by Mike Vinti
Since its inception gangsta rap has been a thorn in the side of the establishment. Brash, violent and loud, its explosion in the late 80s and 90s tore up the rule book of hip hop and reshaped the genre in its own image, introducing the world to the harsh reality of life on the streets of black America. With the cinematic release of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ a week away (August 15th) it only seems fitting to look back at some of gangster rap’s greatest and explore its legacy thirty years on.
Gangsta rap is hip hop’s bratty younger brother, fed on the social conscious rhymes of early hip hop but filled with the anger of a generation excluded from the yuppie party of the eighties. Like punk before it, its church is broad, ranging from the smooth, sun-drenched rhythms of G-Funk, to the hard edged, sample heavy boom bap of Wu Tang Clan. Frequently criticised by those on the left and the right for glorifying violence and misogyny, scapegoated for the prevalence of crime in black communities, and beloved to many a hip hop head, the story of gangsta rap is the story of poverty in America, as relevant to this day as it was back in ’86.