“Flint Michigan’s a prison and we all are locked up/The only good jobs are the jobs that could be rocked up.”
These are lyrics from the legendary Gangsta rap group The Dayton Family and their hometown anthem “Flint Town.”
The downtrodden lyrics illuminate the harsh reality of life in the historically troubled city known as Flint, Michigan.
|By: Teron Anderson Mass Communications, University of Florida|
|The Dayton Family|
Flint is currently infamous for its controversial water crisis. The water supply has been contaminated with toxic levels of lead from corroded pipes—leading many to pose the question of why.
Was this city relegated to such extreme levels of neglect because of its high population of black and poor individuals?
According to the US Census Bureau, Flint is 57% black, 37% white, 4% Latino, and 4% percent mixed. MSNBC reported that between 2009 and 2013, some 41.5% of Flint’s residents lived below the poverty line, making below $15,000 a year.
As if these numbers are not enough for concern the city’s child poverty rate of 66.5% is nearly ten percentage points higher than Detroit’s.
All negatives aside, although it may be hard to conceive, this historic city has had much brighter days than the destitution that has plagued it for decades and served as the driving motivation to The Dayton Family’s hardcore rhymes.
Throughout the 60s’ and 70s’ the city was a major hub for auto manufacturing and was thought to be a great place for the middle and working class. The city was home to up to 200,000 residents– nearly half of them employed by General Motors.
All was well until General Motors began to establish factories in Mexico and drastically reduced its operations in Flint. To put this drastic transition in proper perspective, GM presently employs approximately 5,000 people in Flint.
The city and its infrastructure were very dependent on the automotive industry, so when GM began to lay off workers in droves in the 80’s, there was a severe lack of employment, leading to a mass population exodus. It is rather unfortunate that Flint has become known more for its yearly appearance near the top of the rankings for the murder rate than for any of its musical contributions.
However, there have been voices in the past that have shed light on the struggle and strife within the community.
“In Flint, we ain’t never been scared to die slim/Cause we been there ever since they closed GM” – The Dayton Family, “Welcome to Flint”
[T]he Dayton Family were not truly “famous” by any means, but they are still respected in the city and on the underground scene for their dark, grim brand of realism.
Named after the infamous Dayton Avenue, known as one of the most crime-ridden streets in the city, Bootleg, Shoestring and Backstabba came together under some of the hardest conditions in the U.S. Shoestring and Bootleg met through their younger brother and recorded their first track “Dope Dayton Ave.”
Soon after rapper Backstabba and producer, Steve Pitts would join the collective to officially form The Dayton Family.
The Dayton Family would eventually get signed to Atlanta record label Po Broke. They released the project What’s On My Mind in 1995 garnering them a substantial buzz. Following that the group went on to be featured on the No Limit South Compilation, giving them the opportunity to expand outside of the Midwest.
The Dayton Family released their second album FBI in 1996 to much critical acclaim, as this album would make gold and even reach the R& B top 10. However, the group succumbed to an array of legal issues that they rapped about, succumbing to the cold, harsh environment that they were raised in.
Fortunately, however, the group would manage to continue to make music as a collective with Backstabba being replaced by Ghetto E in the group due to legal issues.
Ghetto E, Shoestring, and Bootleg would even go on to link up with horrorcore artist and Detroit legend Esham, signing to his record label Overcore. They released their classic album Welcome to the Dopehouse in 2002. That was followed by 2005’s Family Feud 2006’s Back on Dayton Ave and Return to Dayton Ave.
They continued to contribute to the Gangsta rap cannon with 2009’s The Return: The Right to Remain Silent, 2011’s Psycho (EP) and their last album to date, Charges of Indictment (2011).
You can check out some of their music below.