Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy

How 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


$16.95 / £13.99
5.25 x 8 in.
2 b/w illus.
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Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are using social media platforms to capitalize on the public’s fascination with the ghetto and gang violence. But with what consequences? Ballad of the Bullet follows the Corner Boys, thirty or so young men on Chicago’s South Side who have hitched dreams of success to the creation of “drill music” (slang for “shooting music”). Drillers disseminate this genre of hyperviolent, DIY-style gangsta rap digitally, hoping to amass millions of 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. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and countless interviews, Ballad of the Bullet looks at what happens when the digital economy and urban culture collide.

Awards and Recognition

  • Forrest Stuart, Winner of a MacArthur fellowship, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation