Move the Crowd


Move the Crowd:
A Social Network Analysis of Hip Hop and Collective Action

Kristine Wright, Ph.D. (Tina)

Los Angeles Southwest College


Shamako Noble

Soul Circuitry

The Fire this Time

  • Hip Hop Activism – many mobilized to action (Katrina, Jena, Obama, Local Examples: Oscar Grant, Ferguson, privatization of education, etc.)
  • Grassroots, people power
  • Community service and activism to combat overt warfare (poverty, schools, police) and covert hegemonic warfare (images, corporate appropriation of hip hop, nihilism)
  • Utilizing technology and communicating more effectively: FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, petition drives, internet fundraising, etc.

Why Network Theory is Important to Hip Hop

  • Network theory gives Hip Hop the ability to understand how it passes information along through a song, an event, or an initiative
  • Network theory provides Hip Hop with a concrete methodology for identifying gaps in communications, best practices, and allies in the struggle
  • Network theory allows us to connect what is local and regional to what is national and international without compromising integrity
  • It offers insight into how knowledge in a group grows, and why best practices can improve simply by adjusting the flow of information in the network

Social Network Analysis

  • Social network analysis enjoys widespread recognition and respect in the social sciences for its systematic approach to social interaction and its mathematical validity and rigor.
  • Much recent social network research focuses on methodological inquiries, developing valid and reliable methods to measure social interaction systematically.
  • Structure matters, not only on the macro-level, but on the micro-level as well.

Structure Matters: The Structure of Interaction

Note: Nodes represents real people and lines represent communication/connections. While red nodes are same people in both graphs, the green nodes represent two different ‘leaders”.

Networks in Hip Hop

Tend to be based in area codes, zip codes, and travel proximity
Youth Centers, Educational Institutions, Streets, Hoods.
Crews, Records Labels, Dance Groups, Arts Collectives, etc.
Family, Extended Family, Friends
Most focused community building activity
Tend to be names that may include more than one area code: The Bay Area, Chi Town, The Northwest, So Cal, The Dirty South
Professional Associations, Record Labels, Organizations, etc.
Youth,  Cultural Organizations
More formal with less focused community building
Decentralized in most cases, with headquarters typically based in East Coast (Zulu Nation, Hip Hop Caucus) or the West Coast (Hip Hop Congress, Hip Hop Chess Federation)
Some networks based on Chapter/Affiliate Models. Some networks based on dues systems and associations. Some networks informal but professional. Some networks more underground.
Often connected to local work, but often failing to connect local work to each other.

Networks Applied

  • Community based activists and programs: both supported by and limited by their social networks. They are strong in their local and regional, but not as connected to national (movement building and collective action)
  • The Challenges: Making Connections
  • The Solution: Connections, Shared Practices and Resources
    • By networking artists, educators and organizers through these institutions begin the process of cross community linking
    • UTN can provide support programming and event support, also has nodes that provide information on best practices and communicates information in between each
    • UTN provides the opportunity for these centers to see their struggles in each other, and in so doing identify causes of the problem that may exist beyond their immediate communities, as well as solutions that exist in their communities.

The Future of Networks in Hip Hop

  • Increase in activity between national networks and local, community based organizations (youth centers, street level activists etc.) based on mission integration, mutual survival and at core, network and community development
  • An increased dual approach to network development that includes the use of technology as well as the importance of in-person communications and relationships.
  • Increased importance placed on the individual as actor node, increased pressure to influence your own network as indicated by the growth of social network technology and increase in social entrepreneurship  – Understanding the power of interaction and position in building people based movements.
  • Networks and individuals become “smarter” theoretically and in real time, have the potential for greater efficiency and impact and an increased capacity for mission success.
  • Greater capacity for shared accountability and responsibility

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