“Where I’m From”: Jay-Z’s “Hip Hop Cosmopolitanism,” Basketball, and the Neoliberal Politics of Urban Space”

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Iowa

This article examines the articulation of the Black ghetto to authenticity through the involvement of hip hop star Jay-Z in two highly publicized basketball-related ventures during 2003. During that year, Jay-Z organized a team for the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic (EBC) in Harlem’s Rucker Park and joined a team of investors aiming to move the New Jersey Nets to a new arena in Brooklyn. Informed by cultural studies scholarship, the paper explains the context through which basketball and hip hop were articulated with authenticity, and were deployed towards the goal of managing a career transition for Jay-Z, and was also used to gain public support for a controversial proposal to build an arena in the Atlantic Yards area of Brooklyn.

In the decades following World War II, the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant became one of the more notorious ghettos in the United States. Though it had long been home to a middle and working class Black and Jewish community, blockbusting practices during the 1960s, coupled with the forced austerity of the 1970s, transformed the neighborhood into a symbol of urban decline. By the early 1980s, the neighborhood evoked popular fantasies that the New York Times would later recall as “boogeymanlike lore that helped fuel fear of its mostly black, mostly poor and working-class inhabitants” (Lee, 2009). Among these inhabitants were several young men who would draw on the neighborhood’s reputation in their later careers in hip hop. The lyrics of the Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes made frequent reference to the violence and poverty of Bed-Stuy and, in doing so, became highly marketable artists. Jay-Z, the best-known and most successful rapper from the neighborhood, frequently raps, writes, and speaks about the trials and tribulations of his childhood and the difficult choices it presented; he was launched into global superstardom by the 1998 single, “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem).”

This essay is about the strange convergence that made associations with the ghetto not simply a liability, but in particular circumstances a considerable asset. To explore this convergence and the conditions that make it possible, I focus attention on a pivotal moment in Jay-Z’s career, and how he deployed the cultural forms of the ghetto—particularly hip hop and playground basketball—to promote his personal brand and advance other financial interests. This moment is worth focusing on because it reveals the complex and contradictory meanings of the Black ghetto in early twenty-first century commercial culture.

Although conventions of culture and geography keep most white people from ever venturing into the ‘hood, it nevertheless circulates as a powerful symbol in U.S. culture and politics. Elijah Anderson (2012) calls this symbol “the iconic ghetto”—a remarkably consistent vision of urban Black spaces as “impoverished, chaotic, lawless, drug-infested, and ruled by violence” (p. 9). The iconic ghetto is used to justify aggressive policing, economic neglect, predatory housing practices, and other policies that ensure the continuance of residential segregation and limit the resources and privileges of individuals who are associated with it. The iconic ghetto is based on and represented by many real places, such as Compton, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, West Baltimore, and North Philly, but narratives of the iconic ghetto tend to represent a very narrow slice of experiences and are “for the most part false” (p. 9).

The iconic ghetto is a product of what George Lipsitz (2012) calls the “White spatial imaginary”—a kind of geographical common sense that ensures the continuance of white domination by “enacting in concrete spatial form the core ideology of white supremacy—that Black people ‘belonged’ somewhere else” (p. 28). As recent demographic studies show, the last three decades have witnessed a period of re-segregation in U.S. cities. The racialized designation of space is created by institutions and policy decisions, but culture also has an important role to play. As Lipsitz puts it, “the white spatial imaginary has cultural as well as social consequences. It structures feelings as well as social institutions” (p. 29).

By the late twentieth century, however, the ghetto was recognized, not only as a frightening symbol, but also as a powerful marker of authenticity. Associations with the “iconic ghetto” were not elided, but deliberately and forcefully asserted, especially within hip hop, where they were packaged for mainstream consumers. For these promoters, associations with the ghetto are not liabilities to be minimized, but cultural assets—signs of the authenticity that signaled an artist’s legitimacy. Under the right set of circumstances, these associations could be used to generate substantial profits, even while they contributed to the continued segregation and subjugation of Black communities. To illustrate the complexities of these assemblages, this paper explores two of Jay-Z’s basketball-related ventures, both of which he undertook in 2003, the year he announced his retirement as a hip hop artist to focus on business interests. During that year of transition, Jay-Z organized a team for the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic (EBC) in Harlem’s Rucker Park, and he joined a team of investors aiming to move the New Jersey Nets to a new arena in Brooklyn. Both of these efforts positioned basketball to emphasize Jay-Z’s roots in Bed-Stuy as well his solidarity with segregated Black ghettos in general—both of which are crucial to his hip hop credentials (not to mention his self-image). Jay-Z’s retirement didn’t stick (he released another solo album just three years later), but these incidents highlight the degree to which basketball and hip hop are connected and amplified by imagined and real Black spaces, and the uses to which these connections can be put.

Theory/Method: Articulation and Radical Contextualization

This paper offers a conjunctural analysis of these two ventures, focusing on how associations with the “iconic ghetto” were positioned as markers of authenticity, and how this articulation was deployed for commercial purposes. My analysis builds on the work of Stuart Hall and other practitioners of cultural studies who theorize ideology as cohering around the linkages forged between disparate forces under particular historical and cultural contexts. For Hall, hegemony is a constantly morphing phenomenon that coheres not in singular stable symbols or concepts, but rather in discursive configurations in which one component is linked with others to form a temporary, sometime contradictory whole. As Hall explains in an interview with Lawrence Grossberg (1986), an articulation is “the form of the connection that can make a unity of two different elements, under certain conditions” (p. 141). Focusing critical attention on these articulations is “both a way of understanding how ideological elements come, under certain conditions, to cohere together within a discourse, and a way of asking how they do or do not become articulated, at specific conjunctures, to certain political subjects” (Grossberg 1986, pp. 141–142). In a 1983 lecture at the University of Illinois, Hall (2016) elaborates that “It is not the individual elements of a discourse that have political or ideological connotations.” What matters “is the ways that those elements are organized together in a new discursive formation” (p. 145).

