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Modern gang culture in the hip-hop industry

Examples of past and present 'gangster rap' albums.
Examples of past and present 'gangster rap' albums.
Jonathan Mannion, 'The Documentary' album cover

In the late 1980’s there was an emergence of a new type of hip hop known as gangster rap. It was hip hop music that referenced and focused on the gang life which included guns, drugs, sex and violence. Many legendary albums and artists came from this initial surge of gangster rap including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and N.W.A.

All these rappers claimed to be a part of the gang lifestyle and even Snoop stated to be a part of the Crip gang. This genre and style was designated between the late 80’s and early 90’s and is sometimes blamed for the death of famous rappers Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. The hostility and anger that came out of this sub-genre created two entirely new gangs: The East and The West.

Today, there are a new set of hip hop artists who grew up listening to these ‘O.G.’s’ (Original Gangsters) and are now incorporating the forefathers’ influence into their own music. The most notable new gangster in hip hop is Schoolboy Q who reps being a ‘Hoova Crip’ from Los Angeles.

His new album ‘Oxymoron’ talks about becoming a Crip and the lifestyle and experiences that came along with him being a gangbanger. Then, there’s YG from Compton (or as he says Bompton), who recently came out with his album ‘My Krazy Life’ and reps the Blood gang.

On the east coast, there is the group Tan Boys, most famously Bodega Bamz, who reps being a part of the Latin Kings gang. And lastly, there is the ever so talented Freddie Gibbs who recently came out with an album entirely produced by the legendary producer Madlib and graphically uses rhymes to paint the gangster lifestyle he grew up with in Indiana.

The main difference between then and now, is that the hostility is deceased. There is no Tupac claiming to sleep with another rapper’s wife, or shootings at recording studios. These rappers like Schoolboy Q rep their gang but don’t hold the hostility towards others like what would’ve happened in the early 90’s. Schoolboy Q’s fellow TDE member Jay Rock is a Blood himself.

On the streets they would be enemies, but with music they are friends and have each other’s back. This cohesive and peaceful atmosphere in the modern gang culture of hip hop shows the power of music and the positive influence of hip hop culture. The culture of using guns and violence to prosper in music isn’t reemerging which is progressive for hip hop culture. These happenings can make the artists and individuals who are apart of the culture better understood and, therefore, more appreciated musically, which is a notion that is long overdue.

Listen to:
Schoolboy Q- 'Hoover Street'
YG- 'Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)'
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib- 'Thuggin'

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