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The Message by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five

Written by Andrew Hammonds on .

Music plays an important part in our life - as do streets and cities. It's no surprise then to discover songs about places... The Placefocus Mix

A scene from The Get Down by Netflix The Atlantic

Thanks to: LyricsFreak; WikipediaSongfacts

Watch on YouTube


"Broken glass everywhere
People pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't care
I can't take the smell, can't take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with the baseball bat"

Baz Luhrmann’s Netflix show The Get Down combines 'cinematic magic' with a real interest in the poor urban conditions this musical genre rose from.

It reminded me of "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The song was written and performed by Sugar Hill session musician Ed "Duke Bootee" Fletcher and Furious Five MC Melle Mel. Interestingly, Grandmaster Flash actually had very little involvement on the track. The single was released by Sugar Hill Records on July 1, 1982 and later featured on the group's first studio album, The Message. 

According to Songfacts "The Message" compelled Hip-Hop records away from their early emphasis on party anthems toward the fearless social commentary that has dominated many of the form's most important recordings since. Indeed, Public Enemy leader Chuck D proclaimed, famously, in the late '80s, that rap's ongoing documentation of problems for inner city African Americans made it "the black CNN".

The article How Bad Urban Planning Led To The Birth Of A Billion-Dollar Genre interviews architect Mike Ford on this relationship between structural racism, public housing projects, and hip-hop. 

Social significance aside, The Message has number one ranking in Rolling Stone's The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time. In addition to being an all time rap anthem, it has been credited as the song that catapulted emcees from the background to the forefront of hip hop. Thus, shifting the focus from the mixing and scratching of the grandmaster as the star, to the thoughts and lyrics of the emcee playing the star role.

What's the difference between rap and hip-hop? According to Urban Dictionary rap describes a type of music while hip-hop refers to a cultural phenomenon that includes graffiti, breakdancing, and fashion in addition to music -- or as rapper social theorist KRS-One says, "Rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live."


It's like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

Broken glass everywhere
People pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't care
I can't take the smell, can't take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with the baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn't get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

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Empirical Creativity and Great Places

Written by Andrew Hammonds on .

In order to create great places (like Melbourne city) consider validating creativity in your organisation with empirical experience.

Hosier Ln, Melbourne City, VIC, AUS: Places for People is a long-term study that traditionally monitors and examines a range of public spaces to document how Melbourne is changing. It provides the latest baseline data to improve our understanding of the city.Written by: Andrew Hammonds

Thanks to: Jim Collins and his book Great by ChoiceThe Age and The SMH


Melbourne has topped The Economist's liveability rankings for a fifth consecutive year. Whether you agree with these rankings or not, it's hard to argue about it's reputation for great places.

Jim Collins' study of public companies that rose to greatness reveals common characteristics. Microsoft and SouthWest Airlines beat industry indexes by a minimum of ten times over fifteen years (termed 10xers). Importantly, this occurred during challenging times with rapid shifts, which leaders could not predict or control.

They were not more risk taking, more bold, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons. They were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid.” Jim Collins.

Bullets before Cannonballs

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Dirty Blvd. by Lou Reed

Written by Andrew Hammonds on .

Music plays an important part in our life - as do streets and cities. It's no surprise then to discover songs about places... The Placefocus Mix

Times Square NY. NY. USA: before and after (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nycstreets/)Written by: Andrew Hammonds 

Thanks to: SongMeanings & The Daily Beast

Watch on YouTube (with poignant photos)


Dirty Blvd. topped the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks in early 1989. The song demonstrates how much his beloved city has changed in twenty five years. It's the second Lou Reed song to make the PlaceMix after 'Walk on the Wild Side'

The Album New York was released "at a moment when New York was simultaneously grappling with sky-rocketing levels of crime, welfare, crack use, AIDS, homelessness, and racial tension."