Power relations as never essentialized or universal, but rather “contingently relational, complex, and always open to alteration” (Davis 2019, p. 48). The conditions that give rise to articulations are contingent and dynamic, and since “those articulations are not inevitable, not necessary, they can potentially be transformed” and “can be articulated in more than one way” (Grossberg 1986, p. 142). Their meaning and purchase are subject to change and are always contested. Often, as with the example explored here, already-existing linkages are disarticulated and linked in new combinations that convey new configurations of hegemonic meaning. Indeed, while connections to the “iconic ghetto” have long been important aspects of identity for certain Black subcultures, the mainstream meaning of these associations was “almost always pejorative” (Anderson, 2012, p. 9). Recently, however, the ghetto has been rearticulated to convey an appealing gritty authenticity, which plays an important role in the crafting of major brand identities and multinational business ventures. I focus on Jay-Z’s basketball-related ventures during 2003, not because they are the only (or even the primary) location where this connection was asserted, but because they illustrate the range of purposes to which this linkage was put.

This examination is guided by the critical method of “radical contextualization.” This involves identifying “a historically specific organization of social relations as an expression of power,” and then identifying the components of assemblages and how they are brought together (Davis 2019, p. 49). It is work that is “done by historical specificity, by understanding what is specific about certain moments, and how those moments come together, how different tendencies fuse and form a kind of [temporary] configuration of contradictions” (Hall & Beck 2009, p. 664). I draw on popular representations of Jay-Z’s basketball-related activities, which began in earnest in 2003 and continued for nearly a decade. These popular texts include newspaper and magazine articles, press releases, trade press books, and Jay-Z’s own speech, writing, and lyrics. Using this archive, I trace the conjuncture with particular attention to the component parts and the conditions that made the assemblage possible.

Hall (1996) notes that “Precisely because identities are constructed within, not outside, discourse, we need to understand them as produced in specific historical and institutional sites within specific discursive formations and practices, by specific enunciative strategies” (p. 4). For figures like Jay-Z, credibility and authenticity is inextricably tied up in associations with the iconic ghetto. Such associations remain centrally important both for the credibility artists can claim within such neighborhoods, and for marketing their work as authentic representations of ghetto life. Hip hop’s preoccupation with authenticity is, as Judy (1994) has argued, an “adaptation to the force of commodification” within the community (p. 70). But it is also a commodity in itself—something with value that can be manipulated to create even greater value. At the same time, the white spatial imaginary works to contain, perpetuate, and profit from the ghetto. The authenticity derived from the ghetto can thus be deployed towards many different goals, and has competing cultural outcomes. It is a valuable and important resource for many different constituencies, but not for the same reasons.

The analysis is organized as follows. I begin by considering the particular contextual factors that aligned hip hop, basketball, and the ghetto with a racialized form of authenticity. I then examine Jay-Z’s attempt to create through this assemblage a vision of “hip-hop cosmopolitanism,” before turning to the artist’s pronounced role in the effort to build a new basketball arena as part of a multi-billion dollar commercial development in downtown Brooklyn.

“Can’t Knock the Hustle”: Ghettocentrism in U.S. Popular Culture

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, adaptations of Black cultural forms flooded the commercial culture. Youth cultures, nurtured by media corporations, offered gritty tales of the ghetto for an audience composed largely of white, suburban consumers. The ghetto thus became a location for cultural fantasies that addressed white suburban malaise, while repositioning inner-city residents as objects of fascination. As bell hooks (1992) explains, conditions were ripe for this kind of fantasy:

Masses of young people dissatisfied by U.S. imperialism, unemployment, lack of economic opportunity, afflicted by the postmodern malaise of alienation, no sense of grounding, no redemptive identity, can be manipulated by cultural strategies that offer Otherness as appeasement, particularly through commodification. . . . Concurrently, diverse ethnic/racial groups can also embrace this sense of specialness, that histories and experience once seen as worthy only of disdain can be looked upon with awe. (p. 25)

With the rise of hip hop as a commercial form in the 1980s and 1990s, lyrics, photography, and videos, narratives of ghetto life proliferated, but quickly took up a narrow repertoire that focused on sexual exploitation and gang violence. These images, as Tricia Rose (2008) observes, emerge from “the structural racism that grew out of the spatial and economic conditions of black ghettos in the post-civil rights era” as well as “the hyper-marketing of hip hop images by major corporations, including black industry moguls, to promote and satisfy white consumer demand (indeed, this is one means by which racist ideas saturate and propel racial expectations and associations) as well as to sustain black ‘street credibility’” (p. 73).

Other cultural industries also sought to capitalize on the emerging popular fascination with the iconic ghetto. For example, S. Craig Watkins (1998) identifies in 1990s Hollywood cinema the deployment of a “ghettocentric imagination”—a “historically specific” shared framework of understanding structuring popular depictions of Black urban communities (p. 197). The ghettocentric imagination highlights transgressive behaviors—especially violent and sexual behaviors—and communicates the ‘hood as a place where laws and social norms are enforced differently. It thereby both rearticulates Moynihanian ideas about the pathological nature of Black families and communities, and also presents the ghetto as a space where the restrictions of middle-class respectability do not apply. Ghettocentrism thus reinforces justifications for policing and containing Black spaces, while simultaneously offering young consumers the ‘hood as a stage for exploring desires and fantasies.

These fantasies and desires also found reinvigorated expression in sport, and especially in basketball. A stylized, racialized form of playground basketball, which had developed as a cultural practice for decades, mostly out of view of the commercial mainstream, was relentlessly marketed to national and international audiences during the 1990s and early 2000s. “Streetball,” as this form was branded, offered narratives of underground talent staging epic battles in Black ghetto playgrounds far from the glitz and glamour of National Basketball Association (NBA) arenas. Standouts in this emerging streetball scene, many of them promoted by the athletic shoe and apparel company AND1, known by names such as Skip to my Lou, Half Man/Half Amazing, and Hotsauce, deployed moves for international audiences via the “AND1 Mixtape Tour,” a traveling exhibition that featured AND1 stars performing their distinctive skills on television and before live crowds numbering in the thousands.

