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A walk through gangster rap

When you talk about hip-hop, a lot of people link it to gangster rap. While gangster rap is a great part of hip-hop, it is only a sub-genre, and hip-hop is way more than just gangster rap. However, gangster rap is not getting less and less common. Original gangster rappers and groups like Ice-T, Boogie Down Productions and N.W.A. have either stopped with rapping, with gangster rap or died. Newcomers to the genre like 50 Cent and G-Unit have not been releasing the quality music they used to, and have lost a lot of popularity over the last decade. Is gangster rap really dying?

The first gangster rappers

Gangster rap has been around for a long time, a lot of people will tell you the first gangster rap song was released in 1986, when Ice-T released 6 in the Mornin'. Ice-T states Schooly D as his inspiration for gangster rap. However, gangster rap got more attention when Boogie Down Productions released their classic album 'Criminal Minded' in 1987. It got a lot of attention, because a short period after Boogie Down Productions released their album, their DJ Scot LaRock was shot and killed. This was also the end for BDP's gangster rap records.

N.W.A. and political gangster rap

Gangster rap really broke through as a sub-genre when N.W.A. dropped the legendary album 'Straight Outta Compton' in 1988. This album was the cause for the first big controversy regarding a hip-hop song. N.W.A. earned a letter from the FBI for their song "Fuck Tha Police". N.W.A.'s members Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube all released solo gangster rap albums. Ice Cube was the first rapper to talk about political problems in gangster rap. He introduced gangster rap as a medium for rappers to talk about their background.

G-Funk

G-Funk, or Gangsta Funk, is a mix between gangster rap and funk. Rappers that use this subsub-genre include Dr. Dre from N.W.A., Snoop Doggy Dogg and Warren G. G-Funk showed that gangster rap could have a pop sound.

Mafioso rap

Mafioso rap is a sub-genre which was created by Kool G Rap. It is often seen as the twin of G-Funk. Mafioso rap has many references to mobsters, drugs and organized crime. Mafioso rap got a rebirth when Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan released his debut solo album 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…' in 1995.

Horrorcore

Horrorcore is a mix between hardcore and gangster rap. It is recognizable by it's vulgar lyrical content about grimy subjects.

Going mainstream

Hip-Hop as a genre got a lot of attention after Tupac Shakur a.k.a. 2Pac got shot in 1996, and even more attention when The Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls got murdered in 1997. These deaths are often linked because Tupac and Biggie had beef (quarrel) with each other. 2Pac released a lot of gangster rap and G-Funk songs, and Biggie was known for his mafioso rap. These links caused the gangster rap sub-genre to get a lot of mainstream attention, and open the path to success to a lot of rappers. To get even more mainstream attention, a lot of artists put R&B hooks and a lot of soul samples in their songs, making the sub-genre widely likeable to a lot of people. Artists like Eminem and DMX achieved mainstream success through Horrorcore in the late 1990's, and artists like Jay-Z, DMX and 50-Cent achieved a lot of mainstream success in the 21st century with gangster rap.

Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre

Gangster rap as of today

Around 2005/2006 gangster rap started slowly disappearing. 50 Cent, The Game and other members of G-Unit, who were the biggest gangster rappers around this time, started releasing less appealing and music of lesser quality, while other rappers like Jay-Z and Nas walked away from gangster rap and a new breed of artists like Kanye West started releasing other hip-hop, which got more mainstream success. As of today, there are still a good amount of gangster rappers, names include Freddie Gibbs, 50 Cent, The Game and Young Jeezy. Gangster rap did walk away from the mainstream, and you will see less and less gangster rappers. I am certain that gangster rap won't disapear, it has been an integral part of hip-hop, and there will always be people who want to talk about their gangster lifestyle. There will be less and less artist to do it, because there isn't enough mainstream success to be gained from it. A lot of artists started gangster rap to make a quick buck, right now you will mostly see artists who want to tell their story (like it was when gangster rap started). I have to say that I am glad with this change, sure, it will decrease the amount of people attempting gangster rap but it will increase the lyrical content and it will bring gangster rap back to its roots.


Hip Hop


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