"And they say that times change/Well times will always change the same."
—Shabazz Palaces, "Capital 5"
Hiphop—for those just tuning in—is the story of a people uprooted, enslaved, and killed, then freed, terrorized (by a massive, nationally supported terrorist organization), and killed, then uprooted again, terrorized (by much the same)... and then killed some more. Oh, and enslaved (aka "punishment for a crime," as detailed in the 13th Amendment) some more! And: killed.
And, of course, seemingly everywhere you look—uprooted again. Gradually forced out of the areas that they were forced into in the first place, between those old red lines. When black faces initially showed up in these neighborhoods, looking for a fresh start, it caused the white flight that created the flavorless suburbs. Now, those same suburbs are fast becoming the new 'hood. You know all this. It's all on your FB feed, right between the Worldstar fight clips and stupid cat videos. It might even be on your front door—a more than 100 percent increase in your own rent, aka a 60-day notice to pack your shit and get your broke ass out of town.
You might remember me mentioning Draze's "Hood Ain't the Same" in this space early last year—or maybe not, and that fact made you hot. Whatever the case, it's a song whose relevance has in fact only grown since last March. In the space of a decade, "Kent's the new South End, the South End is the CD/And the CD/Is a thing of the past." The locations in that video—among them the dearly departed Sam's Burgers, Ms. Helen's, and the Silver Fork—would now have to include the Kingfish Cafe, which will soon be shutting its doors after its rent doubled. It's not about the eat spots, thoug. It's about the folks who ate there, who knew each other, who took the space they were given and made a vibrant community out of it—and about the forces that are "movin' us around like an experiment."
Some time ago, NE Portland native Hanif (fka Luck-One, ICYMI) packed his bags and moved out to Harlem—the storied mecca of black neighborhoods in America, "the capital of every ghetto town," as Bobby Womack once put it. Ever since Bill Clinton moved in, though, things done changed—look no further than Hanif's deceivingly lighthearted video for his song "Gentrify." "Now don't you feel stupid trying to claim a block," he asks, "and represent it with these bicycle-riding vegans and bagel shops?" Those dreaded H-words are, in fact, one of the hardest gangs on the streets, flexing accrued economic muscle and squeezing out the locals. Rarely has the hollowness of thuggadocio been laid more bare than in lines like: "How you finna spray the Glock/Who you finna aim to hit/Talking 'bout you down to rock/You can't even pay the rent!" At the end of it all, Hanif sardonically welcomes the inevitable—"Because all living things were meant to die." Because, really, what are you gonna do about it?