Bowin' Up: Hip Hop as an Alternative to the Gang Lifestyle

Seminar Partner: Penn Injury Science Center

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fagin Hall Room 118



Jooyoung Lee is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Bissell-Heyd Fellow in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He was previously a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. Jooyoung Lee is the author of Blowin' Up: Rap Dreams in South Central (March 2016, University of Chicago Press). In this urban ethnography, Lee highlights how hip hop can offer a creative alternative to the gang lifestyle, substituting verbal competition for physical violence, and provides an outlet for setting goals and working toward them. Dr. Dre. Snoop Dogg. Ice Cube. Some of the biggest stars in hip hop made their careers in Los Angeles. And today there is a new generation of young, mostly black, men busting out rhymes and hoping to one day find themselves “blowin’ up”—getting signed to a record label and becoming famous. Many of these aspiring rappers get their start in Leimart Park, home to the legendary hip hop open-mic workshop Project Blowed. In Blowin’ Up, Jooyoung Lee takes us deep inside Project Blowed and the surrounding music industry, offering an unparalleled look at hip hop in the making. We are thrilled to partner with the Penn Injury Science Center (PISC) to have Jooyoung Lee back in Philadelphia for this! You can find more information about Jooyoung Lee and his book on his website. 

Speaker Bio: 

Jooyoung Lee, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He is also a Senior Fellow in the Yale University Urban Ethnography Project and was formerly a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

He is broadly interested in how gun violence transforms the social worlds and health of young Black men in different contexts. His first book, Blowin’ Up: Rap Dreams in South Central (University of Chicago Press, 2016), is a long-term ethnographic study of young Black men growing up in the shadows of gang violence and the glittering entertainment industries in Los Angeles. This book shows how hip hop culture shields young men from the dangers of gang violence. It also reveals the larger structural forces that inspire "existential urgency" during the transition to adulthood.

His second book, Gunshot, is an ethnographic study that traces the long-term health consequences of wounded gunshot victims across Philadelphia. He began this study in the outpatient trauma clinic at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and writes about young men who get shot in drive-by shootings, armed robberies, and other kinds of street violence. He follows these men over time to document their experiences living with chronic pain, disability, and PTSD. This study shines a light on gun violence as a major social determinant of health in urban poor Black communities.

His new work examines how murder transforms families and communities; how we can use videos to enhance research on interaction; and a collaborative SSHRC-funded study with Julian Tanner and Scot Wortley on youth experiences with guns in Toronto.