How poor urban youth in Chicago use social media to profit from portrayals of gang violence, and the questions this raises about poverty, opportunities, and public voyeurism.
Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, they’re capitalizing on the public’s fascination with the ghetto and gang violence.
But with what consequences? Ballad of the Bullet follows the Corner Boys, a group of 30 or so young men on Chicago’s South Side who have hitched their dreams of success to the creation of “drill music.” Drillers disseminate this competitive genre of hyperviolent, hyperlocal, DIY-style gangsta rap digitally, hoping to amass millions of clicks, views, and followers — and a ticket out of poverty. But in this perverse system of benefits, where online popularity can convert into offline rewards, the risks can be too great.