Before hip hop moved to dance clubs (and ultimately to record companies) it was practiced, produced, and consumed in public spaces, often stages for alternative markets in informal economies. Cast against the backdrop of a political and spatial bankrupted landscape of New York City in urban crisis, governed by negligent authority, hip-hop artists forged their own paths of self-sustenance. In the early 1970s they carved out space for themselves to rebuild community and generate capital. From 1973 to 1977, hip-hop occupied three types of spaces: block parties, first in streets, then in public parks; larger parties in auditoriums of public schools; and finally, community centers and Police Athletic Leagues. Each venue was a consciously constructed autonomous space carved out of the public sphere, appropriated for alternative political uses including community generation, consciousness raising art production/consumption, and participation in informal economies such as drug trade, and independent commercial entertainment.
This presentation focuses on hip-hop’s appropriation of public spaces that emerged in the early 1970s at the pinnacle of urban crisis, explaining that hip-hop was a culture of necessity, and, moreover, a means of anti-capitalist resistance.