need to realize that art is a valuable local product. When it comes to unity it makes business sense for everyone to come together. I do see progress it just takes time, but as long as people keep on building on what is currently happening there is a bright future.

    • PinqyRing says:

      DT –

      I super agree! The gang culture was definitely on my mind when forming this story, it just seems I didn’t have enough time to really tackle that subject. I will try in part II. And yes yes yes to everything you said. Estoy de acuerdo (I agree). And hopeful is the word for future Chicago Hip Hop! (Hopefully some North Side shine as well!)

  15. vizzy says:

    it was a good read and a lot of the comments were true. Im from the east side but a lotta ppl i hang with dont know who YP is…but they kno cheif keef…dont know who king louie is but know L.E.P..i think its just about having an open ear like i do. I try to listen to many of chicago’s new artists that are up and coming so im on to everything. As far as the lesbian rapper temper,Ness Lee is right. Most of the ppl that view or listen to her music ARE girls that crush on her,and that wont really get her anywhere without great music that will capture the male listeners ear. But most males dont wanna hear about a stud fckn a female…they would be more accepting if she was feminine i guess???

    • PinqyRing says:

      Glad you enjoyed the read!
      You are right, people don’t know about people from sides that aren’t even that far from. And it’s a shame. How do WE change that?
      Again, the female rapper argument will be addressed in my next article, but to briefly comment on something you said: “That wont really get her anywhere without great music that will capture the male listeners ear.”
      Why do women always have to be appeasing and appealing to men? Women actually buy more records. And it is definitely 2012. Though I do feel women have moved mountains in regards to autonomy and agency, how far have we as women functioning in Hip Hop really gotten?

  16. Johnny says:

    Northside is definitely overlooked, perfect example of excellent talent from the northside that is wasted is Ace Mac! His lyrics, flow, and delivery is ten times better than any other artist “buzzing” right now. He’s a Latino which is the biggest barrier and his northside background is the second, dude should’ve been signed years ago!!

    • PinqyRing says:

      Despite my personal qualms, I agree. He did one remix track, moved to Miami, and now… Adonde esta? I find it odd that being Latin@ is a barrier. We all come from similar struggle. In fact, it was Boricuas and Blacks that started Hip Hop as a movement in the late 70s. Is it that it’s just a barrier in Chicago? #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm

      • Johnny says:

        Even tho he has disappointed fans by hiding, he’s the only one from N.W Side with potential. The rest of these “rappers” are super corny. I’m sadly still patiently waiting for the next rapper from Logan with that much talent, Ace Mac was reaching to different age groups. These new guys only have 14-18 year old’s listening to their stuff on Facebook. Name one mainstream Latino rapper besides Fat Joe……being Latino is definitely a barrier in the hip-hop/rap industry. Not only do you need to gain a Latino audience but also gain that white suburban crowd.

    • Charles Barkley says:

      I know I’m a month late but what the hell happened to ace mac??? He was/is arguably one of the best in the chi.( look up his music on FSD and compare it to the rest of the music on here and be the judge) I been rockin with dudes music for a while but he’s been MIA since like 2010. Its still not too late for him tho. I fux with 108 too

  17. PinqyRing says:

    Come to think of it… Some borders were traversed here… (Not even for the sake of personal promo.) No?

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQdChHxXFzM&w=560&h=315

  18. TradeMarQ says:

    Great Article!

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