Revolutionary Gangsta Rap

Just the other day, I was tweeting about my love for Rick Ross’ new album “Teflon Don” when this interaction occurred:

I didn’t mind the comment at all, instead, it triggered a further contemplation of “coke” aka gangsta rap for me.  I’m a person who takes pride in the fact that I don’t know every song on the radio, or care what the instructions are for the latest dance craze to hit the clubs.  I am, however, more proud of the fact that I don’t discriminate when it comes to music.  From “progressive” rap to “gangsta” rap, I love it all.  Although I prefer the more advocate-derived music for my motivation, I find a piece of gold in just about every sub-genre of hip hop.  I mean, I can simultaneously be inspired by Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu and Nas while knowing a bit of Jeezy’s snowman references, Lil Wayne’s cup infatuation, and the overall blissful ignorance of Lil’ Bossie.

No, of course no one should be endorsing drugs. But yes, more of us are in jail for selling than using–so what does that mean?  No, we shouldn’t be carrying around illegal guns.  But yes, many impoverished neighborhoods are flooded with them–so where do they come from?  Coke rap is not the opposite of progressive rap… it’s just different.

What I’m saying is this—we as a people are contradicting ourselves because the lifestyle we are raised in is a contradiction to man.  Why should I pay for water when it’s a necessity for life and to “be free” is always associated with the natural Earth?  Why are we so easy to submit to the police when the entire “objective” of their existence is to serve us?  What then, is wrong with rapping about drugs and guns when it’s a constant aspect of some of our daily lives, whether we choose it to be or not?

Gangsta rappers, for all I’m concerned, are the most important musicians for our mental and spiritual uprising.  Who hasn’t listened to an old school NWA track and wished you could break someone’s face?  And not just for any reason, but due to frustrations, hurt, confusion… Are they not the most feared?  Have you ever wondered why?  Is it not time for people to get angry?  Have we not had enough Oscar Grants and Sean Bells?  I can sit and listen to Freddie Gibb’s “National Anthem (Fuck The World)” ten times back-to-back because what he raps about isn’t only selling drugs and busting guns, but why.  The violence in our streets isn’t going to resolve itself by ignoring them.

Opinions are always weak from those who categorize “gangsta rappers” as ignorant artists contributing to the downfall of our society, because they’re based upon skewed facts.  If anything, they’re the key to finding a forum for these larger issues in society.  With every gangsta rapper comes politics because no matter what you do–you can’t escape it.  Yes, there’s awful artists in every genre, but true artists cover all aspects of the lifestyle.  This is evident in artists from Ice Cube to The Game, Vado to Nipsey Hussle…

Look, You a blood,I’m a crip/You a Tre, I’m a O/If you was raised off Slauson, You would be one too/Ya homeboys get low when they see me come through/And they say that I ain’t got crack/And that would be untrue, but every now and then I figure we can get back to/That black shit instead of killing and banging for crack shit/

Let the people speak until the people react.  If you’re tired of hearing about drugs, find out why so many sell them.  If you’re sick of hearing about killing and shooting, find out why so many people are angry.  Rick Ross’s “Tears of Joy” featuring Cee-Lo is my favorite track on the album because he speaks about overcoming the need for dependency of a criminal lifestyle.  We have so many kids seeking this feeling today that it’s rare to meet an impoverished black boy under 16 who isn’t aspiring to be a rapper or athlete.

This music is necessary, not progressive.  Each needs each other or else the argument will disappear and the problem will forever remain the same.  Until both worlds can function as one, let’s reach for understanding to make the changes we need to see.  We’re all responsible.

-Bubble Thoughts By @BubbleMami

Voice Your Opinion. Is This Bubbling, or Should It Be Popped?

7 Responses to “Revolutionary Gangsta Rap”
  1. M.C. K~Swift says:

    Since it was my comments that sparked this thoughtful piece, it’s fitting that I’m the first responder. 140 characters wasn’t nearly enough for you to understand where I’m really coming from. I know that most of what you wrote wasn’t in direct response to what I said but I feel compelled to address a number of your points. I agree overall with what you said, there are just some nuances I want to work around.

    The first thing I was questioning was your use of the word “heaven.” I don’t come from a religious background but I would assume that a heavenly place would have no room for kingpin levels of drug dealing, if any at all.

    You point out that the masses are exploited in relation their needs, such as water and that people submit unnecessarily to the police. You then cite these contradictions as reasons why rapping about drugs and violence is understandable. To a point, this makes sense. However, to embrace the music that promotes the presence of these contradictions is to embrace the contradictions themselves. To be short, we need more rebel music.

    I’m a Black man who understands our right to be angry. NWA’s “Fuck Da Police” is one of my favorite songs. It doesn’t say “Fuck Da Police because I want to break the law.” The sentiment is based out of a frustration with racial profiling (at least Ice Cube’s verse does). NWA ushered in “gangsta rap,” but when you listen to songs like “Dopeman” there’s a matter of perspective within the song itself. The pros and cons are laid out side by side.

    I have to question actively why “Tears of Joy” isn’t a single. I have to question why at the BBQ on my block, “Big Meech/ Larry Hoover” was on repeat for about 20 minutes? Why is the druglord/gangleader anthem the one that resonated most strongly out of everything else that played in my hood that night?

