Last Thursday, I drove out to one of the most infamous locations in both Compton and hip hop music, The Compton Swap Meet. Although it closed down last year, the Compton Swap Meet for 32 years represented a culture and community of diversity.
The Compton Fashion Center (as is it’s original name) was opened in 1985, taking the place of a Sears. When it opened, it was one of the only Korean-owned swap meets in California. Having such ownership, it became a hub for many immigrants who felt comfortable both buying and selling items there. As Compton is a highly diverse area, it became one the common hangout spots for much of the young growing up there. One famous youth by the name of Kendrick Lamar often talks about the Compton Swap Meet being one of his go-to places while growing up. He even can be seen dancing on it’s roof in one of his music videos, “King Kunta.” The Compton Swap Meet was also a favorite of the rap group N.W.A., as they actually began selling some of their first albums at the record store within the Swap Meet. The Compton Swap Meet was widely seen as a non-mainstream, unique place for the often marginalized communities of Compton to come and socialize. All of this changed in 2015, when the owner Soo Lee announced to all the vendors that the swap meet was closing and they had a month to pack up and leave. Although rumors are that a Walmart may soon take it’s place, thus destroying the image of non-mainstream, the Compton Swap Meet will forever be regarded as one of the places in Southern California that revolutionized immigrant business formation.