Just Don't Ride / A Bus Or a Cab Down a Street Called "Division"

by

comment

I'm reading D. Bradford Hunt's Blueprint For Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing for the first time—it's a compelling and contrarian (depending on where you stand) look at the many reasons public housing in Chicago went from promising early experiments to an ongoing tragedy. I say "contrarian" because the shoddy state of Chicago's housing projects is often blamed on cheap or racist bureaucrats, many of the devils were in the details, as designed by some of the more progressive minds in midcentury public policy.

For instance, one of the more obvious details of the city's projects are external corridors protected with fencing, which looks like something in between a chicken coop and a prison. But at the time the "galleries," or "sidewalks in the air," were praised as humanist innovations; in a 1951 issue of Progressive Architecture it was suggested that they would become places for children to play. Instead, they became a place for children to drop things from great heights, as children will do, and by 1968 the CHA had caged them in.

Perhaps the most compelling chapter is the one about the youth-to-adult ratio in Chicago public housing, which was unusually high in CHA housing and which increased from the 50s to the 70s. That was a great risk for obvious reasons—cf. Lord of the Flies—but not one that balanced out the desire to accommodate larger families.

Anyway, this is all a long wind-up to tell you about Sugar Ray Dinke's "Cabrini Green Rap," a 1986 single (which sounds to my relatively untrained ears like King of Rock + Chicago house) that turned up in my RSS reader today. It was interesting to be reading about decades of sociology and urban-planning history and then have it feed back into my computer in the form of a rap song. I can't find much about Sugar Ray Dinke, but he does come up in "The DJs They Couldn’t Hang," a 1986 NME cover story about Chicago house, and the track ended up on a comp.

Add a comment