According to Sahm the album is not all doom and gloom and even the darker songs, in a way, celebrate New York. Reed was born in Brooklyn and apparently never forgave his parents for moving to Long Island when he was ten.  While he loved New York, especially its rough edges, he didn’t romanticise the city. Perhaps the songs on New York also reveal his fear for it's future?

Did you know the backstory to Pedro's 'Wilshire Hotel'? Apparently it references NY's notorious welfare hotels...

"In the early 80's, the demolition of much low-income housing and other trends pushed thousands of families onto the street. The Koch administration took advantage of Federal emergency housing funds to put them up in hotels. That bent the rules: the Federal money is meant to help victims of sudden calamities like floods. But for a few years, Washington went along.

That was a mistake. In abusing the intent of the Federal law, the hotel policy also abused thousands of poor women and children. City officials were willing to spend as much as $1,800 a month to house a mother and children in a single small room. At one point, the city put up 3,700 families in such accommodations. For a while, city officials justified the exorbitant rates: troubled homeless families needed housing on such short notice.

But embarrassments mounted. The stresses of family life with no place to cook and no privacy were crushing. The hotels bred drug dealing and prostitution. A city inquiry found that hotel operators made excessive profits off the squalor. Finally Washington wised up. Officials announced regulations cutting off emergency funds to any family in a hotel for more than 30 days." Thanks to the NY Times


Pedro lives out of the Wilshire Hotel
he looks out a window without glass
The walls are made of cardboard, newspapers on his feet
his father beats him 'cause he's too tired to beg
He's got 9 brothers and sisters
they're brought up on their knees
it's hard to run when a coat hanger beats you on the thighs
Pedro dreams of being older and killing the old man
but that's a slim chance he's going to the boulevard

He's going to end up, on the dirty boulevard
he's going out, to the dirty boulevard
He's going down, to the dirty boulevard

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Can skaters make places?

Written by Andrew Hammonds on .

Are skateboarders contributors of street based play and even performance art or free spirited and anti-social trouble makers?

Perth Cultural Centre, WA, AUS: Share Path Skate Path a new path integrating a series of sculptures for skateboarders (Image: Skate Sculpture).Written by: David Snyder from Skate Sculpture, and Andrew Hammonds


Street skateboarders generally view cities as urban playgrounds of unlimited edges, shapes and ramps for their thrills and spills. 

Irrespective of skateboarding’s popularity with a broad age group and benefits in activating public spaces and supporting public health, it is often banned in city centres.

Yes, street skaters often break the rules, litter and cause minor damage to public and private infrastructure. But is this behaviour surprising given their exclusion from the design of our city places? A feeling exploited in Nike’s ad campaign “What if we treated all athletes like we treated skateboarders?”. 

Skate Sculpture is committed to integrating skateboarding into the public realm and involving the wider community in its unique spectacle. Their goal is support a positive impression of skateboarding and design purpose-built skate infrastructure for prominent places which are appealing and potentially considered public art. This multi-purpose ‘skate sculpture’ not only enables diversity and activity in public places it provides a performance piece for spectators - combining art and life in the City.

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Pokémon Go in your streets and centres

Written by Andrew Hammonds on .

Police remind Pokémon Go gamers to stay aware of their surroundings to avoid accidents. However, the real tragedy will be places which miss the opportunity to impress new visitors with their intrinsic qualities. 

Vernon Terrace, Teneriffe, QLD, AUS: annual Teneriffe Festival attracts 50,000 people. How attractive are our streets on a day-to-day basis?Written by: Andrew Hammonds

Thanks to The Age


In the USA a gamer reportedly started a major accident after stopping in the middle of a highway to catch a Pikachu! He said “Sh*t if you wanna catch them all you gotta risk it all so I put my car in park and started tossing these balls”.

My kids have been out in the neighbourhood all weekend playing Pokémon Go - getting exercise and meeting friends. After reading about a gamer in the US state of Wyoming finding a dead body while looking for Pokémon, I wondered what my kids would unearth in these places to attract them back.

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