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Rap and Hip Hop Resources: Rap in the '90s

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Gangsta Rap

Gangsta rap has been contested and protested by parents and politicians alike. All Music Guide traces the controversial nature of rap music to a 1986 Run-D.M.C. concert, where gang violence occured. Most rap prior to gangsta rap of the late '80s was "written" in the third person. With gangsta rap, however, artists were using the first person to tell stories of the "lives of thugs, felons, gang members, or crack dealers"  (All Music, 564). The new style of story-telling made critics believe they were promoting violence and crime. Most sources agree that the beginning of gangsta rap was in the late '80s with Ice-T's tune "6'N the Mornin,'" giving audiences a "first hand tour of the world of an L.A. criminal" (All Music, 564).

Ice-T's new style reflected the politics and urban planning of South Central L.A. and Compton. Essentially he was giving the world a view of how bad things actually were. The article "Gangsta Rap in the '90s" in Vibe History of Hip Hop, gives some statistics on gangs and gang violence in 1991: "100,00 gang members and 800 gangs in Los Angeles, resulting in 600 L.A. youths killed in gang and drug-related incidents" (290). Although gangsta rap is concentrated on the west coast, east coast artists such as Philly's Schooly D can also be included in this genre.

Articles on Gangsta Rap

  • Title:  The Rebirth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Hip Hop: A Cultural Sociology of Gangsta Rap Music.
  • Author: Riley, Alexander
    Publication Info.:  Journal of Youth Studies; September 2005, Vol. 8 Issue 3, p297-311

  • Title:  Gangsta Rap, the War on Drugs and the Location of African-American Identity in Los Angeles, 1988-92.
  • Author:  Grant, Elizabeth 
    Publication Info.:  European Journal of American Culture; 2002, Vol. 21 Issue 1, p4


  • Title:  The Killing Fields in Rap's Gangsta-Land.
  • Author:  Geier, Thom 
    Publication Info.: 
    U.S. News & World Report; 3/24/97, Vol. 122 Issue 11, p32
  • Title:  Heat's on Stores to Rethink Sales of Gangsta Rap.
  • Author:  Christman, Ed 
    Publication Info.:  Billboard; 1/15/94, Vol. 106 Issue 3, p1

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