Hip Hop and Hustling
October 22, 2012
What is Hustling?
• Unilateral or unequal distribution of power in terms of those who are engaging in the hustle
• Typically understood as a means of survival
• People who say I am hustling have a thing that they're aspiring to.
• It is a present oriented way of making money.
• Sudhir Vankatesh is a sociologist who is known for writing a lot about hustling. He wrote a
series of books on his research. Gang Leader for a Day was one of his most prominent books.
The book called Off The Books is the one where he develops his research in.
• He describes hustling as survival strategies amongst the poor and economically
marginalized. Following the large scale economical changes that occur (industrialization,
emergence of the service sector, etc), hustling acts as a response. Webs of social
relationships of similarly disadvantaged folk enables survival in these economies. He
implicitly draws on the intertwining of relationships on the grounds (in this case, it's
survival). Although people are able to survive in the short term, there are long term effects.
It can lead to larger forms of disenfranchisement and marginality. They become further
dependent on one another, they become very insulated over time. This is how poverty
becomes deeply entrenched. They won't be able to be helped in improving their situation.
• Hustling provides goods and services that are otherwise illegal. This includes numbers
games, drugs, sex, etc. There are informal hustles that are goods and services that are
otherwise lawful, but they are provided 'off the books' (people aren't reporting this income:
car repair, cooking, domestic labor, etc.)
• He is focusing on the economic side of hustling. It is being built into his argument.
• Max Weber is an important sociologist. His essay "Class, Status, Party" is very important,
providing a critique of Marx. Class, status and party are not necessarily the same thing but they
can overlap. He is adding complexity to Marx's class-centric way of thinking. He introduces the
idea of social honor and stigma.
Status then becomes a part of how we should think about hustling. There's a status that
comes with hustling. There is some sort of stigma associated with dead end jobs that are in
these communities. Some jobs don't confer a form of status and respect in people.
• It is not just the pursuit, it's prosperity and money that is hustling, but also the status that
comes with it.
• In this case, then hustling is something that young people do to accumulate status. There is
a social honor that comes with working hard, being efficient, etc. Getting a rep or social
honor is very i