Economics: There are many forms, but few are studied. Most economists think primarily of national economics — the economics of nations.
It is as though all economics is derivative, and whether you’re talking about Monetarily Sovereign governments like the U.S. or Canada, or monetarily non-sovereign governments like Germany or Illinois or Chicago, the same fundamentals apply.
Supply and Demand, Risk and Reward, recessions and depressions, debt and deficits, inflation and deflation, GDP and GNP — all the usual suspects are there.
And to some degree, this is true for cities, counties, states, businesses, and nations.
But what about neighborhood governments? What about signs and signals, insults and favors, life and death, borders that change daily? What about music (music??)
How many textbooks have you read, that deal with gang territory economics?
The September issue of Chicago Magazine published an extensive article titled, “DISPATCHES FROM THE RAP WARS” by BY Forrest Stuart| AS TOLD TO Elly Fishman. Here are a few excerpts from that long piece:
I pulled up a map of Chicago on my tablet and pointed to random intersections. No matter what corner, even miles from their homes, these (gang) kids had an intimate knowledge of gang activity there.
One boy told me, “If I walk down Cottage Grove, I know that in some places I need to keep my head on a swivel. In others, I can relax my guard.”
And I’m thinking, There is no real reason this kid should know this much about gang presence on the South Side, because he’s from another side of town.
It wasn’t just territory they had down cold. They were up on the latest of basically every gang war in the city.
Would that the American voter knew as much about the territorial conflicts going on all over the world, as the kids know about the numerous conflicts among the various gang territories in Chicago.
I asked these kids how the hell they knew all this. They looked at me like I was an idiot. “Music,” they said.
There are hundreds of gangs in Chicago these days, a splintering that occurred in the wake of the collapse of the traditional “supergangs” like the Black Disciples and Vice Lords in the ’90s.
They operate as block-level factions, making the city a complicated patchwork of warring territories.
In a relatively recent phenomenon, many of these gangs produce drill music—a Chicago-born, low-fi version of gangsta rap, full of hyperviolent boasts and taunts.
Drill music is their form of communication, their language, their not-so-United Nations speeches.
These kids can quickly figure out whose territory they are in. If they are walking through a neighborhood and hear a certain kind of drill coming from a passing car or a phone speaker, they know that corner belongs to the gang Diddy Grove.
If they’re in Diddy Grove territory and notice songs by O-Block, that tells them Diddy Grove and O-Block are likely cliqued up.
That is how treaties are announced.
Zebo (a gang-banger) told me how drill perpetuates gang wars, how it’s an engine of both truces and feuds.
He kept returning to a refrain, one I would hear many times during my field research: ‘This is not just music. It’s not just a game. This shit is for real.”
(Gangs make) three kinds of videos. In one, they talk about nameless, faceless rivals, or haters.
In another, they specifically target a rival gang with lyrics like “So-and-so’s a bitch” or “So-and-so’s a snitch.”
And then there’s an in-between kind, which to an outsider sounds like generic disses but is actually very targeted, with the rapper flashing a rival gang’s hand signs upside down.
That is how wars are declared between “nations.”
It’s surprising how much strategy goes into the making and posting of these videos on YouTube and SoundCloud.
Gang members are constantly considering how to get the most views. The thinking is that if a video pulls enough, record labels will start calling.
Sometimes the guys will record a video but wait to release it until a rival gang member—preferably one they’ve called out—is shot, so that it seems like (the gang) is taking credit.
It’s all about convincing viewers that the gang really does the violent stuff that they rap about—and often they do.
When the U.S., Russia, China, North Korea, et al parade their military hardware, it’s to convince viewers they really are capable of “violent stuff.”
Each rapper in the gang has one or two “shooters.” These are the members who make good on the threats the rappers dish out in their lyrics and on social media.
Visualize the U.S. and Russian bombers attacking ISIS over Syria.
Their model is inspired by the local patron saint of drill rap, Chief Keef, who successfully leveraged the persona of a black superpredator.
The more he portrayed himself as a reckless, gun-toting, ruthless murderer, the more attention he got.
Eventually, Interscope Records signed him to a $6 million deal and off he went to Los Angeles. Hardly a day goes by without someone from CBE mentioning Keef.
That’s Economics 101 in Chicago gangdom. You won’t read about it in the textbooks or hear about it in college Economics or Marketing courses.
As one of the rappers would always say, “You know, white people, Mexicans, bitches, those people don’t live the life, but they love hearing about it. People want the Chiraq stuff. They want a superthug ghetto man, and I’m giving that to them. I’m just playing my role.”
