chapter  5
17 Pages

Spittin the Code of the Streets: The strategic construction of a street-conscious identity

When Hip Hop artist Guru rapped about Black street speech-what he called “the code of the streets”—he did so with outright defiance to a standard language ideology that stifles those without access to formal education. His rhymes, as it has been said of all Rap lyrics, constituted more than just a resistance discourse; they created a context where issues of identity and ingroup solidarity took center-stage (Spady et al. 1991). Guru fiercely rapped that he was never afraid to “let loose his speech,” because his “brothas” knew that he spit (“rapped”) the code of the streets. In this proclamation-as with the lyrics of many socially conscious Hip Hop artists (Smitherman 2006)—we witness Guru’s attempt to resist the dominant culture with words-but he ain’t gon do it alone. He and his brothas are rappin in a code of communication that reflects both the ideational and material aspects of what has come to be known as Hip Hop Culture. As we just read in the previous chapter, spittin (“speakin, rhymin”) the code of the streets is essential to the notion of a Hip Hop Nation (HHN).