    I’m well aware of that it’s not our communities who import the cocaine that plagues our streets nor do we manufacture the guns that too many of our young people carry and use on one another. I know that there’s a bigger picture. So do most of those whom I labeled as “coke rap.” I’m tired of it. I’m not only tired of the rap, I’m tired of the values set that permits and encourages drug dealing in the hood. I’m tired of folks who don’t have much being trapped in addiction to materials. This is why I work with young people to think critically about the images they receive, whether from the mass media or from their lying ass school books.

    You ended with “we’re all responsible.” I think the glorification of drug dealing as a lifestyle is utterly irresponsible, whether in music, television or movies. Talking about life as it is is one thing. Painting a fantasy world that is ultimately suicidal is another. We know that our youth of color in the inner-cites have a vested interest and investment in these images because they are readily identifiable. In the ghetto there are varying degrees of access to the lifestyle depicted in “coke rap” in reality. Youngins see these images, hear these songs and say, “I could be that.” Often times it isn’t even coming out of necessity, but illusions of necessity. Everyone wants to be the freshest et c.
    The best evaluation of how these values are damaging to our communities is found in the Chairman Omali excerpt, “Wolves,” which was featured on dead prez’ intro to “Let’s Get Free.” –> check it here –

    I could talk about this for HOURS because not only am I a responsible emcee, I also work with youth, predominantly those of color in the inner-city. I am challenging the status quo, actively. I wish more artists would do the same.

    • Jazzi Jewel says:

      I can most definitely see where you’re coming from. The point of the piece was not to make an excuse for gangsta rap, but instead to open up eyes to those who simply don’t understand it. I would love to hear more kids rapping about revolution than drug dealing as well, but the reality of the matter is that we first have to work amongst ourselves to change things for the better. Of course you don’t have to like gangsta rap, but I feel to completely disregard it is to do the same thing to those who already feel marginalized and disregarded from a society that doesn’t care to offer the possibility of hope. They’re rapping about it because they grew up around it (most of them at least,) and whether or not they’re portraying it in the light we would like them to–its all still relevant for discussion. In the same way Nas’s “Nigger” is and Lupe’s “Dumb It Down”. Everyone holds their own weight.
      My ending statement of “we’re all responsible” refers to the fact that it’s up to all of us to assist in this change. Not that we’re all responsible for these misconceptions and misrepresentations, although it is all of our duty to correct them.
      In the end, we both have the same idea… just different points of view of how to reach our goal. I’m down for debate any day.

  2. Que says:

    Let tha REVOLUTION begin! When I purchased Nipsey’s mixtapes, I listened 2 em 4 8 months str8 on my Blackberry. His music really made my hours on tha clock enjoyable. I was amazed at his song “PayBack,” because it was thought provoking and showed he had awareness outside of him spitting LA lifestyle lyrics.

    Anyway, I’m a reaL Hip Hop Head. I don’t discriminate because everyone has something 2 say, but I’m tired of bullshit coming from bougie ass rappers, claiming to B hood, but aren’t really down 4 tha hood.

    Rappers R tha post influential people to tha hood. Dey R our leaders, so I find it offensive when filthy rich rappers rhyme about polluting our communities and flashing their very expensive goods on us. How many of them built communities stronger? How many give back? How many create or jobs? I’m not saying putting Ur hood on with drugs. Yeah ur homies can get rich but he has to risk his life 2 do it.

    Kids listen to this music. I know because I was maybe 9 years about when bought my 1st rap album.

    As tha people we need to hold deez niggaz hostage. They have tha $$$$$, power, and influence to make a change and make things better.

    Don’t come back to tha hood flashing ur shit around and we R all starving. Itz still a Recession (Jeezy we need a Recession Part Two Album. 4reaL). Y’all niggaz got all dis bread, then pay everyone’s in ur hood or projects’ rent.

    Take care of tha kids so they can stay focused on school. Keep them outta trouble. Sponsor youth leagues. If U can’t do 4 tha hood then do 4 tha kids. Dey R tha future.

  3. Que says:

    Let tha REVOLUTION begin:

    Now iz tha time. Itz funny how rappers dope tales and utha bullshit pollute tha hood, but when rappers like Game attempted to make a record about tha Sean Bell incident, no one join forces with him. That’s f**k’d up and so not Gangsta.

    We need more “Fuck The Police” records. No disrespect 2 tha rare cops who R down with/for tha people, but we can’t count on tha law. Its time 4 tha black community 2 B a family again. Save Ourselves and Protect Ourselves. Control our hoods. Rap plays a BIG part of this.

  4. yo says:

    nipsey shows remorse in his music you can hear in his music crime isn’t fun and he try to do better

    But rick ross is a cartoon character and as so he talks about drugs like its joke

    The two can’t be compare ones honest

    The others a fake product

  5. leosash says:

    Coke rap, gangsta rap (whatever you want to name it)provides a voice for young people (mostly men) to express their frustration or understanding of their world. Comprehension of the controlling forces causing an impact in their worlds,unfortunately, isn’t as easily grasped. What I find bothersome is the older, more cognizant rappers who know better than to rap about bullshit, but do it cause it sells.

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