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A D.C. Rapper's Love Song To A Gentrifying Hometown

By NPR Staff | NPR
Monday, August 1, 2016

Live in a place long enough and you'll see it start to change: new people in your neighborhood, new buildings reshaping an old skyline. Washington, D.C. is no exception.

Tarica June is a lawyer in D.C., as well as a local emcee, who writes and produces her own music on the side. One of her songs has received a lot of attention both in and out of Washington. It's called "But Anyway," and it feels like a nostalgic love song for the town she grew up in — that, due to gentrification, is a very different place today.

"One thing that I remember is that even if you didn't know all your neighbors, you would know, 'That person is my neighbor.' At least if you saw them, you would say hello," June says. "And you hear people say stuff like, 'Oh, nobody's really from D.C.' It's like, OK — I'm still here."

June says she wrote the song just driving around the District one day — and in the video, she surrounds herself with the landmarks of Petworth, the neighborhood where she was raised and still lives. As the music cycles between samples, June expands the focus of her lyrics, from gentrification to the prison industrial complex to racism to corporations. And though the song is rooted in local issues, June says she's received an overwhelming response from people around the country.

"People have contacted me from Oakland. Somebody on Facebook posted something saying, 'This could be about Austin' — which, I didn't even know things like this were going on in Austin. People have posted, 'This is just like Detroit,' or 'This is just like Brooklyn,'" she says.

June says pretty much all the feedback she's gotten for "But Anyway" has been good, sometimes unexpectedly so.

"I was expecting for people to have an issue with it," she says. "[But] even people who I guess would be the gentrifiers have said, 'Wow, this makes me feel differently about the way I interact with people in my neighborhood."

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