The style that defined streetball provocatively defied the conventions of what Yago Colas (2016) calls “the white basketball unconscious.” Colas (2016) defines the “white basketball unconscious” as “the wishes, terrors, and impulses related to race and basketball that the conventions of time and place require us to repress before we are even conscious of them” (p. 27). This concept builds on Jameson’s (1981) notion of a political unconscious: a widely shared, but unknown and inexpressible set of aesthetic preferences, ethical ideals, and other tendencies that constitute the foundational orientations that make politics legible. The white basketball unconscious, Colas argues, values team play and adherence to hierarchy over individual improvisational brilliance, and manifests primarily in mainstream media accounts that explain success and failure of players and teams. It has profoundly shaped and reshaped popular meanings of basketball according to the shifting requirements of white hegemony in the United States. The style of play celebrated in “streetball” exhibitions stands in stark contrast to the values of the white basketball unconscious. In fact, it offers a direct challenge to some of its most cherished values. While selflessness is generally praised by mainstream commentators, streetball unapologetically highlights the individual. The proclivity for trash talk and boasting defies conventions of sportsmanship. Streetballers emphasize improvisation and inventiveness over hegemonically valued skill sets (i.e., “fundamentals”). In these and other respects, streetball offers an alternative frame with which to consume basketball as entertainment. This shadow moral economy that streetball offered was also increasingly available in the NBA as well, as Todd Boyd (2003), Phillip Lamarr Cunningham (2009), David J. Leonard (2006) have argued.

It was in this environment of flourishing ghettocentrism that Sean Carter, better known as Jay-Z, emerged as a hip hop talent and eventually as a global superstar. He grew up in the Marcy Houses, a notorious housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and turned to the drug trade while still a teenager. As an artist, Jay-Z made no attempt to disguise this past, offering up details of his youth in interviews and in his “relentlessly autobiographical” music (Bilmes, 2017). The titles of his early albums—In My Lifetime; Hard Knock Life, The Life and Times of S. Carter—convey the importance Jay-Z places on his upbringing. He declares himself an outsider, even an outlaw, as a means of asserting a particular style of masculine autonomy, as bell hooks (2003) argues:

Patriarchal manhood was the theory and gangsta culture was its ultimate practice. No wonder then that black males of all ages living the protestant work ethic, submitting in the racist white world, envy the lowdown hustlers in the black communities who are not slaves to white power. As one young gang member put it, “working was considered weak.” (p. 25)

In Jay-Z’s account, “hustling” is really a refusal to make a necessarily emasculating compromise with a racist power structure. It is a refusal the artist is proud to assert.
In his rise to superstardom, Jay-Z has positioned this identity carefully. In his music, writing, and interviews, he continually stresses his connections to the old neighborhood, and offers his own success as a form of boosterism for Bed-Stuy, a celebration of the ghetto lifestyles that were once almost universally derided. On his 1999 album Vol. 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter, for example, Jay-Z raps about his origins and his subsequent wealth and visibility:

I made it so you could say Marcy and it was all good

I ain’t cross over I brought the suburbs to the ‘hood

Made ‘em relate to your struggle told em about your hustle

Went on MTV with do-rags, I made ‘em love you.

In these lyrics, Jay-Z explains that despite his riches and his stature as a multi-platinum recording artist, he has not betrayed his roots. On the contrary, the artist claims that his prominence has lifted the profile of his once-derided childhood home. He declares that he is not “crossover”—that is, he will not deny or elide his roots for mainstream acceptance. Instead, he continues to identify with their lifestyles and values, even though the mainstream often views them with contempt. Thus, Jay-Z frames his conspicuous entrepreneurialism and consumption, not as a rejection of the ghetto, but as a direct challenge to the class- and race-based definitions of taste and refinement. By 2003, he was considering how to pursue that confrontational style more deliberately.

Hip Hop Cosmopolitanism: Jay-Z’s Career Transition

In the summer of 2003, Jay-Z faced a professional crossroads. His career in hip hop had been spectacularly successful. He had sold more than 30 million albums and his Blueprint 2 and Blueprint 2.1 albums were dominating the U.S. charts. With a follow-up, the Black Album, set for a November release, the then 33 year-old artist was about to step away from hip hop, seeking to redefine himself. As he told CNN in an interview, “it’s time to do different things, like take off the safety blanket. . . . I love to make music but I gotta challenge myself in other fields also” (“From Brooklyn to a Blueprint,” 2003, March 6).

He told the New York Times, “There’ll be no more full-length Jay-Z albums. I might do a soundtrack in a year or two. Maybe a collaboration. But only after a year. I want to let it alone for at least a year” (Touré, 2003). Jay-Z considered himself unrivaled in hip hop, creating a lack of competition that left him in danger of complacency and—worse—of selling out. “I came in the game to be nothing less than the best,” he explained. “I think every rapper should feel like they’re the best. But I feel like some people are just making an album, putting in the club song, the thug song, the girl song. Don’t try to make this type of record or that type of record. It has to be genuine. From the soul.” Instead of composing and recording albums, he would turn his attention to business, reinventing himself as an entrepreneur who would shape the culture, not only with his art, but with his deal-making acumen. Already, the rapper co-owned the record label Roc-A-Fella and its affiliated clothing line Rocawear. In April 2003, with the debut of Reebok’s “S. Carter,” he became the first non-athlete to launch a signature athletic shoe. Two months later, Jay-Z opened the upscale sports bar, The 40/40 Club, on 25th St. in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.

For Jay-Z, as for many other hip hop artists, the accumulation and conspicuous display of wealth is imagined, as least in part, as an act of defiance. By unrepentantly advertising their connections to “ghetto” culture, while flaunting their wealth and power, hip hop artists dramatize what Todd Boyd calls a “refusal to conform, and having the money to sustain this posture” (Boyd, 2003, p. 6). Boyd argues that figures like Jay-Z frequently revel in “making money off of their immense talents, gaining leverage and visibility because of it, and then telling a hostile and often racist America to collectively kiss their ‘young, Black, rich and famous’ asses in no uncertain terms” (p. 7). Displays of wealth and consumption communicate a “sense of vengeance and retribution, marked by colossal indifference to mainstream taste and coupled with the money that affords such freedoms” (p. 7).

