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Eli Wills

Hip-Hop Theory & Culture, CES 110


Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta

Gangster rap music is a reflection of the emotions and events that certain
individuals have experienced and witnessed in their lives. West Coast rappers
became the first voices that shared these events and emotions with the nation.
When people like ICE-T and School Boy D started talking gangster in their rap
music, thinking it would never catch on, it did because so much of the surrounding
population were effected by the exact things they was talking about. As we learned
last week, the Crack epidemic started on the West Coast in 1984. In 1986, ICE T
comes out with 6N the Morning saying:
6 in the morning, police at my door

Fresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floor

Out my back window I make a escape
Don't even get a chance to grab my old school tape
Mad with no music, but happy cause free
And the streets to a player is the place to be
Got a knot in my pocket, weighing at least a grand
Gold on my neck, my pistols close at hand
I'm a self-made monster of the city streets
Remotely controlled by hard hip-hop beats
But just living in the city is a serious task
Didn't know what the cops wanted, didn't have time to ask

The batter rams rolling, rocks are the thing

Life has no meaning and money is king
Then he looked at me slowly and Hen had to grin
He said, man you out early, we thought you got ten

Opened his safe kicked me down with cold cash

Knew I would get busy, he didn't waste time to ask
This song is obviously a huge reflection of what ICE-T is seeing go on around him on
the West Coast; with crack, and other things that are taking place in the more
impoverished parts of the bay area. Ts tone was originally trivial, but when he saw
that people were actually connecting with his music he came out with a song like
6N the Morning which was an anthem to the times. The rap group N.W.A caught
on to Ts gangster trend and came out with the songs Straight out of Compton and
Fuck the Police. These songs tone were much harder than anything T had
written and were not really given much attention until the Rodney King Riots of
1992 (VH1).
When five white police officers were found not guilty for the excessive
beating of Rodney King, a black man, after they had been caught on tape doing
something obviously illegal, the city of South Central Los Angeles and the
surrounding area erupted in protest of the verdict. N.W.As music became an
anthem to these outraged civilians. The people already listening to the groups music
said see this is what we were talking about the whole time and those who listened
to the songs after the riots had a big OH IT MAKES SENSE NOW moment.
In response to the riots rappers like Ice-Cube and Dr. Dre had a whole lot of
new Gangster material to write about. Ice-Cube comes out with Black Korea and
We had to Tear this Mutha-Fucka Up and Dre comes out with The Day the Niggaz
Took Over. These songs literally documented parts of the riots and had the hardest
tone to them of any rap music thus released. Cube has a verse saying:

Pretty soon we'll catch Sergeant Koon

Shoot him in the face, run up in him with a broom-stick, prick, devils ain't shit
Introduce his ass to the AK-40 dick
Two days niggas layed in the cut
To get some respect we had to tear this muthafucka up
And Dr. Dre says:

And come up on me some furniture or somethin'

Got a VCR in the back of my car
That I ganked from the Slausson Swap Meet
And motherfuckers better not try to stop me
Cause they will see that I can't be stopped
Cause I'ma cock my Glock and pop til they all drop
(Rap. Genius)
Elizabeth Grant writes in her article Gangster Rap, The War on Drugs, and
the Location of African American Identity in Los Angeles, As in New York, LAs
early hip hop scene rose out of politically and economically neglected,
predominantly African American, Latino and Chicano neighborhoods. True to HipHops emphasis on roots and localized identity, however, early DJs and MCs styled
New York hop hop culture to musical influences and urban structures specific to L.
labeled gangsa rap by industry chiefs and music critics for its seeming glorification
of street gang activity. No one on the East Coast, at this time, was rapping about
their gangsta lifestyles. They may have been impoverished but those on the East
Coast still rhymed to get the party going (and following mainstream trends) where
as rappers on the West Coast were pushing the boundaries of what was allowed to
be said in music from its start.
Though Hip-hop started on the East Coast, there is explanation as to why
Gangsta Rap started on the West Coast. The social factors that spawned from the

earlier start of the Crack Epidemic on the West Coast very much influenced the
artistic expression of this time. Crack created a huge homeless community in Los
Angeles because they spent all their money on the drug. It created Strawberries
which lead to even more disrespect to women then there already was in these
communities. It created The Hustle and a huge amount of gang activity on the
West Coast which is where the term Gangsta Rap comes from (Gangsta Rap).
There were many racial barriers between certain parts of the West Coast, which
were exemplified by the Rodney King Riots. A huge hatred against the police was
formed in many communities. All of these factors lead to people on the West Coast
expressing their art differently than anyone else at this time. As Dr. Abe explains in
his article Racial Slurs in the Public Square, The notion of taking something that
symbolized such historic oppression and pain, changing it slightly and turning it
into, as Q-Tip put it, a term of endearment, represented power and meaning to
members of the first post-civil-rights/hip-hop generation. Though Gangsta Rap and
all of the cultural dynamics it includes (such as the excessive use of the word
Nigga) may seem a bit radical for many people not from the community, anyone
who was from areas such as Compton knew exactly what these Gangsta Rappers
were saying.
Eventually even people from outside of impoverished West Coast communities
started loving Gangsta Rap music. As a whole Gangsta Rap is rebel music. Many young
people are naturally are inclined to do exactly what they are told not too. Due to
Gangsta Raps aggressive lyrics a large amount of the countries population was against it.
Kierna Mayo writes in her essay Caught Up in the (Gangsta) Rapture, Dr. C Delores

Tucker fancies herself a type of modern-day Moses, one who will lead her people to
liberation, freeing them finally and for good from the hell of gangsta rap and the
wrath of its oppressive craftsmen. He is offended and incensed and claims she would
rather die before she would sit idly by and continue to the the childrens ears meet
with such pornographic smut Sadly for Dr. C, kids love this music. They love it not only
for the rebellious nature of it but for the promise it holds. Gangsta rappers are seen with
huge chains, beautiful women, and throwing around dollar bills. Local kids idolize the
rappers walking around the impoverished parts of town and kids who arent part of the
community want to be a part of it because their parents dont want them to be. Though
Gangsta Rap may be exaggerated and can lead to trouble (as it did in Tupacs case) it
definitely holds power as something that can bring a community together, just like any
other art form.