While working my way through The Wire, I found myself thinking about the iconic rap song “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. A song which traces much of the same social themes of urban decay as this kick ass TV series. A point of interest, at least for me, is that this song focuses on NYC, and more specifically the South Bronx, the birthplace of rap that became notorious for crime and urban squalor during the 80s and 90s thanks to films like Fort Apache, the Bronx (1981) —a loaded and racist argument about the state of inner city America.
All of which made makes me think about a moment in the fourth season of The Wire when the cops are ordered to make “quality of life” arrests, which ultimately means busting citizens for small, insignificant infractions in violent, crime torn neighborhoods. During the general upheaval amongst the beat cops about the new orders, one of them notes reasonably, “It worked in New York.” Enforcing quality of life, unchecked development, rampant gentrification, and unlivable space for America’s working poor —all of which makes NYC the poster child for the future of American cities. To quote Clayton Davis, “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeiit.”