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Short Synopsis
How poor 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.

Full Synopsis
Amid increasing hardship and limited employment options, poor urban youth are developing creative online strategies to make ends meet. Using such social media platforms as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, they're capitalizing on the public's fascination with the ghetto and gang violence. But with what consequences? Ballad of the Bullet follows the Corner Boys, a group of thirty or so young men on Chicago's South Side who have hitched their dreams of success to the creation of "drill music" (slang for "shooting music"). Drillers disseminate this competitive genre of hyperviolent, hyperlocal, DIY-style gangsta rap digitally, hoping to amass millions of clicks, 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 compiled from daily, close interactions with the Corner Boys, as well as time spent with their families, friends, music producers, and followers, Forrest Stuart looks at the lives and motivations of these young men. While these virtual displays of ghetto authenticity can lead to online notoriety and actual resources, drillers frequently end up behind bars, seriously injured, or dead.

Ballad of the Bullet

Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy

Author Forrest Stuart

Narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon

Publication date May 12, 2020

Running time 11 hrs 7 min

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