Thumbnail image for this story (this will show up on the stories page of the site):
Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Poverty
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
USA, Hip Hop, Drugs
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
A young group of aspiring hip-hop artists try to make it as rappers by night, while struggling to provide for their families by day.
Andrew Renneisen

2014 — student award of excellence

It’s 1 a.m. on a brisk saturday morning on Syracuse’s west side. A few young women stand outside a seemingly run-down house, smoking cigarettes in their party attire for the night. A faint hip hop beat can be heard coming from a basement. 

Already “feeling good” from their street party filled with blaring music, blunts, and Henessy, Kuntry and his crew of aspiring young hip hop artists, known as Money Bag Movement, walk towards the entrance of the party. Once inside the team of four head downstairs to a dark basement, which is already packed with dancing people. 

The four continue where they left off at the last party with more marijuana and alcohol, and the four begin grinding with new lady friends, each rapping along with every song that blares through the party’s singular speaker. 

“This is how we do, Money Bag Movement,” shouts Pauly, one of the members of the Money Bag crew. 

Except partying is not all Money Bag Movement does. The next morning will go back to ordinary life.

"Kuntry" will have to take care of his newborn son and two stepsons by working on the streets. “DC” will have to go back to work at a convenience store. "Pauly" will have to go to class to finish getting his high school diploma, and “Rells” will have to go back to work at McDonalds to provide for his two-year-old boy. 

Hip-hop music in Syracuse is marred by a history a violence. Making it big is a seemingly impossible task, especially in a city at it’s peak poverty level. According to the Syracuse Post Standard, “The percentage of all people and all children living in poverty in the city are also at a high for the past four years. More than a third of the city was living in poverty in 2012. For children, the number is almost 55 percent.” Despite the city’s situation, Moneybag Movement is trying to make it; living almost double lives as workers and fathers during the day and rappers at night. 


These young men have allowed me into all aspects of their lives, and with the help of the Alexia Foundation, I would like to continue this project. Their story helps to understand the struggle to provide for a family in a community struck by poverty and violence in the United States. This project continues to build on my previous work regarding awareness of violent culture in the United States and the consequences it has on family.

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DC, left, calls Kuntry while waiting outside Kuntry's apartment complex on Willow Street in Syracuse's Northside.  The block which the apartment complex sits on is well known as a place to buy drugs on the Northside. Andrew Renneisen
Pauly grinds with a girl while a rap song plays during a basement party on the West Side of Syracuse.  "This is how we do, Money Bag Movement," said Pauly. Andrew Renneisen
Kuntry, and DC, wait for Neishma, Kuntry's "Baby Momma," second from left, to go to the store in order to get Halloween costumes for her kids.  Without a steady income, Kuntry struggles to provide for Neishma and her two kids, all while preparing for the birth of his own son. Andrew Renneisen
Kuntry buckles Dion into his car seat after picking him up from school. Kuntry picks up Dion everyday after school to help Neishma take care of her kids. Andrew Renneisen
Neishma and Kuntry go separate ways after dropping off the kids at Neishma's parents place. Neishma's parents help watch her kids when Neishma and Kuntry need a break. Andrew Renneisen
Partygoers pose for an image at a basement party on Syracuse's West Side. Since most live music venues in Syracuse don't host hip-hop events because of the genre's violent past, basements are one of the only options left for hip-hop parties. Andrew Renneisen
Kuntry records in a small studio on the Northside. "Man, we gonna be coming up on the scene," said Kuntry. Syracuse's hip hop scene is marred by a violent past, making it extremely difficult to make it as a rapper in the city. Andrew Renneisen
Kuntry smokes a blunt while driving around the Northside of Syracuse with DC, listening to their own music through the car's stereo.  The two are a part of the rap group called Money Bag Movement, a group of young rappers that want to use hip-hop to achieve a better life. Andrew Renneisen
Kuntry talks with the owners of Money ENT studios after recording a part of a track.  The studio will help record and produce a song for only $40, making it a viable option for Kuntry and the rest of his group to produce music. Andrew Renneisen
Indio, a member of Money Bag Movement, smokes a blunt while showing off his money and bottle of Hennessy. The group raps about street life, money, drugs, all common themes in hip-hop music. Andrew Renneisen