Cabrini Green is a “notorious” Chicago housing project on the northwest side of the city, onetime home of Curtis Mayfield as well as the setting for the TV show Good Times and the movie Candyman. The only project further north than Cabrini is the Lathrop houses which are an island in the ocean of gentrified post-hipster housing between Roscoe Village and Bucktown along the river. Cabrini Green is a little bit west of the North/Clybourn stop on the red line, not that far northwest of Navy Pier, and the last time i was in the area i saw kids outside jumping on dirty mattresses in the yard. So it goes. In the 80s, there was a period when Cabrini Green had 20,000 residents; now it’s been the first to go in the city’s plan to “fix” the projects, turning low-income residencies into mixed-income condoes, deconstructing multi-generational communties in an attempt to de-ghettoize through gentrification. There will be a few people who manage to take advantage of the transformation of Cabrini Green into mixed-income housing, but experts are predicting that most of the residents will end up on the south and west sides of the city, out of view of the wealthy core, pushing the poor to the outer ring of the metro or the inner ring suburbs. Real Estate developers don’t even call the area “Cabrini Green” any more, so they can sell the condoes on the market. One of the truly amazing aspects of Cabrini Green as it stood prior to this transition was the strength of community. 80% of residents polled by the CHA implied that they wanted to stay in Cabrini Green, although they were extremely unhappy with the living conditions. Mary Schmich of the chicago tribune did a great series on the destruction of the projects last summer; one of her best pieces was this one, particularly its conclusion:
“And what exactly do you do for the elderly man from Cabrini who now lives in the nicest home of his life and says he’s never been so lonely?”
Now you know about Cabrini Green. So that dude Bump J is repping Chicago with Kanye and meanwhile there’s a cat from Cabrini who calls himself Swing and is doing more for-the-streets shit with a track all over mixtapes, hard-as-fuck raps over a blockbuster post-Dre Storch-style symphony-banger called “Push On Em” with Styles P. The other song I’ve heard is called “Rotate” and it’s about how he gets love no matter what hood he goes to, quoting Jay-Z’s murdamurdamurda KILLKILLKILL from “Da Graveyard,” and talking about chilling in the ‘nolia and hotlanta, Mississippi and LBC, Memphis and back to Chicago. “Push On Em” just premiered on Hot 97 Thurs. night. He has a hungry, raspy flow and spits about how he’s gonna fuck dudes up, even if they’re swole 6’7″ motherfuckers fresh out the pen. “You fuckin’ with lords, GD’s and Cobras,” shout outs to Chicago gangs that control the city’s drug trade and bankrolled everything from Crucial Conflict to the “Cha Cha Slide.”
Swing was a hustler for a while, discovered music after he was shot and became paralyzed. He eventually recovered his ability to walk although he still has a slight limp. He was on the big regional hit by True Enuff called “On my Mama” (“Even in a drought we can dampen the block, 16 to ya head while you lampin’ in the drop, ON MY MAMA!”) which is how he made his name. He was supposed to be signed to Bad Boy, but got lost in the label drama circa the Shyne trial. He’s now on PlayHarder, signed by the same cats who discovered the Lox which explains why Styles P is on his shit.
Chicago hip-hop is always in a weird place, but it’s important, I think, when someone comes up rapping who isn’t a part of that weird underground jazz-fetishization culture and who is spitting shit from the perspective of street cats, guys who’ve grown up in these communties only to watch them be destroyed. It is hard to tell what the future holds for Chicago; this could mark an impressive transformation of Chicago’s ghettoization, or it could merely signify the consolidation of property, uprooting communities and pulling Chicago’s already heavily segregated neighborhoods further apart.