Urban Sprawl

What do you think of when you hear the word "urban"?

A recent tweet by Web resurfaced this question for me. 

I think the word "urban" tends to be misused at times. This is only one example. I recall a time where I saw the word "urban" used to describe a style of clothing in a major department store. The clothing in that section included brands such as Trukfit, Hustle Gang Clothing, Rocawear, and others. You also wouldn't be hard pressed to find an "urban music" title at many of the large record labels.

I never really thought much of the word until I began to hear Steve Stoute challenge users of it. He professed that the word "urban" should be used to define a geographic space akin to how one would use the words "suburban" or "rural". I have to agree with him. If you look up the word "urban" you'll see a host of definitions, most of which serve to define the word with relation to a city or town. An urban area.

So then, if this is how the word urban is to be used, how did it evolve into a word that is used to describe certain genres or music and styles of dress? Are we then saying that those who live in suburban and rural communities don't identify with the things we label as "urban"? Are we saying that things labeled as "urban" are reserved specifically for people from the inner city?

It seems to me that the word has become an acceptable and politically correct term used to describe a culture many would correlate to the African-American and/or Hip-Hop music communities. I think a more broad and encompassing phrase for this culture would be Black Culture. Black Culture isn't by any means limited to people of only African descent. I hint at it in an earlier blog post, but I do believe much of what ends up becoming mainstream from a music and fashion perspective stems from Black Culture (others too) and that those things are enjoyed (and also created in some instances) by an extremely wide range of people from different ethnic backgrounds (any you can think of) and geographic spaces (global).

My points in saying these things are:

  • It's not always politically incorrect to  just call something what it is. If it's Hip-Hop, Rap, or R&B music, then let's call it that. If the clothing we are referencing is street wear, then let's refer to it as such. I think we'd be hard pressed to hear the creators of any of these things referring to them as "urban".
  • Embrace how big culture is. If the intent of the use of the word "urban" is to say that the consumers and creators of such things are only from the inner city, this is incorrect. I would venture to say that the things typically labeled as "urban" are enjoyed equally as much and just as frequently by those living outside the city lines as those inside. Culture is much bigger than any geographic confines.

Just some food for thought. Leave dessert in the comment section (or my mentions).