What Hidden Economies? A Refutation of Channing Kennedy’s Oakland “Rap Bohemia”

In a new Good magazine piece about the DIY Oakland hip-hop crew Sick Sad World, local writer Channing Kennedy claims to have uncovered the “1 percent of the no-budget rap game.” The implication, of course, is that the “rap bohemia” he’s profiled isn’t just the product of artistic ingenuity and youthful enterprise, but that it also relies on a certain degree of hidden privilege. Kennedy articulates that thesis in value-loaded terms – “One Percent” being the most salient of them. He deploys is as shorthand for “elite strata” when it’s actually a term for taxpayers with $380,000 adjusted gross income. He also characterizes the members of Sick Sad World as part of a leisure class, arguing that they have the luxury of time, tech know-how, art-school connections, and full Rolodexes to support their full-time arts careers. Moreover, Kennedy argues, most of the “skilled jobs” are held by white dudes. Essentially, he’s attempting to portray Sick Sad World as a marriage of white technorati with young African-American prodigies from the ‘hood. That’s a reductive, idea, and it’s not borne out by his evidence.

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