The Cross-Bronx Expressway

“Once an unbroken continuum of cohesive, diverse communities, the trench was now the clearing for the Cross-Bronx Expressway, a modernist catastrophe of massive proportions. (p.10)”


Jeffrey Cheng describes the history and conditions of the place where hip-hop was born. The Bronx, once a decent area to live in, started changing with Moses’ project to build the Cross-Bronx Expressway. The path that would allow to travel from the suburbs of New Jersey to suburbs of Queens through the upper Manhattan in fifteen minutes. The residents were displaced and the residential apartments and developing businesses were destroyed. By the end of the project whites moved out to Westchester county or elsewhere and the South Bronx became the place for African-Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The apartment buildings in the South Bronx were managed by the “slumlords”, who made money on cutting off the heat and electricity and then later setting the whole buildings on fire in order to get the insurance money. This is how the Bronx became a slum-hood for the second-class citizens. The abandoned hood where the young generation tried to survive without access to education and without any possibility to get out of the way they lived. As Cheng puts it “The Black and brown youths formed gangs, first in self-defense, then sometimes for power, sometimes for kicks. (p. 12)” A lot of those gangs were formed from the local bands that played in clubhouses. Here the connection of gangs and music takes place.