Published on April 25th, 2013 | by Dorian Waller


Hip Hop, Hilltop, Gentrification: A Perspective from Dorian Waller

A verbal jousting continues to take place about Tacoma’s Hilltop. What began as a short piece on a young rapper repping Hilltop turned into a back and forth about Hilltop’s gentrification.

The article printed in the Volcano began as a piece on Mr. 2Hott, but it might be fair to say that it was more about Hilltop’s evolutionary changes than it was about the MC in question. So let’s go there.

We are all granted our own means of expression driven by our own intent. Hip hop is such an expression; you don’t have to like it, nor agree with everyone who chooses to express with it. Mr. 2Hott is like many of my cousins from back east, young and using a medium to express himself. After checking out Mr. 2Hott ‘s video, addressing the content Mr. 2Hott covers in his lyrics is up to you. Beyond that, if you need to know more, just ask him about it.

Hip hop can bring excitement and anxiety to many people and this provocation is important. Call it the American Way; yes, we as Americans like to be safe, but at a moment’s notice we would rather not have authorities in our business either, a lot of hip hop addresses and responds to this kind of invasion.

Get to know what you are debating, don’t analyze it from afar and then try to determine how to departmentalize it in your own psyche to construct what community means for you. If we’re talking about racial minorities, hip hop, or Hilltop, if you haven’t walked in those proverbial shoes or attempted to spur a constructive conversation, then you’re selling yourself and all the parties involved short.

A meaningful conversation cannot happen without attempting to understand what community means to the person you may not understand or with whom you don’t agree.

As for Hilltop and gentrification: gentrification comes in all shapes and sizes not the least of which is taking place in Hilltop. Seeing it as a bad word does not address the winds of change that take place in our local economy and our community. But I for one do not like the practice of moving people of lesser means out of a neighborhood due to economies of scale nor through their inability to provide for themselves. To me, squelching one culture for the sake of your own is gentrification is in a nutshell. People have done it before us and we have done it to one another knowingly or unknowingly.

The problems inherent in gentrification inspires the question, “How do we share, but still take ownership of what we need, want, or have the ability to secure through our economic model of capitalism?” I define community as where you live and partake in as a whole, not where you alone decide what goes on in it. And a healthy community comes down to one’s ability to share. Can you make room in your life to both share and keep a roof over your head?

To leave you with an analogy of sorts, consider your home is a dinner table and your guests the community.

You invite people to come over and partake in what you are able and willing to share: who you invite is up to you, how you would like your guests to experience what you offer is up to you as well.

However, what they might bring to your table to share and how they come away from the meal you prepared is up to them. The same goes for your community: you can try to control the relationship but in the end, consensus (community) building yields the best results.

How you go about doing so is the fun part.

Dorian Waller is a local entrepreneur with a background in urban planning and community outreach. He also runs YTacoma.

Dorian is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and has traveled all over the country due to his father being in the military. Because of his upbringing, he has had the opportunity to see and live in many urban communities around the country which has aided him in his understanding of geographical culture and systems thinking. He received his BA/Pol Science & Urban Planning and MA in Public Administration from the Evergreen State College


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One Response to Hip Hop, Hilltop, Gentrification: A Perspective from Dorian Waller

  1. Simply and well put. Love the dinner table analogy.

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