That role means being at the nucleus of the gang. The rappers are designated as the ticket out of poverty. It becomes the responsibility of the rest of the members to support and protect them.
More Economics 101 in gangdom. The rappers have shooters to protect them, while they try to earn money for the gang.
(In the gang), there are about 30 members total. Some act as producers or cameramen. Two, for example, basically serve as the tech department. They do stuff like steal the local school’s Wi-Fi password.
Visualize our NSA decrypting foreign codes, Emails, texts, and the Chinese and Russian hackers doing the same.
(A.J., a gang member) said, “I’m going to show you why I do this.” So he went on Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter and wrote, “I’m on FT for the next 20 minutes” and gave his phone number.
FaceTime calls immediately started coming in from across the United States and Canada—male and female, ages 12 to 40, white, black, Hispanic—all like, “Oh my God, I love you. Your music is so great.”
He got so many calls that his phone ended up crashing. These are not things your average kid experiences.
A.J. turned to me and said, “I do this when I’m feeling shitty, or when I’m broke, or when I’m bored.”
Every few calls, a woman A.J. thought was attractive would pop up on FaceTime, and he would compliment the young lady, ask to see more of her, then goad her to take off a piece of clothing. Women would wind up getting undressed for him.
The guys have a term for these kinds of fans: cloutheads. The more popular you are as a drill rapper, the more clout you accumulate.
The more clout you have, the more cloutheads—easily exploitable groupies—you have. A.J. has a lot of cloutheads.
And he won’t just ask them to take off their clothes; he’ll ask them for money, meals, new iPhones—almost always in exchange for the promise of sex.
Since most of the guys in (A.J.’s gang) are really bad at dealing drugs, the gang relies on the rappers to bring in cash this way. The whole exchange between rappers and cloutheads is a bizarre modern twist on sex work.
You marketing majors probably have not explored this “medium.”
Junior, an 18-year-old shooter had been arrested for armed robbery—one way shooters make money is by “staining,” or stealing from people or stores in nearby neighborhoods—and had just come off house arrest.
He was broke, his mom had disowned him, and he was on the verge of becoming homeless.
He decided to become a rapper. He’d seen how those guys were excused from the actual violence, and wanted a legal hustle for himself.
About eight months after recording his first tracks, Junior was walking home when he was shot in the shoulder
When I visited Junior the next day, he was in an incredibly jovial mood. He was like, “Man, Forrest, I’m on! I’ve got clout!”
He was tracking his latest rap video on YouTube, and the daily views had tripled. Junior was so excited about having gotten shot and kept talking about how he was finally going to make it as a rapper. And he was right.
That was essentially the moment when his gang accepted him in that role. Another member of the gang stepped up to be his shooter, and a bevy of women started following him around.
Today, he’s a central figure in CBE.
Your high school or college advisor probably did not spell out that route to economic success.
One night Junior received a Facebook message from a 20-something white guy in Beverly Hills named Chad.
Chad wanted to pay Junior to record a verse for his album. To prove he was serious, he wired Junior $800 and uploaded a song that was complete except for Junior’s verse.
At various times during the week, Chad would invite his friends over to his house for informal Q&A sessions with Junior. “How does the drug economy work?” they’d ask. “What do you do on the corner?” “How do you deal with cops?” “Where do you get your guns?”
Five days in, Chad and Junior had some sort of blowup, and Junior had to get out of town fast. In the end, he walked away with about $2,000 worth of new clothing, shoes, sunglasses, jewelry, and weed. He never did get around to recording that track.
The article goes into much more detail about the realities, complexities, and subtleties of gang life, none of which wind up in the economics, marketing, or general business books.
Yes, Supply and Demand, Risk and Reward, even recessions and depressions still apply. But it’s a lost economy, an invisible economy, though a big economy.
And “it’s not just a game. This shit is for real.”
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
•Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
•Any monetarily NON-sovereign government — be it city, county, state or nation — that runs an ongoing trade deficit, eventually will run out of money.
•The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes..
•No nation can tax itself into prosperity, nor grow without money growth.
•Cutting federal deficits to grow the economy is like applying leeches to cure anemia.
•A growing economy requires a growing supply of money (GDP = Federal Spending + Non-federal Spending + Net Exports)
•Deficit spending grows the supply of money
•The limit to federal deficit spending is an inflation that cannot be cured with interest rate control.
•The limit to non-federal deficit spending is the ability to borrow.
•Liberals think the purpose of government is to protect the poor and powerless from the rich and powerful. Conservatives think the purpose of government is to protect the rich and powerful from the poor and powerless.
•The single most important problem in economics is the Gap between rich and the rest.
•Austerity is the government’s method for widening the Gap between rich and poor.
•Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.