Jay-Z sought to enact this retribution by infiltrating the most exclusive corridors of wealth, adopting the lifestyles of the super-rich. As Jay-Z himself would explain in an interview with Bakari Kitwana (2004), he views his jet-setting as opening space for Black possibility:

I call it the Browning of America. There has to be more equal playing field. And we’re starting to see some changes . . . it’s all new territory for [African Americans]. . . . People don’t say anything about all these White people that own Fortune 500 companies [and] take private jets. . . . It seems like Black people ain’t deserving of some of the same things.

By publicly living the life of a jet-setting multi-millionaire, Jay-Z imagined himself redefining a role that had previously been designated White, thereby offering a new aspiration for Blacks in and beyond the ghetto. But in order for Jay-Z’s career transition to convey defiance rather than a selfish opportunism, he would have to maintain a delicate balance. Even as he moved to the boardroom and away from his public performances as an artist, it would be important to signal his authentic claims to the street. Such moves are complicated, as Mark Anthony Neal explains. Neal (2013b) sees Jay-Z’s ambitions as part of an attempt to carve out space for a “hip hop cosmopolitanism” (p. 38). He explains that is a “gendered reality” which is “tethered to the bodies of men in hip hop” (Neal, 2013a, p. 338). Thus, it reinforces Jay-Z’s preferred self-presentation as not only wealthy and powerful, but also an uncompromising and unrepentant Black man. But even as a business mogul with a global profile, Jay-Z would have to still have to reckon with the “concepts of realness or authenticity that are decidedly local” (Neal, 2013b, p. 37).

Jay-Z was fully aware of the importance of cultivating his image. He imagined himself as a brand to be managed, even declaring on one recording, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.” To mark his transition from rap icon to mogul, Jay-Z announced that he was “retiring” from rap, and even arranged a “retirement party” concert at Madison Square Garden. In “retiring” while proclaiming to be on top, he could re-assert his claim to be the best in the rap game, inviting comparisons to his hero, Michael Jordan. In his memoir, Decoded, Jay-Z (2010) states unequivocally, “I am the Mike Jordan of Recording” (p. 140), and goes on to explain exactly what he admires about his hero. “His career was a perfectly composed story about will” (p. 140). It was one that the artist intended to emulate. Reflecting on Jordan’s two comebacks, Jay-Z hinted at something similar. “[L]ike Jordan said, ‘I’ve got to leave myself a window,’” he explained. “If people take it back to when we were making hot albums and I’m just totally inspired and I’m like, I want in, then that could happen. But I don’t foresee it” (Touré, 2003). The subtext of Jay-Z’s exit clearly indicated that he reserved the right to change his mind.

But such a career path was not without complications. Jay-Z’s attempt to establish himself as a business mogul threatened to alienate him from his connection to poor, Black, urban communities that he had cultivated for years as a key feature of his persona.

In the summer before his “retirement,” Jay-Z sponsored an entry in the annual Entertainers Basketball Classic (EBC), an amateur tournament staged in Harlem’s famed Rucker Park. Several of Jay-Z’s peers in hip hop had organized teams to compete in the EBC and other playground tournaments as a form of self-promotion. Sean Combs (AKA, Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, and Puffy), Ja Rule, and Fat Joe had each entered teams over the years. By contrast, the S. Carter team assembled by Jay-Z was conceived as his first and last entry. He planned to recruit a team of professional and playground stars. His team would include NBA All-Stars Lamar Odom, Tracy McGrady, and Kenyon Martin. The first pick in that summer’s NBA draft, LeBron James, sat with the team on the sidelines, though with a multi-million dollar contract still to be finalized, he did not play.

As journalist Zack O’Malley Greenberg (2011) notes, “The EBC offered the perfect opportunity for Jay-Z to create a muscular cross-marketing engine” (p. 67). He recruited Fred Brathwaite, better known to Yo MTV Raps audiences as Fab Five Freddy, to produce a feature length documentary film extolling the team’s exploits. More subtly, the venture offered Jay-Z the opportunity to navigate a tricky transition from an edgy narrator of life in the Black ghetto to a wealthy and powerful entrepreneur rubbing shoulders in environments very different from Bedford-Stuyvesant or Harlem. A high-profile association with the Rucker, often referred to as the mecca of urban playground basketball, helped to underscore Jay-Z’s connection to the sport that offered his favorite point of connection, while also offering a timely reminder of his roots in the urban ghetto.

The EBC is closely associated with the culture of hip hop and with the iconic ghetto. The tournament emerged and grew alongside hip hop, though not always at the same pace. The styles defining both cultural forms emphasize improvisation. The players (or “ballers”—a term also used to describe rappers) are known by nicknames in the same way DJs, MCs, and b-boys, are. The tournament had been a showcase for hip hop since its origins in 1980, an occasion for DJs and MCs to find audiences for their latest creations. Games at the Rucker are presented by MCs who occasionally pepper their public address with impromptu raps.

It was not surprising, therefore, that Jay-Z should seek an association with the tournament. Its connections to hip hop and the presence of other hip hop stars as team organizers made his presence seem almost expected. The tournament was played in the heart of Black New York, in Harlem, just across the river from the cradle of hip hop in the South Bronx. While this was not Jay-Z’s neighborhood, it is like his home a segregated Black area of the city. And the tournament’s growing profile provided an ideal stage—rooted in a local Black community, but increasingly visible to a national audience—that could help confirm his credential as an authentic narrator of life in the Black ghetto. And, not unimportantly, Jay Z loves basketball. As he explains in his memoir, despite not pursuing an athletic path, “I still loved sports. Playing them, watching them. I wasn’t one of those cats who was too cool to lose his shit over a game. I cared” (Jay-Z, 2010, p. 140).

To distinguish Team S. Carter, Jay-Z challenged tournament conventions. The artist assembled an unprecedented number of pro players, including NBA All Stars, to his team. He also mobilized the team as a guerilla marketing project, shuttling the team back and forth from the Rucker in Harlem to his 40/40 Club in Manhattan’s swanky Flatiron district in a branded bus. This non-stop promotion for his entrepreneurial ambitions crossed geographic, cultural, and economic barriers, and signaled Jay-Z’s aspirations for wealthy cosmopolitanism while still maintaining an identity rooted in the ‘hood. This was a balance that the artist would remind fans of constantly in the years to come—as he did in the opening lines of his 2009 hit “Empire State of Mind”: “I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca/Right next to DeNiro, but I’ll be hood forever.”

