This essay predominantly explores the relationship of aspiration within working class young boys up to the age of 16; referring to case studies involving children from African backgrounds and their fasciation and devotion of European football players. The essay will begin by dissecting the meaning of aspiration for black youths, and how the cultural climate of which they develop can decide or alter their ultimate aspirations. This will be done by exploring the cultural class debates, looking at Marxism and neoliberalism and how it may affect their social trajectories in supporting icons in football and music. These will include examples of the internationally recognised success of players such as Didier Drogba and how these players affect inspire children from backgrounds similar to their own. I will then move on and discuss the aspirational overlap which becomes apparent when researching the music industry, focusing specifically on the genre of rap and Hip-Hop music. Examples will be discussed such as Stormzy and Kendrick Lamar and how these artists took advantage of the resources and tools they had available the them such as prosumer platforms like YouTube and how they consequently succeeded applying a neo-liberalist perspective in the competitive music industry environment.
Deciphering the roots of youth identity in black youths may best be understood through Marxist frameworks when regarding class struggle and desire for aspirational success within the Proletariat. The focus of this essay explores how these social backgrounds of the black working class have prescribed trajectories which they do not necessarily conform to; in other ways they culturally aspire through various paths, such as sport or music. Riegle-Crumb, Moore and Ramos-Wada (2011) highlight the racial indifferences that blacks go through when hypothesising their generic occupational trajectories, suggesting that they have similar aspirations to study subjects like maths and science than their white middle-class peers, but their achievement levels are not matching their aspirational goals. However, it is predominantly through different vocational practices that people from these backgrounds and ethnicities are succeeding in the modern era. Notably sport and music are two industries famous for allowing broader black communities to bend their aspirations against systematic longstanding inequality (Wright, Standen and Patel, 2009). In short, industries like these, where black youths can financially and socially excel to extraordinary levels, challenge traditional Marxist views on class frictions as well as oppose historical hegemonic domination of the Bourgeoisie in wider society (Gramsci, 1971; Wright, Standen and Patel, 2009). Sports industries such as football, and music genres such as Hip-Hop/Rap are predominantly dominated by males (Dyson, 2004; Dunning, 1986). It is therefore crucial to understand the influence of the relationship between class relations and hegemonic masculinity to further explore the aspect of aspiration in effecting youth identity-talk more about masculinity and change.
Football culture is a place ‘where individuals learn to ‘adapt to a given social system’ (Eitzen and Sage, 1989: 77). This suggests that social constructs such as fans can ‘adapt’ and morph into given social situations, which may help to explain why some working-class youths want to get to levels of fame and quality where they can join into the social system of celebrity. This would be one way of explaining aspiration and how the base construct of the sport; the coaching, can impact at all levels of development. It is a ‘weak form’ of socialisation, as Bourdieu (1988: 56) explores, that a group such as footballing youths, ‘must reproduce [pre-existing social knowledge] in order to reproduce itself’ in order to produce an identity (Margolis & Romero, 1998 cited in Cushion and Jones, 2014). Youth identity in football therefore builds on itself through past knowledges and helps describe the fabrics of class background and masculine hegemony in shaping identity in the black working class who aspire to sport.
Football and Hip-Hop music are two vocations which have almost negative connotations surrounding their power to exert hegemonic masculinity, mainly because males commercially dominate the industries (Boyd, 2008). This is wider spread than just the players and rappers themselves, as much of their fan base are male dominated and often from poorer backgrounds (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002). It is not surprising then, that hegemony is heavily injected into the gender frameworks of the male fan in both industries. Connell (1990: 83) highlights the linkages of hegemonic masculinity and football fan-culture as they both simultaneously promote ‘toughness and competitiveness’ as a direct result of masculinity. Fanbases, especially in the case of football, are often seen as thuggish and the hooliganism surrounding the sport is almost down to male domination and hegemony of the social construct of the football world (Radmann, 2014). Academia is saturated with research into class identity and the social behaviours that these often large male groups simultaneously display (Davis, 2015). However, it could be argued that large social organisations and structures like fanbases or team supporters create a sense of community that working-class boys can identify with that they cannot elsewhere in the deprived areas of which they originate from. They can in fact be an ‘empowerment tool’ for black Male youths, especially rappers, as it gives them an opportunity to express themselves in the way that they feel comfortable and powerful in (Sims, 2011). Fans understand these struggles of expression and therefore easily identify and grow to appreciate and respect their idols even more; yet at the same time remaining humble to their social origins. Even so, it is obvious that the industries and the fans bolstering them are heavily masculine, and not so much idealised masculinity due to their bad reputations, despite being empowerment tools in asserting authentic identities (Sims, 2011).