Songs about public housing or dilapidated housing
April 6, 2016 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Can you think of any songs with lyrics about living in (or growing up in) poor-quality housing or subsidized housing? Any genre. I can think of Jay-Z ("I was raised in the projects, roaches and rats") and Notorious B.I.G. ("No more public housing/Thinking back on my one-room shack...We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us/No heat").
posted by southern_sky to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Grandmaster Flash - The Message
posted by gehenna_lion at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Judge 'n Jury - Roaches
posted by ryanshepard at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2016

Here's a parody version of this type of song: Love In A Refrigerator Box by the Austin Lounge Lizards
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2016

No Woman No Cry touches on it.
posted by Candleman at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

One verse of the wonderful 1970s protest song Legal/Illegal might suit (full lyrics here):

It's illegal to kill off your landlord
Or to trespass upon his estate
But to charge a high rent for a slum is O.K.
To condemn two adults and three children to stay
In a hovel that's rotten with damp and decay
It's a thing that is perfectly legal.

posted by showbiz_liz at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Here is an English translation (nsfw) of the German "Mein Block" by Sido, describing part of his upbringing in Berlin.

Gil Scott-Heron should be a very good source for this, although I can't name specific songs or lyrics. Perhaps "The Bottle"?
posted by KMB at 12:44 PM on April 6, 2016

Pulp-Mile End
posted by Lemmy Caution at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

All the Rap Genius songs that mention "Cabrini", the notorious Chicago project.
posted by klangklangston at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2016

"Rats in the front room, roaches in the back,
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat" (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "The Message")
posted by praemunire at 1:04 PM on April 6, 2016

Stevie Wonder, "Living for the City" (sorry, firewalled for YouTube at work)
posted by holborne at 1:04 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Stevie Wonder, “Village Ghetto Land” (and his “Cash in Your Face” is about a related topic--housing discrimination).
posted by miles per flower at 1:09 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Running to Stand Still by U2 is about an apartment complex in Dublin ("I see seven towers...") with a very high rate of heroin addiction.
posted by bondcliff at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2016

Oh, and Wyclef Jean: "PJ's
I was born in the PJ's
So I gotta rep for the PJ's
The elevators with the pissy hallways
Bangin' on the project walls all day" ("The PJs")

And Living Colour:
"This is my neighborhood
This is where I come from
I call this place my home
You call this place a slum" ("Open Letter (To a Landlord))"
posted by praemunire at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2016

Beasley Street by John Cooper Clarke, the "Bard of Salford"

This Old House by Shakin Stevens
posted by runincircles at 1:13 PM on April 6, 2016

Jeane by The Smiths:

There's ice on the sink where we bathe
So how can you call this a home
When you know it's a grave?
posted by jabes at 1:14 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also Days of Pearly Spencer, by David McWilliams, written about Ballymena, here covered by Marc Almond
posted by runincircles at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Really, searching through Genius with keywords like "Queensbridge" (notorious NYC project), "Cabrini" (Chicago), "Robert Taylor" (Chicago), "Jordan Downs" (LA), "Magnolia Projects" (New Orleans), "Marcy Projects" (NYC), "Brewster-Douglas" (Detroit), and "Techwood" (Atlanta) will find you HUNDREDS of songs, so if you could slim down the request, we might be able to get you closer to what you want.
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

"Fancy," best known for the version recorded by Reba McEntire.
posted by drlith at 1:26 PM on April 6, 2016

It's a passing reference, but "Love Child" by the Supremes mentions growing up in an "old, cold, rundown tenement slum"
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:27 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Elvis - "In the Ghetto.."
posted by pearlybob at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Eminem's "Lose Yourself" references living in a trailer.
posted by AnnaRat at 1:34 PM on April 6, 2016

Tyga's Dope'd Up: "grew up with roaches/now they treat me like a Beatle"
posted by stellaluna at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2016

There is the entire Mobb Deep song - Project Hallways

Young Jeezy - Thug Motivation 101 - "Used to hit the kitchen lights, cockroaches everywhere/Hit the kitchen lights, now it's marble floors everywhere"

Nas - NY State of Mind - "Bullet holes left in my peepholes"

BIG - Things Done Changed - "Totin techs for rep, smokin blunts in the project hallways"
posted by windbox at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2016

Oh, also, if punk houses/squats are within the scope of your question, Pinhead Gunpowder - Landlords.
posted by capricorn at 2:03 PM on April 6, 2016

Lou Rawls Dead End Street
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:44 PM on April 6, 2016

Uplifting- There Were No Mirrors in My Nana's House
posted by ReginaHart at 3:45 PM on April 6, 2016

Barenaked Ladies The Old Apartment
Sarah Harmer Basement Apartment
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:14 PM on April 6, 2016

The Clash Up in Heaven (not only here)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:36 PM on April 6, 2016

There is another parody of this type of song in Spinal Tap: Hell Hole
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:38 PM on April 6, 2016

Tom Petty - The Apartment Song
"I used to live in a two-room apartment/Neighbors knocking on my wall/Times were hard, I don't want to knock it/I don't miss it much at all"
posted by eponym at 4:41 PM on April 6, 2016

The Pointer Sisters' Shaky Flat Blues.
posted by trip and a half at 6:24 PM on April 6, 2016

Kool Keith - Welfare Love
The Dr. Dooom album is mostly about living in squalor.
posted by STFUDonnie at 6:28 PM on April 6, 2016

Concrete Jungle - Bob Marley & The Wailers
posted by pompomtom at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2016

Juvenile - Ha
posted by coolname at 9:55 PM on April 6, 2016

Along the lines of capricorn's suggest, Punkhouse by Screenching Weasel.

Also, maybe Jenny From the Block.
posted by Brittanie at 4:59 AM on April 7, 2016

While not explicitly about housing, Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" is about urban blight. In the same vein, but with lyrics about substandard housing, there is Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey On the Moon."
posted by Mr. Fig at 7:09 AM on April 7, 2016

Why I Don't Believe in God by Everclear contains the lines:
I ran away, went looking for you
Back to Culver City and the old neighborhood
Need to know if you were really gone
Need to know if you were gone for good
I ran through the projects at night
Hide in the dark from my friends in the light
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:00 AM on April 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

More general 'poverty rap' than PJs stuff, but I immediately thought of All That I Got Is You:

Check it, fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment
Roaches everywhere, cousins and aunts was there
Four in the bed, two at the foot, two at the head
I didn't like to sleep with Jon-Jon he peed the bed
Seven o'clock, pluckin roaches out the cereal box
Some shared the same spoon, watchin saturday cartoons
Sugar water was our thing, every meal was no thrill
In the summer, free lunch held us down like steel
posted by still bill at 9:57 AM on April 7, 2016

Response by poster: Great answers! Thanks, everyone.
posted by southern_sky at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2016

African Children - Aswad
posted by pompomtom at 12:32 AM on April 26, 2016

Cheech and Chong's Santa Claus has a bit about SC and his old lady and the elves getting kicked out of the projects for making too much noise.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:10 AM on October 26, 2016

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