In the widely differentiated global marketspace of interurban competition, local states use the Olympics, cultural palaces or creative industries in order to increase their market value. the entrepreneurialism governing city politics today has legitimated almost any means for cities to put themselves onto the maps of global recognition.
The city of Compton, south of Los Angeles and number 12 on the list of poorest suburbs of the United States, has entered the fray on a different note. The city is hardly capable of cutting a competitive edge for itself via innovative city marketing in hypercompetitive Southern California.
The municipality - notorious gang territory with a murder rate rivalling that of Detroit and Miami - spends 70% of its budget on 'public safety'. The police force of Compton, which is financed through this money, has gained a reputation as bad as the one of the LAPD in Los Angeles proper. Police brutality has been an ongoing issue in the Latino, Samoan and African American communities.
Devoid of an industrial base, the city's main source of revenue has been an ever-increasing property tax rate which makes the city a clear loser in the region's municipal universe (structured after the Lakewood Plan). A series of political corruption cases and shady redevelopment schemes have not helped to improve the reputation of Compton in Southern California and in the world (Davis, 1994b).
Compton's place on our urban map owes itself less to the policies of the local state than to irs economic success on the world market, which forced widespread recognition of the city's socioeconomic realities. As a murderous center of gang activity, where Crips and Bloods and related gangs (African American, Latino and Samoan) are fighting for the control of territory and markets, Compton has become the unrivalled world headquarters of hiphop music, particularly in its 'gangsta rap' version. When the rap group N(iggers) W(ith) A(ttitude) from Compton sold half a million copies of its album 'Straight Outta Compton' in the summer of 1989 without much radio play, a flood of defiant self-stylization was triggered in the world-forsaken community.
The creation of communal identity was achieved through a decidedly antiestablishmentarian attitude which expressed itself in blunt realist style and with an unapologetically capitalist sales strategy. Jumping on the NWA bandwagon, other bands like Above The Law and Compton's Most Wanted cemented the image of Compton as the ulitmate gangster haven. NWA individual career spinoffs of the late Eazy E and Ice Cube helped create an entire industry of inverted Compton marketing. In neighboring communities, a multicultural hiphop scene developed with Samoans Boo-Yaa TRIBE and Chicano Kid Frost contributing to the early hype of the south and east of Los Angeles.
In contrast to the conscious simulacra of the , arketing strategies of West Hollywood and Santa Monica, and in contrast to the class-based community strategy of the hub cities, the rappers of Compton have subscribed to an allegedly unmediated representation of stark reality and truth meant to give identity to the inhabitants and to the place of Compton.This strategy of the specific place is able to create positive identity from the deliberately delinquent life of the 'gangsta'. Mirroring the territorial logic of gangland, the hiphop strategy is ultimately an exercise in claiming space in the territorial jungle of the world city whose hegemony is structured against the population and the local state of Compton: 'I claim Compton', runs one line in Compton's Most Wanted's 'This Is Compton'.
The reality strategy aims towards the production of visibility in a situation of complete marginalization and criminalization. It is the inversion of Compton's southern neighbor Carson's internationalization strategy which targets global business investment with images of a peaceful multinational community. In Compton, distinction is achieved through claiming the hood as the natural home territory of horror. While other local states have marketed themselves as localitiesof innovation, stability and success, Compton's global music market handlers sell the city as the home of the drive-by-shooting: 'It's the Compton Thang'.
An altenative story of Compton (and the entire southeast) is offered by Los Angeles' tireless confidence booster, Joel Kotkin, who has argued that the Latinization of southeast Los Angeles has turned the area into a booming business district (Kotkin, 1995b).
Mike Davis has pointed out that the local police database listed 10435 gang members in the community where in 1990 only 8558 15-25 year old males were residing. This results in a paradoxical more than 100% rate of gang membership among the city's youth.
This notoriety was confirmed in the sad sequence of events which led up to and followed the shooting death Las Vegas of Tupac Shakur, the top-selling hiphop artist for Los Angeles' Death Row Records based in Compton. After the shooting in September of 1996, a gang war erupted on the streets of Compton and Lakewood; a possible suspect in Shakur's murder was a Compton resident. When, in March of 1997, Brooklyn rapper Notorious BIG a.k.a. Biggie Smalls was killed leaving the annual Soul Train Awards, a celebration of African American music, a connection was made to the so-called 'coast-wars' between the rappers from New York and Los Angeles (Comtpon). Biggie Smalls' death did not fit the pattern of the 'Compton thang' but the connection was made: 'They knew who they were shooting at. Look at the shot pattern - tight shots, not like a regular West Coast drive-by where gang members are spraying bullets all over the place', a security worker told the press (Anson and Rappleye, 1997: 21)