Gangsta rap [gangster]
- Joseph E. Morgan
Rap subgenre. It is characterized by semi-spoken rhymes that are declaimed over a rhythmic musical backing, texts that emphasize the violence of street life, and artists that depend on a violent public image for a measure of their authenticity.
In the mid-1970s hip hop materialized from a culture rife with street gangs, but much early rap was party-themed and lighthearted in content. Rap’s lyrical themes began to change after the release of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (1982), which signaled a more serious lyrical turn. Rappers began to exploit the imagery of gang warfare in order to “dis” (disrespect) other competing groups. This approach also offered disenfranchised African American youth a way to strike back against police brutality and other aspects of systematized racism even as its adoption of outlaw narratives conformed to dominant media images of black criminality and hypersexuality. Philadelphia rapper Schooly D’s “Gangster Boogie” (...