A couple of days ago I was talking to Vince Edwards (aka CPO Boss Hogg) on Twitter when he shared a pretty powerful essay with me. It was an essay about the undeserved criticism of Gangsta Rap and how it is unfairly blamed for the gang life. I always love his perspective on life and culture and this is one of my favorites because I could relate to it in a way I can’t personally relate to others.
When he mentions the Wild West I couldn’t help but nod my head. I definitely romanticize that era and culture. I think, in a lot of ways, we all do that. We all romanticize Jesse James, the Younger Brothers Gang, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and others. To this day I love reading and watching old westerns. It’s a culture I love.
When he mentions the 1920’s gangsters I nodded again. I 100% romanticize that era and culture. It’s my favorite era for fashion, for music and for arts. I know a lot of my friends do the same. We seek out books and movies set during this era and dream about parties like the ones thrown in The Great Gatsby. We also romanticize the outlaws of the time; outlaws like Ma Barker, Bonnie & Clyde, and the John Dillinger gang.
I love the wild west, I love the 1920’s gangsters, and I love today’s Gangsta rap. I couldn’t agree more with his essay and he’s allowed me to share it all with you.
‘BOUT THAT LIFE
By Vince Edwards (CPO Boss Hogg)
It seems that many people have a tendency to lay the blame for much of the behavioral disorder of today’s youth at the feet of Gangsta Rap. It has been, and continues to be, blamed for perpetuating, even glorifying, gangs and criminality. But honestly it isn’t altogether fair to suggest that.
We shouldn’t just focus on a thing merely because it exists. If a thing is significant then surely the origin of a thing is significant. As such, the originators of the sub-genre of Hip Hop known as Gangsta Rap, are often focused on as the ultimate source of the problem. But, are they?
Well if we are to believe that there was no such thing as a Gangster Culture before the inception of Gangsta Rap, then perhaps that might hold water. Anyone whose lived in most countries in the world, certainly in the United States, knows that gangs, quite literally, date back for centuries. Anyone willing to do the most minor research can easily find the likes of “Dillinger, Al Capone, Bonnie & Clyde, Murder Inc.” or further back to people such as, “Billy The Kid and Doc Holiday” etc. There are countless Gangs; Gangsters and Criminal Organizations that have been glorified and celebrated in books and/or movies since the invention of ink, paper, and film. The world, especially this country, has been fascinated with that culture, in fact hungered for more of it, ever since.
So the foundation for what’s being heard in Gangsta Rap, as well as it’s overwhelming popularity, is merely a natural progression of people’s lust for the excitement they associate with the dangerous life of the criminal. It began generations before this type of music ever existed.
Let’s examine the music more closely. Initially it wasn’t titled “Gangsta Rap.” To the individuals who are seen as its founders, it was simply known as “Reality Rap.” Named as such because its lyrics spoke specifically about the everyday realities and livelihoods of many of the people, the majority of which were youths, in the inner cities (ghettos) of places like Compton and Los Angeles, Ca. Its popularity skyrocketed because the content of its lyrics were very identifiable & easily relatable to others across the country and ultimately the globe because their own lives mirrored the lives in the lyrics they heard. It should be recognized that the originators of the music were not trying to glorify or perpetuate gangs or gang activity though it can’t be argued that many gang members certainly take pride in their respective cliques. They were only speaking of the everyday lives they lived. They were not, by any means, attempting to drum up an interest in gangs or recruit interested parties into their lifestyle. People engage in such activity all on their own but certainly not because Gangsta Rap told them to.
While I make no attempt to justify anyone being in a gang some people have no clue that there are various reasons for people being in them. Some do it because they’re just criminally minded and their motives are fueled by that mentality whereas others are literally born into it. Often times it’s a part of their parents, even grandparents, history. They are actually raised to continue that legacy by being the next generation of a particular gang or (set). Whether that’s believable or not is of no consequence, as truth does not require belief, and it is indeed the actual truth for many individuals.
Still others enter into gangs for protection. A person who might’ve been targeted by bullies could see the strength in numbers of a gang as their sanctuary. Often times gangs have had reputations that are so notoriously ruthless that to molest even one of its members would be akin to aggravating an enormous swarm of Giant Killer Wasps. Such power is a coveted thing in the warlike environments that these youths grow up in.
Some are what is known as Gangsta Groupies. They are so taken, so amazed, and find the Gang Culture so alluring, that they’ll do virtually anything just for the chance to be associated with it. Others have even been forced into the life by the gangs themselves. So one shouldn’t be too quick to judge, given these circumstances.
At any rate, it was in the earlier years of Reality Rap, that a public official by the name of Delores Tucker, while giving a speech, happened to refer to this form of music as “Gangsta Rap” basically meaning Gangsters Rapping. The reference was quickly adopted as the official title and is currently recognized as such. So it was not a part of any dark conspiracy to call it Gangsta Rap, it was simply an unforeseen coincidence.
What makes it so interesting that people blame this music for the misconduct of the youth. Is that the Gangster Culture didn’t come from Gangsta Rap. It’s the Gangster Culture that spawned Gangsta Rap. The very same culture that has been around for all those past generations. It is, therefore, not only logically but chronologically impossible for Gangsta Rap to be the culprit. And let us remember that a child’s conduct is something that begins and is nurtured in the home, by the child’s parents and or guardians. While they cannot be expected to control what a child will be exposed to outside the home there are certain values that can and should be instilled in a youth to help steer them away from things the parent or guardian may disapprove of. But there’s always youthful curiosity which can’t ever be discounted. Often times a child will do the exact opposite of what they’re told not to do, even listen to certain music. Is that a rebellious act? Yes, which may further explain their attachment to a genre of music that is also rebellious; but rebellion & curiosity are both a part of growing up, because they’re both products of human nature. They are not products of Gangsta Rap.
Just ask yourselves or your parents if you or they were always obedient or never curious? And surely Gangsta Rap can’t be blamed for being liked by the people who like it or its content found relatable or exciting by the millions of people who find it relatable & exciting.
If someone has a problem with the content or profanity, then what they really have a problem with is the various ills of society that created the Gangster Culture; the Gangster Mentality; and most especially the fascination that has accompanied such things for these many years. While the ones who lay blame are at it, they might want to save an immense amount of blame to lay at the feet of parenting, or rather, lack thereof. And instead of trying to task the originators of this music with fixing a problem they didn’t create. Perhaps the Blamers could take some action and do something themselves to quell the problem. Something other than complain about a problem that’s truly older than the country itself and something other than point the finger at the originators of Gangsta Rap. Who, while only youths themselves, created a form of expression through music that allowed them to turn their own deplorable living situations into a global entrepreneurial enterprise worth billions and has opened the doors for so many like themselves to achieve success in environments where the opportunity for such heights of success was all but non-existent.