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Gangsta
Gangsta

Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip hop that reflects the violent lifestyles of some inner-city youths. Gangsta is a non-rhotic pronunciation of the word gangster. The genre was pioneered in the mid 1980s by rappers such as Schooly D and Ice T, and was popularized in the later part of the 1980s by groups like N.W.A. After the national attention that Ice-T and N.W.A created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gangsta rap became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip hop.

The subject matter inherent in gangsta rap has caused a great deal of controversy. Criticism has come from both left wing and right wing commentators, and religious leaders, who have accused the genre of promoting violence, profanity, homophobia, racism, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shootings, vandalism, thievery, drug dealing, alcohol abuse, substance abuse and materialism.

The 1973 album Hustler's Convention by Lightnin' Rod and Jaren Clark featured lyrics that deal with street life, including pimping and the hustling of drugs. The Last Poets member Jalal Mansur Nuriddin delivers rhyming vocals in the urban slang of his time, and together with the other Last Poets members, was quite influential on later hip hop groups, such as Public Enemy. Many rappers, such as Ice T and Mac Dre, have credited pimp and writer Iceberg Slim with influencing their rhymes. Rudy Ray Moore's stand-up comedy and films based on his Dolemite hustler-pimp alter ego also had an impact on gangsta rap and are still a popular source for samples. Finally, blaxploitation films of the 1970s, with their vivid depictions of black underworld figures, were a major inspiration as well. For example, the opening skit on Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle is an homage to the famous bathtub scene in the 1972 film Super Fly, while the rapper Notorious B.I.G. took his alias "Biggie Smalls" from a character in the 1975 film Let's Do It Again.

Philadelphia MC Schoolly D can probably be credited as the first rapper to use the word "gangster" in one of his songs. In his 1984 12" single "Gangster Boogie" he mentions it with "I shot call a with my gangster lean". He released the 12" single "P.S.K." (short for Park Side Killers) in 1985. In this song, Schoolly D makes direct references to his gang (PSK) as well as describing putting his pistol against another rapper's head. Schoolly D is often considered a pioneer in hardcore rap as well as gangsta rap. His fellow Philadelphian, Steady B, also helped pave the way for gangsta rap's popularity.

In 1986, Los Angeles based rapper Ice-T released "6 in the Mornin'", which is often regarded as the first gangsta rap song.

N.W.A is the group most frequently associated with pioneering gangsta rap. Their lyrics were more violent, openly confrontational, and shocking than those of established rap acts, featuring incessant profanity and, controversially, use of the n-word(nigger). These lyrics were placed over rough, rock guitar-driven beats, contributing to the music's hard-edged feel. Eazy E, an ex-drug dealer from the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, founded N.W.A. and Ruthless Records, which would become the premier gangsta rap label and an important force in promoting the new genre. Eazy E's first single, 1987's "Eazy-Duz-It", which, like Schoolly D's "P.S.K.", dealt with gangland themes, was one of the most important early gangsta rap records, becoming an underground anthem for members of L.A.'s burgeoning gang scene, the Crips and Bloods.

The New York rap group Run DMC is often credited with popularizing hardcore and confrontational attitudes and lyrics in hip hop culture, and were one of the first rap groups to dress in flashy, gang-like street clothing. Their stripped-down, rock-inspired beats were also important in establishing the early gangsta rap production style. The seminal Long Island-based group Public Enemy featured aggressive, politically-charged lyrics, which had an especially strong influence on gangsta rappers such as Ice Cube and Nas. East Coast rappers like Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, LL Cool J, and EPMD also reflected the trend in hip-hop music in the late 1980s towards hard-hitting, aggressive, and politically-conscious lyrics, sometimes revolving around street violence, poverty, and gunplay.

Before the late nineties, gangsta rap, while a big-selling genre, had been regarded as well outside of the pop mainstream, committed to representing the experience of the inner-city and not "selling out" to the pop charts. However, the rise of Bad Boy Records, propelled by the massive crossover success of Bad Boy head Sean "Puffy" Combs's 1997 ensemble album, No Way Out, on the heels of the media attention generated by the murders of 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., signaled a major stylistic change in gangsta rap (or as it is referred to on the East Coast, hardcore rap), as it morphed into a new subgenre of hip hop which would become even more commercially successful and popularly accepted. The earlier, somewhat controversial crossover success enjoyed by popular gangsta rap songs like "Gin and Juice" gave way to gangsta rap's becoming a widely-accepted staple on the pop charts in the late 1990s. For example, between the release of The Notorious B.I.G.'s debut album Ready to Die in 1994 and his follow-up, the posthumous Life After Death in 1997, his sound changed from a darker, tense production, with lyrics projecting desperation and paranoia, to a cleaner, more laid-back sound, fashioned for popular consumption (though the references to guns, drug dealing and life as a thug on the street remained).

A Cash Money artist, The B.G., popularized a catch phrase in 1999 that captures the main focus of much mainstream hip-hop since the late 1990s: "Bling-Bling." Whereas much gangsta rap of the past had portrayed the rapper as protesting urban squalor, by the late 1990s mainstream gangsta rappers seemed focused on projecting an image of extreme affluence, materialism, and hedonism, with fancy jewelry, clothes, liquor, and women becoming frequent themes in gangsta rap lyrics and videos. Many of the artists who achieved such mainstream success, such as G-Unit and Jay-Z, originated from the gritty East Coast rap scene and were influenced by hardcore artists such as The Notorious B.I.G and Nas. Mase and Cam'ron are also typical of the more relaxed, casual flow that became the pop-gangsta norm. By contrast, gangsta rappers like Eminem and DMX enjoyed commercial success in the late 1990s by rapping about ever-more macabre tales of death and violence, maintaining commercial relevance by attempting to be controversial and subversive.

Gangtas live lives similar, but less extreme, to those described in gangsta rap. They wear baggy tracksuits, trainers and a lot of bling. They use hip hop slang such as 'homie' more often than your average hip hopper and are prone to doing random hand signals.

Image from deviantart, info -save for the last paragraph, which is mine- from wikipeida.

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