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On Oddity and Inversions

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Oddisee – “I’m From PG

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from Odd Spring EP (Oddisee, 2010)

Conventional wisdom has always been that the cities are hard, the burbs are soft. Particularly in the rap world, where kids named Buffy and Brad play soccer while the city is the vital center of everything that’s really real. Of course, this has never been true, but it’s becoming even more of an archaic construct as mass generational gentrification strikes most major American cities and longtime hood dwellers are pushed outward to the once placid Burbs.

The DC metropolitan area might be one of the best and earliest examples of this countertrend. It’s always been a small city with the thinnest of borders and recent reverse white flight (Dems in office!) has pushed things even further to where the spiritual line between DC and Maryland is almost completely indiscernible. Heading east from the city you just sort of hit a point where there are fewer bricks, more strip malls and gaps between house frames where there weren’t before. But the people, the mentality basically remains the same. This is probably why the #DMV micro-movement is the first major metropolitan rap scene to so explicitly embrace its suburban relatives. (This is also part of the reason that Go-Go article in the Post a while back was so ambiguous. OMG DC is pushing go-go to… just outside of DC, where everybody who grew up in DC lives now anyway.) The neighboring Prince George’s County occupies the majority of these borders. PG is huge, boasting a larger population than the city itself. It’s the wealthiest majority Black suburb in the nation but also saw 92 murders last year. (Crime on the whole though, was at an all time low.) I don’t know what, if anything, these conflicting statistics say about the tangible realness of that area anymore than I know what this suburban/urban inversion means for the future of hip hop (THE BLOOD FLOW CONSTRICTION OF SKINNY JEANS OFFSETS ALL THIS OPEN SPACE IN THE BOONIES) but I can speak from personal experience to say that PG is very real.

On his mostly instrumental (and completely free) Odd Spring EP Oddisee drops what I believe to be the first formal rap homage to PG County. It probably won’t be the last. Odd also seems to have picked up on the rap style of his uptown DC bred Diamond District partner XO and ran with it. He is sprinting in the right direction.

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39 Responses to “On Oddity and Inversions”

  1. willy Says:

    I was in DC just yesterday for the release of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program’s State of Metropolitan America report. One of its major findings over the last decade: “Between 1999 and 2008, the suburban poor population grew by 25 percent – almost five times the growth rate of the primary city poor – so that by 2008 suburbs were home to almost one-third of the country’s poor population, and 1.5 million more poor than primary cities.”

    Prescient, noz!

  2. Thun Says:

    I’m curious as to what you mean by “explicitly embrace its suburban neighbors.” Are you extrapolating that from the “DMV” abbreviation? Wasn’t Rakim’s Wyandanche based chant “if you from uptown, the boogie down … And Long Island sound” received and validated by The five boroughs as a sign that the outlying areas were part of the same scene? Or was it still tacitly understood that the outlying locales should remain deferential and accept being subsumed by the all inclusive yet ultimately conflating “NYC banner” – which happened very quickly in the national media and presumably in the popular imagination? What about the outlying areas of Los Angeles? Does that not count because the metro area in question is usually viewed as being more sprawling and low rise than your average city anyway?

  3. brytburken Says:

    Server Errors? Thats whats really real?

  4. brytburken Says:

    BTW: Writing like this is like a breath of fresh air in rap blogs… you know, the kind with ideas in it.

    And you got a good point.
    In europe the suburbs have always been “realer”.

  5. earleybird Says:

    Substantial’s “PG Boy” predates this.

  6. w Says:

    Willy sounds smart

  7. noz Says:

    Thun – I think Rakim (PE, De La, whoever) were able to insert themselves into the world of NYC hip hop by just being undeniably fucking good. Let’s be real if someone managed to make “Eric B Is President” in Quebec or Oklahoma they would demand respect. The interesting thing to me about the DMV is that it’s expanded its boundaries preemptively before any sort of impact or statement. It’s not like there are many particularly notable recordings being made in Northern VA right now (NO OFFENSE VA) that would similarly force city dwellers take note. Yet they are building that area into their infrastructure and embracing those artists as peers.

    This trend is not just limited to the DMV. A lot of the jerkin stuff is coming out of the Inland Empire, not LA. Or consider Atlanta – even as recently as a few years ago Shawty Lo was clowning TI for being from Riverdale. Now you have Waka Flocka makings songs about Riverdale. (Admitedly I’m not all that familiar with GA demographics/geography, so forgive me if my interpretation is off here.)

  8. hardköre Says:

    I’m actually surprised as to how long it went before the “problematic” areas of American cities were restorated (dunno if that’s a word) and its inhabitants moved way out in the bush to make room for coffe-shops, second hand stores and other meager excuses for urban life middle-class people like to divulge in. This schema has been pushed on almost every European cities since maybe as far back as the early 1900′s.