Team S. Carter’s path to glory was blocked by unforeseen circumstances, however. The team had reached the finals, and would face off against fellow rapper Fat Joe’s Terror Squad on the evening of August 14. To ensure victory, Jay-Z had flown in surprise ringer Shaquille O’Neal for the game and rumors swirled that LeBron James would play as well. The Terror Squad had recruited Yao Ming and Carmelo Anthony to play in the final. Thousands of fans traveled to the Rucker in order witness the event. But the game was foiled by a massive blackout that left most of New York and several other eastern cities without power for hours. The game was rescheduled for the following week, but Jay-Z would no longer be in New York. He was leaving the day after the originally scheduled championship for a European vacation with his new girlfriend Beyoncé. His absence left Team S. Carter without the means to collect and organize a team of out of town stars. Faced with this obstacle, Team S. Carter opted instead not to show up for the rescheduled game four days later, leaving the Terror Squad the winners by forfeit (an outcome Fat Joe would boast about on his single “Lean Back” released the following year). Jay-Z’s documentary was never made, although one titled The Blackout was eventually released to coincide with the 2011 NBA All Star Game in Los Angeles, sponsored by SLAM magazine.

Net Gain: The Barclays Center and the Neoliberal Politics of Urban Space

Despite the debacle of the EBC, Jay-Z’s interest in a connection to basketball continued. Later during the same year, the artist joined a group of investors led by Bruce Ratner in a bid to buy the New Jersey Nets and move the team to Brooklyn. The team’s home would be in a new arena—the centerpiece of a 22 acre, 6,400 unit real estate development called Atlantic Yards. Ratner was a New York-based real estate magnate who founded Forest City Ratner in the mid-1980s. The investment company had sought opportunities in Brooklyn before, developing the MetroTech Center research park in the 1990s and the Atlantic Mall, which opened in 2004. The latter project included design features intended to minimize the access and visibility of neighborhood children and young adults, whose presence might dissuade the desired customer base. Speaking about this goal with the New York Times, Ratner explained, “Look, here you’re in an urban area, you’re next to projects, you’ve got tough kids” (Cardwell, 2004, May 26). As this comment suggests, the vision for Brooklyn’s “improvement” through redevelopment was predicated, in part at least, on marginalizing the Black and Brown youth whose presence might detract from consumption experiences.

The project also encouraged selective remembering and forgetting. As Anouk Bélanger (2000) has observed, efforts to build new sporting entertainment venues, imagined as drivers of local economies and signs of global prestige, frequently make use of the past to secure consent. “On such occasions,” she notes, “traditions, heritage, and the past become ‘things’ that enterprise and governments often exploit” (p. 387). Using the example of the Montreal Canadiens’ move from the Montreal Forum to the Molson Centre, Bélanger (2000) argues that the campaign built “on the notion of political and cultural nostalgia . . . to articulate the new spectacular urban site to older memories” (p. 391). Such organized campaigns of remembrance (and forgetting) typically erase realities of conflict and exploitation in favor of a narrative of unity. Long after the structures are built, commercialized sports teams carry the narrative forward. What geographer John Bale (1993) has written of the British context is also true of the United States: “through major sports teams the concept of community is promoted at the expense of economic or social class. Team sports can be viewed as promoting allegiance to place rather than allegiance to class” (p. 58).

Like it many precursors, the Barclays Center was promoted through an appeal to nostalgia, as Julie Sze (2009) has noted. A marketing slogan for the project, “Bring the Nets Home to Brooklyn,” is a curious one, as Sze observes, since the Nets never played in Brooklyn. Sze argues that the phrase points to the departure, not of the Nets, but of the Brooklyn Dodgers, whose planned stadium near the site of the proposed development was blocked during the mid-1950s. Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles in 1957, a trauma that corresponded with demographic changes in the borough, as whites moved to the suburbs and Black residents moved in. But rather than a simple return, Ratner and his associates sought a new future that would make good on the missed opportunities of a half century earlier. The appeal to “Bring the Nets Home to Brooklyn,” Sze (2009) argues, evokes nostalgia for

the feeling of vibrancy and neighborhood intimacy lost by the traumas of Brooklyn’s economic decline and racial transformation through the second half of the 20th century. However, the Atlantic Yards project is not a rosy-eyed return to the White working class and pre-Black ghetto Brooklyn. Rather, the development is predominately targeted to high-income skyscrapers and, akin to . . . what critics call the Manhattanization of Brooklyn. (pp. 118–119)

Another possible interpretation of “Bring the Nets Home to Brooklyn” sits alongside Sze’s critique. The slogan invited residents to think of the Dodgers, but also of the imaginative links that potentially position Brooklyn as a “natural” home for basketball. As a website promoting the Atlantic Yards project declared, “A move to Brooklyn would be a homecoming of sorts for the Nets” because the franchise was originally founded (in the now-defunct American Basketball Association [ABA]) as the New York Nets (“Bring basketball to Brooklyn,” 2003). But another appeal positioned the borough as the spiritual home of the modern professional game:

[T]he NBA in Brooklyn, USA. Can you think of a more perfect fit? In the history of the hoops game, no city has influenced the style and rhythm of the sport more than Brooklyn. The fast-paced, ‘in your face’ action of today’s NBA was born right here on the asphalt of Brooklyn’s playgrounds and now we can bring it back to the hard wood of a beautiful new arena located in downtown Brooklyn. (“Bring basketball to Brooklyn,” 2003)

Though the borough was never home to an NBA team (or even, despite the campaign’s assertions, an ABA team), Brooklyn nevertheless claimed an important role in basketball history. Hall of Famers Roger Brown, Connie Hawkins, Bernard King, Chris Mullin, and Lenny Wilkins hail from the borough. So do “Jumpin’ Jackie” Johnson, Rick “Pee Wee” Kirkland, Ed “Booger” Smith, and Sylvester “Fly” Williams, players who established lasting reputations as playground stars, despite never flourishing or even playing in the NBA.

