Gangsta rap or gangster rap, initially called reality rap, is a subgenre of hip hop music that emerged in the mid- to late 1980s as a distinct but highly controversial rap subgenre, whose lyrics assert the culture and values typical of American, predominantly black street gangs and street hustlers. (Many gangsta rappers flaunt associations with real street gangs, like the Crips and the Bloods) Gangsta rap’s reputed, earliest pioneers were Los Angeles rapper Ice-T, influenced by Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D, and especially rap group N.W.A. By 1995, via record producer Dr. Dre and rapper Snoop Dogg, gangsta rap had taken the rap genre’s lead and become mainstream, popular music.
Gangsta rap has been recurrently accused of promoting disorderly conduct and broad criminal actions as well as misogyny, promiscuity, and materialism. Also those rap songs wrote about street life or hood life. Gangsta rap’s defenders have variously characterized it as artistic depictions but not literal endorsements of real life in American ghettoes, or suggested that some lyrics voice rage against social oppression or police brutality, and have often accused critics of hypocrisy and racial bias. The big thing is that gangsta rap tends to be musically stronger and more creative. It has grittier beats, denser and more ambitious rhymes, more pointed political and social commentary, and darker humor. It’s also dramatically more offensive, but that’s part of the allure. Still, gangsta rap has been assailed even by some black public figures, in the 1990s by pastor Calvin Butts and by activist C. Delores Tucker, and later by Spike Lee.
The explicit nature of gangsta rap’s lyrics has made it heavily controversial. There is also debate about the causation between gangsta rap and violent behavior. A study by the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, Calif., finds young people who listen to rap and hip-hop are more likely to abuse alcohol and commit violent acts.
Critics of gangsta rap hold that it glorifies and encourages criminal behavior, and may be at least partially to blame for the problem of street gangs. Although this view is often stereotyped as that of white conservatives, it has been shared by members of the black community, most notably Bill Cosby.
Those who are supportive or at least less critical of gangsta rap hold that crime on the street level is for the most part a reaction to poverty and that gangsta rap reflects the reality of lower class life. Many believe that the blaming of crime on gangsta rap is a form of unwarranted moral panic; The World Development Report 2011, for instance, confirmed that most street gang members maintain that poverty and unemployment is what drove them to crime; none made reference to music. Ice Cube famously satirized the blame placed on gangsta rap for social ills in his song “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It”.
Moreover, English scholar Ronald A.T. Judy has argued that gangsta rap reflects the experience of blackness at the end of political economy, when capital is no longer wholly produced by human labor but in a globalized system of commodities. In this economy, gangsta rap traffics blackness as a commodifiable affect of “being a nigga”. In other words, gangsta rap defines the experience of blackness, in which he locates in gangsta rap’s deployment of the “N word”, in this new global economic system as “adaptation to the force of commodification”. For Judy, “N word” (and gangsta rap) becomes an epistemologically authentic category for describing the condition of being black in the modern “realm of things”.
Despite this, many who hold that gangsta rap is not responsible for social ills are critical of the way many gangsta rappers intentionally exaggerate their criminal pasts for the sake of street credibility. Rick Ross and Slim Jesus among others have been heavily criticized for this.