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Meaning of the song ‘South Bronx’ by ‘Boogie Down Productions’

Released: 1987

“South Bronx” is an iconic track by the legendary hip-hop collective, Boogie Down Productions (BDP), led by KRS-One and Scott La Rock. This anthem is a robust declaration of the group’s origins in the South Bronx, one of the birthplaces of hip-hop, and it’s also a retort to claims that hip-hop originated elsewhere.

BDP opens by introducing themselves and expressing their intent to educate the masses about where they’re from: “South Bronx, the South South Bronx.” This powerful chorus serves as a celebration of their roots, repping their hood unapologetically while debunking the myth that hip-hop originated from Queensbridge, a notion propagated by MC Shan and Marley Marl’s “The Bridge” released around the same time.

Moving beyond the chorus, KRS-One, known for his exceptional lyricism, doesn’t hold back as he lyrically spars with doubters. When he says, “You got dropped off MCA ’cause the rhymes you wrote was wack,” he is confronting anyone who tried to discredit the Bronx’s contribution to hip-hop, asserting that they weren’t successful because their rhymes lacked originality and creativity.

What follows is a riveting history lesson by KRS-One, as he reminisces about the early days of hip-hop culture in the Bronx. He mentions pioneers like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa (Bam), and Grandmaster Flash, who laid the foundation for the genre. He also brings up famous locales such as Cedar Park and Bronx River, and important hip-hop crews like Rock Steady Crew, where hip-hop events used to go down.

The verse ending with “It was ’76 to 1980/The dreads in Brooklyn was crazy/You couldn’t bring out your set with no Hip-Hop/Because the pistols would go” is a nod to the ongoing violence that marred the early days of hip-hop, highlighting the courage and persistence of the pioneers who didn’t let adversity stop them from expressing themselves through this new art form.

The final verses directly call out MC Shan and Marley Marl, suggesting that instead of trying to take out LL (referring to Shan’s beef with LL Cool J) they should take care of their own, hinting at the crack epidemic that was ravaging communities, including Queensbridge, during the 80s.

With “South Bronx,” Boogie Down Productions not only told their hood’s story, but they also stood up for hip-hop’s rich history, proclaiming that it’s more than just a genre; it’s a culture born out of struggle, resilience, and creativity. As the track ends, we get the credits, boasting the talents of BDP themselves: “The human TR-808, D-Nice/The poet, the Blastmaster KRS-One/The Grand Incredible DJ Scott La Rock.”

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