    The city life has always been deemed as far more attractive than the sub-urbian life in Europe I guess, its where “everything” is happening. In my city concrete blocks and social housing first was established where I grew up in the 50s , then moved further and further away from the city as it grew and more educated people with cash came into it and they of course wanted to live as close to the coffe-shops as possible. Problematic elements that might make someone caugh on their caffe-lattes was naturally moved in the other direction. The same goes for England, and France as far as I know.

    The first attempt to do this on a large scale in the U.S that I know of (I don’t know much) was Guliani with N.Y. Using the law (three strike violation), rehabilitation of streets, buildings and areas, as well as moving social housing to Jersey, as well as other things.

    Seeing your post, I’m glad the culture can still survive being moved out of its original habitat.

  9. sfgiants2001 Says:

    This is true, but I think The Bay Area is also a great example and has been going on for along time as well. Hell, one of our most recognizable artists (E-40) is from Vallejo..not SF/Oakland.

  10. sfgiants2001 Says:

    I love DMV music too, Diamond District put out one of my favorite albums last year. Oddisee and yU make a great team.

  11. Jesse S Says:

    Great piece/points. I’m surprised more (any?) rappers from the suburbs haven’t exploited the fact that older suburban areas (built in the ’60s or earlier) are absolutely the new hood, and often much more dangerous places to spend time in and to grow up in than historically ghetto areas in major U.S. cities these days. This is stuff I think about all the time on a micro level in NY, but it’s rarely discussed on a macro level, even though it is happening everywhere in the U.S. right now as a matter of public policy, just like “planned shrinkage” (Google dat) in cities in the ’60s and ’70s, basically. If Mobb Deep were coming out today, I might even advise Havoc to rep his partner P’s hometown of Hempstead instead of Queensbridge.

  12. noz Says:

    Yeah Jesse you raised a good point a few weeks back when you suggested that Roc Marciano was able to make a such a great NYCish rap album specifically because he’s out in Hempstead, which is now apparently closer to the broken glass everywhere vibe of old New York.

  13. kidbristol Says:

    …and, of course, there’s the DaVinci album, which concerns itself with a lot of this stuff. Anyone know of a good read about the gentrification/hood migration phenomenon? It’s fascinating stuff.

  14. Shelliano aka JihaD Says:

    This trend is not just limited to the DMV. A lot of the jerkin stuff is coming out of the Inland Empire, not LA. Or consider Atlanta – even as recently as a few years ago Shawty Lo was clowning TI for being from Riverdale. Now you have Waka Flocka makings songs about Riverdale. (Admitedly I’m not all that familiar with GA demographics/geography, so forgive me if my interpretation is off here.)

    ^^^

    Riverdale is about 30 miles away from ATL, with no MARTA (Moving Africans Rapidly Thru Atlanta) access. That shit isn’t even a suburb of ATL like Dec or Bankhead is… Its literally not even a part of the landscape of the City, or considered part of the cities culture. To put it in perspective, Griffin, GA (Jody, Gucci, etc) gets more love that Riverdale…

    –Sorry for the aside—

    JihaD

  15. ri067953 Says:

    This song is kinda fuego right here.

  16. reko Says:

    haha..PG has so many murders cause its easy as fuck to blast someone out there and just leave the body behind jerrys subs and pizza where no one cares

  17. reko Says:

    just reaffirming the “wide open spaces between house frames” image noz was trying to portray for those who dont know..lots of tall grass to hide bodies haha

  18. ANU Says:

    This song is fuego & the all ep is pretty good too, kinda surprised ’cause oddisee tracks bored me in the past.

  19. Suga Fist Says:

    JihaD.. no way in hell does Griffin get more love than Riverdale. All these rappers supposedly from Atlanta are mostly from the burbs. East Point and College Park ARE NOT Atlanta.. contrary to what they tell you on them rap songs. Its all gravy regardless.

  20. MF Says:

    Like I’m rad, like I’m Brad, like I’m Chad.

  21. ill_fittin Says:

    The suburbs in Canada are wild. The parents work crazy hours to make money to keep moving up, and they let their kids run wild thinking they cant get in any trouble out on the streets of Evergreen Terrace. Truth is some of the gulliest kids I know grew up in suburban pre-fab neighborhoods, spoiled upper middle class types with entitlement issues. That shit is dangerous. So dangerous.

  22. DR. NO Says:

    Good post, knowing PGC it’s a good read of their situation out there, which has been rugged for awhile now.

    The thing is though that what’s meant by the suburbs is different from place to place, I noticed in France they call the areas outside Paris ‘suburbs’ cause they’re directly outside of the city. But as an American you recognize them as ghettoes straight away, i.e. for Americans ‘suburbs’ has middle class connotation. But if you flip the terminology around, the outer city limits have always been the most distressed, as they’re so far removed from the economic centers that power cities. For instance if you look at a map of NY, the Bronx is pretty much the end of the line, so far north a lot of New Yorkers have never been there. It sounds counter-intuitive but “inner city” and “the outer city limits” can often be used to describe the same place.