The Brooklyn playground scene was chronicled by Rick Telander’s 1976 book Heaven is a Playground, which routinely ranks high on lists of the “best-ever” books about sports and is currently in its fourth edition. Its newest cover features a blurb by Barack Obama, who calls it “The best basketball book I’ve ever read” (Telander, 2013). Telander’s celebrated account is based on his experiences during the summer of 1974, when he moved to Brooklyn to meet and play with some of the more heralded playground legends of the day. Spending most of his time in segregated Black ghettos, Telander’s book contrasts the desperation of the social conditions with the improvisational beauty of the basketball played there. In an early chapter, for example, he reflects on the “decay” wrought by white flight and the subsequent neglect of Black ghettos. “If, indeed, there was any plus side to the degeneration,” he goes on, “it showed itself on the Foster Park courts where a new grade and style of basketball were developing” (p. 20). Reflecting on the experience years later, the author would write, “I knew Brooklyn was a place of mystery, danger, magic, decay, emeralds, and hoop—and I had to go there” (Telander, 2012). Bringing the Nets “home” offered an invitation to imagine the team’s proposed move as fitting within an alternative local tradition of basketball excellence. It prompted identification, not with a Brooklyn unspoiled by economic decline and demographic shifts, but with a local basketball history developed within that context.

Such an appeal was well-timed, as the mainstream had never been so receptive to the playground game. By 2003, playground basketball had been packaged and sold through touring exhibitions, a television series, specialty magazines, video games, and apparel. Even the NBA was cautiously embracing what David L. Andrews and Michael Silk identify as an extension of the ghettocentric logics that Watkins found in film. The NBA and its corporate partners were in the midst of a “mobilization of a Black urban imaginary that it had previously eschewed” (Andrews & Silk, 2010, p. 1627). This helps explain Jay-Z’s outsized involvement in the Ratner group. Though his share of the Nets was less than 1%, he would feature prominently in the campaign for the new arena and the in the franchise’s new identity.

It was a strategic decision. The proposed move faced intense opposition from neighborhood residents. Many protesters emphasized that the project would displace hundreds of residents from a historically mixed-income African American community, and objected to the lack of community involvement in the decision making. Ominously to some, the project proposed using eminent domain in order to build a private, for-profit enterprise. Interestingly, this process required the buildings in question to be declared blighted—as Jay-Z’s own childhood home was. The threat of this precedent and the impact of the completed project promised further displacements in adjoining neighborhoods.

Jay-Z’s involvement offered the possibility of blunting such criticism. At the project’s unveiling, he was front and center, explaining to the assembled press: “I’m just a kid from Marcy Projects, Brooklyn, and I love Brooklyn. I’m just honored to be involved.” His participation meshed with a nascent public relations campaign that framed the Atlantic Yards project and the Nets’ proposed relocation as at once “transformative” and the realization of an authentic identity rooted in both hip hop and basketball. Jay-Z’s outsized visibility in the project served his purpose of acting as a conspicuous and unapologetic Black interloper into what had previously been the White domain of high end real estate development and team ownership. As his producer, Young Guru, explained to Fusion, “This is a guy from Marcy. . . . So it’s supposed to be like you’re looking at that and saying if this guy can do it, I can do it too. It’s possible. That barrier is taken down” (“A Short History of the Brooklyn Stadium Jay Z Helped Put on the Map,” 2015).

Despite years of vocal protest from locals, the Atlantic Yards project eventually succeeded in displacing residents and businesses and building the arena. In September 2009, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov became the principal owner of the Nets and a major investor in the arena. The arena hosted its first ever event, a Jay-Z concert, on September 28, 2012. The artist took to the stage in a Brooklyn Nets jersey and opened with his 1997 song “Where I’m From,” which details his roots in the projects and signals his nascent cosmopolitan ambitions. The song includes the chorus “Where I’m from, Marcy son, ain’t nothing nice/Mentally been many places but I’m Brooklyn’s own.” Despite his marginal ownership share, Jay-Z’s stamp was evident throughout the arena, which includes a Rocawear store, a champagne bar that features his Armand de Brignac brand, and a satellite location of Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club.

In an article for Sports Illustrated commemorating the Nets relocation to the completed Barclay’s Center in October, 2012, Rick Telander celebrated the very different place Brooklyn had become—a transformation that was due in no small part to the glimmering new arena at the heart of the Atlantic Yards project. And yet, Telander (2012) insisted, the borough retained a rough-hewn essence that had now evolved from danger to charm. “Brooklyn,” he wrote, “gentrified or not, will always have that edge” (p. 67). Basketball, and particularly streetball, represented that essence. The cover of the issue features the Nets’ Deron Williams on a concrete playground court, the wall behind him graffitied with images of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, playground legend Fly Williams, former Nets and Rucker Park legend Julius Erving, and Jay-Z himself. The headline reads “Brooklyn Rising: The NBA Feels the Beat of the Street.” Telander’s piece recalls the borough’s legacy as a playground mecca: “The legends of Brooklyn street ball are there for the new Nets to honor, to exalt, to feel emboldened by” (p. 67). In an echo of the campaign to relocate the franchise, the article is titled “Hoops Comes Home.”

The gentrification of Brooklyn was thus celebrated through references to cultural forms—hip hop and streetball—that grew in the devastation and neglect of post-war urban planning and economic policies. With Jay-Z and streetball at the center, the Atlantic Yards project positioned itself as helping the borough recover from the neglect of the late twentieth century and bringing about the fullest realization of its identity. Jay-Z bolstered his identity as a cosmopolitan entrepreneur, one who could circulate in the most moneyed and elite circles without compromising his public persona to the point of selling out, and helped position himself as an aspirational figure. In 2013, facing a potential conflict with his newly formed sports talent agency Roc Nation Sports, he sold his stake in the Nets for more than twice what he paid for his share. He continues to own a stake in the arena itself, and, of course, continues to profit from the arena’s many tie-ins to Jay-Z’s other investments (Greenberg, 2013, April 19). The ownership group gained an effective public face for its controversial project—a figure who had made repeated public declarations of his solidarity with Brooklyn, and especially with Brooklyn’s most neglected neighborhoods.

