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Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy

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How poor urban youth in Chicago use social media to profit from portrayals of gang violence, and the questions this raises about poverty, opportunities, and public voyeurism Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagra How poor urban youth in Chicago use social media to profit from portrayals of gang violence, and the questions this raises about poverty, opportunities, and public voyeurism Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, they're capitalizing on the public's fascination with the ghetto and gang violence. But with what consequences? Ballad of the Bullet follows the Corner Boys, a group of thirty or so young men on Chicago's South Side who have hitched their dreams of success to the creation of "drill music" (slang for "shooting music"). Drillers disseminate this competitive genre of hyperviolent, hyperlocal, DIY-style gangsta rap digitally, hoping to amass millions of clicks, views, and followers--and a ticket out of poverty. But in this perverse system of benefits, where online popularity can convert into offline rewards, the risks can be too great. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and countless interviews compiled from daily, close interactions with the Corner Boys, as well as time spent with their families, friends, music producers, and followers, Forrest Stuart looks at the lives and motivations of these young men. Stuart examines why drillers choose to embrace rather than distance themselves from negative stereotypes, using the web to assert their supposed superior criminality over rival gangs. While these virtual displays of ghetto authenticity--the saturation of social media with images of guns, drugs, and urban warfare--can lead to online notoriety and actual resources, including cash, housing, guns, sex, and, for a select few, upward mobility, drillers frequently end up behind bars, seriously injured, or dead. Raising questions about online celebrity, public voyeurism, and the commodification of the ghetto, Ballad of the Bullet offers a singular look at what happens when the digital economy and urban poverty collide.


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How poor urban youth in Chicago use social media to profit from portrayals of gang violence, and the questions this raises about poverty, opportunities, and public voyeurism Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagra How poor urban youth in Chicago use social media to profit from portrayals of gang violence, and the questions this raises about poverty, opportunities, and public voyeurism Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, they're capitalizing on the public's fascination with the ghetto and gang violence. But with what consequences? Ballad of the Bullet follows the Corner Boys, a group of thirty or so young men on Chicago's South Side who have hitched their dreams of success to the creation of "drill music" (slang for "shooting music"). Drillers disseminate this competitive genre of hyperviolent, hyperlocal, DIY-style gangsta rap digitally, hoping to amass millions of clicks, views, and followers--and a ticket out of poverty. But in this perverse system of benefits, where online popularity can convert into offline rewards, the risks can be too great. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and countless interviews compiled from daily, close interactions with the Corner Boys, as well as time spent with their families, friends, music producers, and followers, Forrest Stuart looks at the lives and motivations of these young men. Stuart examines why drillers choose to embrace rather than distance themselves from negative stereotypes, using the web to assert their supposed superior criminality over rival gangs. While these virtual displays of ghetto authenticity--the saturation of social media with images of guns, drugs, and urban warfare--can lead to online notoriety and actual resources, including cash, housing, guns, sex, and, for a select few, upward mobility, drillers frequently end up behind bars, seriously injured, or dead. Raising questions about online celebrity, public voyeurism, and the commodification of the ghetto, Ballad of the Bullet offers a singular look at what happens when the digital economy and urban poverty collide.

30 review for Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy

  1. 4 out of 5

    SocProf

    A page-turning ethnography of Chicago South side drillers that shatters stereotypes and one-dimensional views of the genre and its practitioners. This book stands as a nice companion to Jooyoung Lee's Blowin' Up. They both take the readers behind the scenes of their respective rap scenes. But where Lee's rappers joined Project Blowed precisely as a potential escape from gang life, whose cultural trappings were not tolerated at PB, the Taylor Park drillers fully commodify the stereotypical tropes A page-turning ethnography of Chicago South side drillers that shatters stereotypes and one-dimensional views of the genre and its practitioners. This book stands as a nice companion to Jooyoung Lee's Blowin' Up. They both take the readers behind the scenes of their respective rap scenes. But where Lee's rappers joined Project Blowed precisely as a potential escape from gang life, whose cultural trappings were not tolerated at PB, the Taylor Park drillers fully commodify the stereotypical tropes of the gangsters in hope of an elusive social mobility, or, at the very least to get by. Stuart provides detailed accounts of the benefits and dangers of trying to join the attention economy, a relatively safe endeavor for more privileged individuals, a double-edged sword for marginalized young men from the South Side. The book also provides an interesting discussion of the debates about the ethnography in terms of accuracy and transparency, debates that emerged after the publication of Alice Goffman's book, On the Run. This is a highly readable book for undergraduate students, for sociology instructors out there, looking for some interesting reads (textbooks are boring) that might engage students and make them grapple with the dilemmas of sociological research.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Isaacson

    this gave an incredible insight into the gangs of today and what motivates them. They can make an online presence that yields great social power and maybe monetary rewards. How the sophisticated mechanisms of internet fame are utilized.

  3. 4 out of 5

    szymborskalyte

    Breathtakingly good. This will go down as a classic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jeo

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Diane

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ruthwik Kumar

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kiryl Bushwackacowski

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Read

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick Marzano

  11. 4 out of 5

    A. W. McSorley

  12. 4 out of 5

    Asad

  13. 5 out of 5

    Pouya

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Bautista

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kamil Janton

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Newkirk

  18. 4 out of 5

    Evan F.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richee

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Wynn

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Ricci

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sun

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Luca Carbone

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Sheffer Harrington

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Don

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