The word “gentrification” is embedded with issues of classism, racism, and definitions of “vision and the future” that willfully downplay how the benefits of “progress” are often aggressively (intentionally) one-sided. The term is marbled with violence and bloodshed, as outlined in “Death by Gentrification,” the powerful, sure-to-be-classic piece of journalism on the death-by-police of Alejandro Nieto in San Francisco neighborhood where he was born and raised. The area is now full of white newcomers flexing both fear and racism as they displace longtime brown residents, with the police department as their henchmen. Nieto’s death and all it encapsulates illustrate the high stakes for many largely black and brown communities across America that have been positioned as the new Wild West for moneyed, largely white gentrifiers.
Tarica June, an indie rapper who is a third-generation resident of D.C. (and who holds a law degree from Howard University,) recently became a darling of the internet by giving voice to those on the bleak side of the forward march. She does it in a video that is decidedly old-school – just her strolling casually through her neighborhood while giving shout outs to people and things she loves about D.C., once nicknamed the Chocolate City, so large was its black community. It’s now one of the most potent examples of the erasure that drives gentrification, as Tarica illustrates through her rundown of the high prices, trendy food cafés, and stank attitudes that are now part of the cultural terrain.
The track kicks off with a sample from Suzanne Vega’s ‘90s classic “Tom’s Diner” before flipping into a loop from “Set Adrift on A Memory Bliss,” which itself floats on PM Dawn’s beat-tweaked sample from Spandau Ballet’s ‘80s hit “True.” That Tarica’s protest against gentrification is set against a track that, in part at least, is an ode to the power of beautiful memories is a lovely synergy of sample source and new content that is rare indeed. Dope lyrics, smooth flow, timely message.
Top photo is a still from the video.