Letters to the Editors

Gangster Rap and the Hip Hop Revolution

By Johnny Gould

“I was in the Tenderloin in San Francisco at a coffee shop maybe nine years ago and I was talking to an OG musician. I think he said that he used to be a member of The Whispers, or The Spinners, I can’t remember exactly. But he said to me, ‘gangster rap destroyed Black culture, Black music and the Black family.’ He said, ‘let that marinate.’” —From “The Real Frisco Group” on Facebook

If we’re talking about the specific era that so called gangster rap (reality rap) became popular, it’s irresponsible to only talk about the outcome without talking about the cause—and the “war on drugs” was the cause.

The so-called war on drugs was/is state inflicted warfare on working poor people that especially targets the Black population. Both African American and Latin communities become the target. Pumping endless amounts of high-power dope into the communities from which gangster rap sprung up resulting in over-policing, racial profiling, and unjustified incarceration, on top of a rampant drug epidemic. But claiming it’s the music’s fault? Give me a break! It’s like me blaming my reflection in the mirror for any crimes or harm I’ve ever caused.

I call bullshit on the elders theory, with all due reason. And the mainstream music industry uses this same image to manipulate younger generations into perpetuating the same cycle of self-destruction. By selling the gangster/drug image to look like a party. And the fact that it can be a way out—sometimes the only way out—makes it more of a necessity than a choice for the hardest hit. For what? So, the people on top can siphon more money out of the working class while using the working class against itself through mainstream instigated violence—to prevent us from realizing the actual power people possess when we come together for a common cause.

Rap music came from underserved and impoverished communities with little to no resources in terms of art and music. The community improvised with what was available and created more than a whole new genre of music, it created a culture of revolution.

Hip Hop is the culture and language that sparked a revolution of power into the lives of seemingly powerless communities. It gave a voice to the voiceless, and gangster rap gives a voice to outcasted segments of society on the front lines of the war on drugs—a war against people.

—November 2, 2021