Despite the perks, there’s a lot going wrong in America. Painfully glaring is the racial segregation that stretches back hundreds of years, even predating the country itself. Depending on to whom you speak, things may be slowly improving, but for many, pure equality may never truly exist.
The disenfranchised coming from desperate neighborhoods are often disowned and ignored. Appropriate paths of survival may only be dictated from the top. Options for impoverished youth are limited. Indeed, revered Notorious B.I.G. once quipped: “…the streets is a short stop. Either you’re slinging crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.”
Still, numerous individuals have been able to break through, successfully fighting against the rigid patterns of society to find enormous wealth and success. Thanks to the tireless souls of these artists, street culture comprising art, music, dance, fashion and sport is flourishing across America and beyond.
On the other side of the world in China, the underground is flourishing—albeit for very different reasons. Ironically, many of the fans of these styles are part of the same system that reinforces the social tragedy that faces so many in the US. I, myself, am included in this broadly projected guilt.
Street culture was never meant to only be about what’s happening in America. At its core, it’s really just a patchwork of voices all crying out against injustices, juxtaposed with searching for the meaning of life.
Despite the struggles that spur art, detached consumers perceive the emotion-filled creations merely as products of entertainment. A dance is rhythmic movement, lyrics are stories that flank heavy-hitting beats and paintings are colors on a page.
Removed from original stories and naturally lacking the empathy to truly understand them, secondary artists recreate the work of their heroes in their own style and understanding. A reimagined gangsta rap track may forego the common themes of violence and tragedy to discuss decidedly different concepts, like censorship and excess.
This is called evolution and despite the present tone, it’s never a bad thing.
Street culture was never meant to only be about what’s happening in America.
At its core, it’s really just a patchwork of voices all crying out against injustices, juxtaposed with searching for the meaning of life.
Here in Dongguan, this perspective is transcended and varied. Gone are the mentions of “the projects,” visceral violence and pleas against racism. Still, we’re all really in some kind of struggle. Let’s be honest: “…everybody’s looking for something.”
Over the course of a little more than a week, we watched, listened and spoke to a fascinating array of artists, athletes and creators in an effort to discover—beyond the factories—what’s really being made in Dongguan.
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