Date of Award
St. Louis, regularly listed as one of the most segregated cities in the United States, has long been a hotbed of racial tension. As a current resident of St. Louis County, and a former resident of a subsection of St. Louis County called Ferguson, I have witnessed the havoc a history of racism, segregation and violence can wreak on a community. The silver lining of such an environment is the resulting creative talent that focuses its efforts on chronicling its surroundings. In this case, local artists have sought to illustrate St. Louis’ complicated history and uncertain future. Since hip hop is rooted in innovation and rebellion, it is the genre of choice for social and political activism as well as revolution and change. By chronicling the African American experience in the face of institutional oppression and systemic racism, hip hop has become undeniably important to cities like St. Louis. In the past, critics have been quick to undermine hip hop’s social significance and academic merit, pointing to some of the foul language and violent images that have unfairly become synonymous with the genre. However, there is great peril in dismissing or ignoring some of hip hop’s social and political messages and threats. St. Louis’ hip hop scene can be used as a tool to measure the sentiments of African Americans inhabiting the city if those in positions of power pay close attention to trending issues addressed in lyrics. In turn, studying hip hop can prevent future instances of civil unrest because politicians and community leaders will be more wary of concerns among the African American community, and thus, create a platform to breathe new life into a city on the verge of collapse.
Pettus III, Joel, "We Just Want My People Thriving: Hip Hop as a Catalyst for Social Change in St. Louis" (2017). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 392.