  23. LockThree Reppin Says:

    The track is bonkers. Bowie State Grad & PG resident for the first 15 years of my life. Can’t tell you how happy I am to hear this quality of music from a region I rep.

    Odd Spring is ill.

    – LockThree.com

  24. LockThree Reppin Says:

    Made a post on LockThree.com

    http://lockthree.com/2010/05/13/oddisee-im-from-pg/

  25. parodi Says:

    Oddisee been sounding like XO.

    But yU > Odd & XO

  26. barns Says:

    oak cliff 89!

    this track goes hard

  27. Shelliano aka JihaD Says:

    SUGA FIST
    JihaD.. no way in hell does Griffin get more love than Riverdale. All these rappers supposedly from Atlanta are mostly from the burbs. East Point and College Park ARE NOT Atlanta.. contrary to what they tell you on them rap songs. Its all gravy regardless.

    ^^^

    Ehh, “love” is relative. I mean, who out of Riverdale is getting love? Waka??? Gucci’s bama ass gets way more love than that nigga, and he was repping Griffin for a while. Plus you had Jody wit Boyz In Da Hood…he was popping for a hot minute. It doesn’t matter, though. All the niggas who actually rep they area (Killer Mike=Adamsville, Cool Breeze= College Park, TI, Shawty Lo= Bankhead) know they not part of ATL proper, which is why they yell which part they from. Its niggas like Jeezy and Ludacris (among others) who just say “ATL” in general because they not from the ANYWHERE in ATL or the surrounding suburbs, but whatever, this isn’t the place for this conversation.

    JihaD

  28. Suga Fist Says:

    How is Bankhead not Atlanta proper?

  29. airmax Says:

    or adamsville?

  30. faux_rillz Says:

    What is “Atlanta proper,” anyway? The central business district? Nobody actually lives there.

    I remember Li’l Scrappy dissing Trillville a few years ago for being from what he described as “the suburbs” and thinking that this is only gonna resonate with people who don’t know Atlanta, since some of the roughest areas are suburbs.

  31. drgz Says:

    TRILLVILLE IS FROM THE SUBURBS? NOW ME NO LIKEY NO MORE.

    ps giants, not only is 40 from vallejo, EVERYONE IS FROM VALLEJO! and mob figaz all from p-burg, rappers not afraid to claim san leandro, EPA, coco county, fairfield, richmond, etc etc etc.

    i live off sem, and i feel more comfortable there at night than the rich or north vallejo, so yeah.

  32. Suga Fist Says:

    Faux -

    Atlanta proper is the city of Atlanta. Self explanatory. 4th Ward. East Atlanta Village, Cabbagetown, hell.. Virginia Highlands, Southwest.. Whatever.

  33. Tony Gwynn Says:

    DRGZ… Cali’s been feelin’ the ‘burbs since… Since, I can remember… Nor Cal… East Palo Alto, Richmond… We throwin’ Hayward in there…???? & So Cal… Long Beach, Carson… Snoop, Warren G, Ras Kass… We, maybe not Ras Kass… But mos def Pamona & Suga Free…!

  34. drgz Says:

    haystack for chur, even tho spice never showed em love!

  35. Psyfer Says:

    I’d like to throw New Jersey into the fray. The state only has a few proper “cities”- Newark, Jersey City, Camden and Trenton, the capital, which is more like a big town. Trenton gave hip-hop Poor Righteous Teachers and others. Redman, Lords of the Underground and The Artifacts are from Newark. But Queen Latifah and Naughty by Nature are from EO (East Orange, NJ), a “suburban town” that a few years ago had a higher murder rate than Newark. Paradoxically, Lauren Hill, arguably the best selling female rapper of all time, is from the upper-middle class town of South Orange.

  36. kidbristol Says:

    Why is it paradoxical for Lauryn Hill to be from an upper-middle-class suburb?

  37. obert Says:

    PG goes wild and has been for a long time. It was only a matter of time til artists there stopped waiting for DC’s time to come and started reppin Maryland.

  38. CRGonDEKKW^SZ0n4 Says:

    fuk wit it! if ur adress dont say atlanta, ga u not in atlanta, ga. Bankhead and adamsville are within atlanta city limits buddy. so fuk all dat. college park, east point, da dec, clayco, aint atlanta dem is dey own counties and cities in gerogia. metro or not it aint atlanta. itz da metro. but to keep it 100 clayton county is wild az fuk! griffin poppin but buddy! clayco really on da map. but shyt camp-set or die!!! nd fukz wit dat MBG30!!!1 damn da westside ham!!

  39. Change and Uncertainty: Ghostface & Nas | The T.R.O.Y. Blog Says:

    [...] to all things ol’ skool. [↩]Further reading and discussion, check this thread at Cocaine Blunts and this NYT article. [↩]For example: archetypal rags to riches and criminal come-up tales [...]

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