However, the Barclay’s Center was the centerpiece of an effort to “improve” Brooklyn according to the dictates of the white spatial imaginary, in which ghettos are to be not so much replaced as relocated from cosmopolitan zones of consumption, thereby continuing policies “based on exclusivity and augmented exchange values [that] forms the foundational logic behind prevailing spatial and social policies in cities and suburbs today” (Lipstiz 2012, p. 28). Accomplishing this vision in a neoliberal era, the tools of the state, once designated for public use only, were appropriated in the service of private, corporate interests. Despite promises of “affordable housing” concessions by developers, recent reports claim that more than two-thirds of these units went unfilled—despite nearly a hundred thousand applicants—due to higher than average income requirements (Smith, 2017, November 2).

Conclusion: “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”

This essay identified a moment in Jay-Z’s career in which the rapper sought to utilize connections to basketball as a means of pursuing a vision of “hip-hop cosmopolitanism.” Jay-Z sought to navigate a delicate transition, in which he would (temporarily, at least) move away from his established identity as a rap artist, and toward a career as an executive. Eventually, he hoped to establish himself as a mogul and a member of the global elite. His presence in these circles, he hoped, would “breach the furthest territories of white exclusivity” and position him as an aspirational figure (Eshun, 2005). This ambition highlights what Neal (2013b) calls “perhaps the defining irony of contemporary commercial hip-hop”—it is a “legitimate global culture,” but one in which artistic legitimacy relies to a significant degree on demonstrable ties to local roots (p. 37). Investments in basketball seemed to offer Jay-Z an avenue to accomplish his entrepreneurial goals while re-emphasizing his connection not only to the city of his birth, but also to the “iconic ghetto.”

In Team S. Carter, Jay-Z saw an opportunity to make a mark on a globally recognized event synonymous with Black life in New York, while also providing a platform for him to emphasize his elite status. Assembling a team of professional superstars to play alongside local talent, and shuttling the team between Harlem and midtown, would offer a constant reminder that Jay-Z was at once a part of the local scene and also transcended it through wealth and connections. His investment in the Nets similarly offered a reminder that Jay-Z was a local, but one who could rub shoulders with the global elite. He framed his ownership stake as at once a gesture of goodwill to the community and as a shrewd investment that confirmed his rightful place among the one percent. As he put it in the lyrics to his 2013 song “Open Letter,” “Would have brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off it, you fuckin’ dweeb/I still own the building, I’m keeping my seat.”

But the variety of purposes to which the intersection of sport and hip hop can be put serve more interests than just Jay-Z’s. Interest in black authenticity is not limited to subcultures in hip hop or playground basketball. It is also a major force in commercial culture, which has appropriated it in one form or another for centuries. From the nineteenth century peddlers of “Ethiopian delineation,” to jazz in the twentieth century, to this century’s hip hop and basketball, white-controlled capitalist interests have packaged authentic blackness for mainstream consumption. Recently, corporate backed projects to “revitalize” cities have taken up the mantle of “black authenticity” in their public appeals. Some developers have recognized long-standing objections to “urban renewal” projects in mixed or majority black neighborhoods, which many constituencies view as coming at the expense of black residents. One strategy for addressing this concern comes in the form of centering of performers, athletes, and other well-known figures as public advocates for the proposed development. Such appeals are especially important for NBA franchises, whose fanbase includes a much higher percentage of black fans than professional baseball, football, and hockey (Thompson, 2014, February 10). Examples are not limited to Brooklyn. The NBA’s Golden State Warriors’ move from Oakland’s Oracle Arena to San Francisco’s Chase Center featured several gestures designed to maintain a strong emotional link with Oakland. The team have played in special jerseys during the 2018–19 season with “The Town” and an oak tree, a reference to “Oaktown’s” claim to the team. On the last day of the 2019 regular season, the team also unveiled a banner commemorating the team’s time in Oakland. In January 2019, Warriors star Stephen Curry hosted a free concert billed as “an amazing celebration of the city of Oakland” featuring Bay Area rappers E-40, Mistah F.A.B., Too Short, and MC Hammer. In Oakland as in Brooklyn, appeals to “authentic blackness” facilitated development opportunities.

Prominent venues of sports journalism amplified a narrative connecting the opening of the Barclay’s Center and the Nets relocation with the iconic ghetto’s playground game. In Rick Telander, Sports Illustrated had the ideal writer to extend romantic links between the “mystery, danger, magic, decay” he saw in the ghettos of Brooklyn and the new arena named for a global banking company. In doing so, the author and the magazine drew upon an expanding body of media texts that offered playground basketball with similar fascination.

These concerted attempts to craft a romanticized version of the ghetto for mainstream audiences have somewhat complicated its meaning. Condemnations of life in the inner city are not hard to locate, but in particular contexts, links with those spaces circulate as signs of prestige. They offer opportunities for people and projects to promote themselves through association. Jay-Z’s entry in the Entertainers Basketball Classic at once connected his roots in the iconic ghetto with his ambitions for a parallel career as a mogul. But these associations also served the interest of global capitalist interests when they set their sights on a Brooklyn neighborhood. His involvement in the project, which advanced his goal of establishing himself as a racial pathbreaker in the exclusive world of magnates and monied entrepreneurs, was meant to strike a blow against capitalism’s racist legacies, while the popular press celebrated the poetics of basketball’s “return” to Brooklyn. However, Jay-Z’s role also helped justify policies and projects with ominous consequences for his home borough’s most vulnerable residents. Such exploitation is not accidental. Commercialized sport profiting off the ghetto fits within a much larger and longer pattern of capitalist interests exploiting these spaces for profit. Jay-Z’s desire for autonomy through wealth is entirely understandable. It is consistent with both a hip hop ethos and more general ambitions often described as the “American dream.” But his presence at Saint-Tropez or in the front row of an NBA game will not change the devastation capitalist interests wreak on communities of color. That requires a confrontation not only with the unjust racial dynamics of taste and sophistication, but with capitalism itself.

