“The radio won’t play you, but the neighborhood will” – Chicano Rap, Space & Identity in L.A., 1980s & 1990s

Mausfeld, Dianne Violeta (14 February 2020). “The radio won’t play you, but the neighborhood will” – Chicano Rap, Space & Identity in L.A., 1980s & 1990s (Unpublished). In: Groove the City 2020 Conference. Constructing and Deconstructing Urban Spaces through Music. Leuphana University Lüneburg. February 13-15 2020.

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Hip-Hop is an innately urban subculture that spread from the South Bronx across the globe. In L.A., a city marked by gang violence in the 1980s and ‘90s, Hip-Hop uniquely merged with gang culture as many of the up-and-coming artists were gang members. Break-dancers, rappers and DJs had to cross enemy lines to perform at shows, while ‘tag bangers’ were writing their names on walls, crossing off the names of their rivals. ‘Chicano Rap’, a subgenre of Gangsta Rap created by Mexican-American and Latino artists, is closely intertwined with Chicano gang culture that has ruled L.A. neighborhoods since the 1930s. This paper pursues the distinct forms of spatial identification conveyed in Chicano Rap, whether gang related or not, yet always in accordance with hip-hop’s turf-mentality.
While (Black) Gangsta Rap found its epicenter in Compton, Chicano artists were
spread from Santa Monica (Proper Dos) and Pico Union (Psycho Realm) to
Southcentral (Brownside), East L.A. (Kid Frost) and even Riverside (Lighter Shade of Brown). In their ‘Spanglish’ lyrics they talked about gang violence, police brutality, and daily life in the varrio[‘hood], entailing local signifiers like area codes, neighborhood- and street names. While strongly identifying with L.A., Mexico is omnipresent as a space of cultural rooting. Hereby, Chicano rappers forge “extreme local” (Forman 2002) identities on one hand and pan-Chicano pride and selfdetermination across city-, state- and country borders, on the other. Drawing on interviews with Chicano artists, this paper discusses how space and identity is being negotiated in L.A. Chicano Rap.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for Global Studies (CGS)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Institute of History, Iberian and Latin American History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Musicology

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Mausfeld, Dianne Violeta


700 Arts > 780 Music
900 History > 970 History of North America


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation


[UNSPECIFIED] Hip-Hop as a Transcultural Phenomenon. Latin American and Jamaican Cultural Signifiers in US Hip-Hop (L.A. & NYC, ca. 1970s-1990s)




Dianne Violeta Mausfeld

Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2021 08:46

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:49

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