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Abstract

In the past century, first jazz and then hip-hop emerged as some of America’s pre-eminent styles of musical expression. As traditionally African-American art forms, they are also products of historical racial oppression. Though the association between black societal subjugation and its resultant creative genius has previously been attributed to economic, social, political, aesthetic, and cultural reasons, there has been little analysis of geography. Drawing heavily on critical urban theory and America’s racial and cultural history, this article examines the socio-spatial origins of America’s black creative genius and the ways that geography can imbue certain areas with the potential for brilliant cultural production while suppressing such innovation in others. This article also applies Edward Soja’s argument from the essay “Writing the City Spatially” to the cultural divergence between cities and suburbs. It then discusses the historical spatial segregation between black and white Americans, positing that dense urban agglomeration can lead to enhanced cultural capabilities. Finally, the author concludes with an analysis of why white middle-class America is infatuated with black urban culture. This article aims to illuminate space’s overlooked yet crucial role in artistic and cultural invention.

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