References

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  • Rose, T. (2008). The hip hop wars: What we talk about when we talk about hip hop– and why it matters. Civitas Books.

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  • Sze, J. (2009). Sports and environmental justice: ‘Games’ of race, place, nostalgia, and power in neoliberal New York City. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 111129.

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  • Telander, R. (2012, October 15). Hoops comes home. Sports Illustrated.

  • Telander, R. (2013). Heaven is a Playground. New York, NY: Sports Publishing.

  • Thompson, D. (2014, February 10). Which sports have the whitest/richest/oldest fans? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/which-sports-have-the-whitest-richest-oldest-fans/283626/

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If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Oates (thomas-oates@uiowa.edu) is with the Department of American Studies, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.

  • Anderson, E. (2012). The iconic ghetto. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 642 , 824. doi:10.1177/0002716212446299

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Andrews, D.L., & Silk, M. (2010). Basketball’s ghettocentric logic. American Behavioral Scientist, 53 , 16261644. doi:10.1177/0002764210368089

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • A short history of the Brooklyn stadium Jay Z helped put on the map. (2015, June 15). Fusion. Retrieved from https://fusion.tv/video/150519/a-short-history-of-the-brooklyn-stadium-jay-z-helped-put-on-the-map/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bale, J. (1993). Sport, space, and the city. Caldwell, NJ: The Blackburn press.

  • Bélanger, A. (2000). Sport venues and the spectacularization of urban spaces in North America. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 35(3), 378397. doi:10.1177/101269000035003009

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bilmes, A. (2017, June 28). Jay-Z on his music, politics and his violent past. Gentlemen’s Quarterly. Retrieved from https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/jay-z-interview-music-politics-violence

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Boyd, T. (2003). Young, Black, rich, and famous: The rise of the NBA, the hip hop invasion, and the transformation of American culture. New York, NY: Doubleday.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bring basketball to Brooklyn. (2003, December 10). Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20031217192052/http://www.bball.net/

  • Cardwell, D. (2004, May 26). Different by design, soon to be less so: Rethinking Atlantic Center with the customer in mind. New York Times, B1.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Colas, Y. (2016). Ball don’t lie!: Myth, genealogy, and invention in the cultures of basketball. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cunningham, P.H. (2009). “Please don’t fine me again!!!!!:” Black athletic defiance in the NBA and NFL. Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 33(1), 3958. doi:10.1177/0193723508328630

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Davis, A. (2019). Failure is always an option: The necessity, promise & peril of radical contextualism. Cultural Studies, 33(1), 4656. doi:10.1080/09502386.2018.1544264

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eshun, E. (2005, January 17). Battle of the brands. New Statesman. Retrieved from https://www.newstatesman.com/node/161310

  • From Brooklyn to a blueprint. (2003, March 6). CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2003/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/06/mroom.jayz/index.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Greenberg, Z.O. (2011). Empire state of mind: How Jay-Z went from street corner to corner office. New York, NY: Portfolio.

  • Greenberg, Z.O. (2013, April 19). Jay-Z sells Nets stake, earns Warren Buffet-like return. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2013/04/19/jay-z-sells-nets-stake-earns-warren-buffett-like-return/#1f3f6f647ac8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Grossberg, L. (1986). On postmodernism and articulation: An interview with Stuart Hall. In C. Kuan-Hsing (Ed.), Stuart Hall: Critical dialogues in cultural studies. (pp. 131150). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, S. (1996). Introduction: Who needs identity? In S. Hall & P. DuGay (Eds.), Questions of cultural identity (pp. 117). London, UK: Sage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hall, S. (2016) Cultural studies 1983: A theoretical history. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

  • Hall, S., & Beck, L. (2009). At home and not at home: Stuart Hall in conversation with les back. Cultural Studies 23(4), 658687. doi:10.1080/09502380902950963

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • hooks, B. (1992) Black looks: Race and representation. Boston, MA: South End Press.

  • hooks, B. (2003) We real cool: Black men and masculinity. London, UK: Routledge.

  • Jameson, F. (1981). The political unconscious: Narrative as a socially symbolic act. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  • Jay-Z. (2010). Decoded. New York, NY: Speigel and Grau.

  • Judy, R.A.T. (1994). On the question of nigga authenticity. In M. Foreman & M.A. Neal (Eds.), That’s the joint!: The hip hop studies reader (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kitwana, B. (2004). Jay-Z: Hip hop and high society. Black Book Magazine.

  • Lee, T. (2009, May 8). A merchant watches as Bed-Stuy gentrifies. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/09/nyregion/09metjournal.html

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Leonard, D.J. (2006). After Artest: The NBA and the assault on blackness. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

  • Lipsitz, G. (2012). How racism takes place. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

  • Neal, M.A. (2013a). “I am not just from here:” The roots of hi hop’s cosmopolitanism: A reflection on Isoke’s “Women, hip hop and cultural resistance in Dubai. Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 15(4), 338340. doi:10.1080/10999949.2013.884450

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Neal, M.A. (2013b). Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black masculinities. New York, NY: NYU Press.

  • Rose, T. (2008). The hip hop wars: What we talk about when we talk about hip hop– and why it matters. Civitas Books.

  • Smith, R.H. (2017, November 2). ‘Affordable’ apartments end up on StreetEasy after housing lottery flops. DNAinfo. Retrieved from https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20171102/prospect-heights/vacant-affordable-units-pacific-park-atlantic-yards/

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sze, J. (2009). Sports and environmental justice: ‘Games’ of race, place, nostalgia, and power in neoliberal New York City. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 111129.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Telander, R. (2012, October 15). Hoops comes home. Sports Illustrated.

  • Telander, R. (2013). Heaven is a Playground. New York, NY: Sports Publishing.

  • Thompson, D. (2014, February 10). Which sports have the whitest/richest/oldest fans? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/which-sports-have-the-whitest-richest-oldest-fans/283626/

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Touré. (2003, November 16). Superstardom is Boring: Jay-Z Quits (Again). New York Times. p. AR33.

  • Watkins, C.T. (1998). Representing: Hip hop culture and the production of Black cinema. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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