top of page

A 12 Min. History of Gangster Rap

So consensus seems to be that the Godfather of "Gangsta Rap" was Philadelphia born Scholly D. If you ask most people who they think started Gangsta rap as a style, they will probably say Ice T.

And they are wrong. Around 85 Scholly D teamed up with DJ Code Money creating music reflective of his hard knock environment. He would go on to contribute music for several of Abel Ferrara films, including "P.S.K." and King of New York. Ice T himself has even gone on record acknowledging Schooly D as the first to do it.

"The first record that came out along those lines was Schoolly D's "P.S.K. When I heard that record I was like, "Oh shit!" and call it a bite or what you will but I dug that record. My record didn't sound like "P.S.K.," but I liked the way he was flowing with it."

Said inspiration sparked Ice T to launch a movement in California that would revolutionize rap as we know it.

After leaving the Army, in an attempt to avoid getting involved in the gang laden LA streets. A young Tracy Marrow began making a name for himself as a DJ. As a tribute to Iceberg Slim, Marrow adopted the stage name Ice-T.

In 1986, Ice-T would release his now iconic "6 in the Mornin'. Ice-T finally landed a deal with a major label Sire Records. When label founder and president Seymour Stein heard his demo, he was remembered to have said, "He sounds like Bob Dylan."

Long story short, Ice T would later go on to get flack for his song "Cop Killer". And by flack I mean Time Warner Music refused to release his next album and he would subsequently leave the label shortly after. It's actually really ironic that a guy who's biggest rap song was titled cop killer would move on to acting where he has pertained more cops than any single person in history.

By 87 the ball was rolling, a spark had been lit in California and a combination of a thriving gang culture and inspired youth brought a new term into the lexicon. Gangsta Rap was born. Poised to capitalize off this new wave was a group of kids from LA. You may know them as NWA.

We've all seen the movie so I don't have to go into too much detail, but NWA took gangsta rap and introduced it to the world. They took you on a vivid trip through the streets of LA right from your speakers, no matter where you may have been listening from.

NWA was not only extremely integral in gansta rap, but in rap as a whole, once the group broke up we got a chance to truly see how talented many of them were. With Ice Cube and Dr. Dre being the most popular ex plants many forget the role the DOC played in furthering the gnagsta rap movement.

The DOC or Tracy Lynn Curry was a rapper, songwriter, and producer actually from here in Dallas. He started as a part of a group Fila Fresh Crew and later collaborated with gangsta rap group N.W.A, where he co-wrote many of their releases, as well as Eazy-E's solo debut album Eazy-Duz-It.

He has also worked with Dr. Dre, co-writing his solo debut album, while Dre returned tha favor by producing DOC's solo debut album, released by Ruthless Records.

In 1989, he released his debut album, No One Can Do It Better, which reached number-one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for two weeks, and spawned two number one hits on the Hot Rap Songs chart: "It's Funky Enough" and "The D.O.C. & The Doctor".

In late 1989, months after the release of No One Can Do It Better, The D.O.C. suffered a serious car accident that resulted in the crushing of his larynx, permanently changing his voice. Since his recovery, he has released two more albums, Helter Skelter in 1996 and Deuce in 2003. Since 2006, The D.O.C. has been working on new material for his fourth album Voices.

Not to be out done, the east coast was doing it's thing around this time too. Gone were the Rappers Delight and Run DMC days, rappers like Kool G Rap had began to incorporate more of the street element into their music.

Nathaniel Thomas Wilson better known as Kool G Rap began his career in the mid-1980s as one half of the group Kool G Rap & DJ Polo and as a member of the Juice Crew. He is often cited as one of the most influential and skilled MCs of all time, and a pioneer of mafioso rap/street rap containing hardcore content.

G Rap has been named as a major influence to some of hip-hop's most critically acclaimed figures, the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Eminem and Jay-Z, as well as many underground rappers.

By 1990 gangsta rap was in full swing, and there were tons of rappers pouring out of the West Coast. By now NWA Had broken up and Ice Cube was on solo rampage. His albums AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate are recognized as classics by many a hip hop head.

Following the release of Death Certificate, Ice Cube transitioned into film, where his popularity was further enhanced by his starring role in Boyz n the Hood. A feat that not only proved that rappers were starting to gain mainstream respect, but also shed light on a lucrative new avenue for rhyme slingers.

Another west coast native making noise in 1990 was the Bay area's own Too Short. Todd Anthony Shaw began rapping in 1985, becoming one of Oakland's better known underground emcees, before he signed a deal with Jive Records in 1987.

He experienced his first widespread success with his 1989 follow-up album Life Is...Too Short, and remained one of the most popular rappers into the 1990s. There's an entire generation that learned game from short, and how could you not remember his favorite catch phrase.

Guys from The south were icing to get their feet wet and in 1990 a trio from Houston Texas broke down the industry doors. The Ghetto Boys consisting of Scarface, Bushwick Bill and Willie D.

In the early 1990s, several American politicians attacked rap artists associated with the sub genre gangsta rap, including the Geto Boys. A high-profile incident in which Bushwick Bill lost an eye in a shooting helped boost sales of the group's 1991 album We Can't Be Stopped. The album cover features a graphic picture of the injured Bushwick being carted through a hospital by Scarface and Willie D.

On the album's title track, the group responded to Geffen Records ending its distribution deal with Def American. The album featured the single "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," which became a hit and charted at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Despite the best efforts of some in the US government, by 93 gangster rap was booming hurling down the track at unstoppable speeds. California had several top teir stars including MC Eight, and the Dr. Dre and Suge Knight formed Death Row Records, and they owned the ears of the public.

93 saw the rise of Snoop Dog among countless others from the Death Row machine, while groups like Wu Tang Clan and Gangstar were gain fame from New York. The aforementioned Wu Tang Clan would spark a longstanding relationship with hip hop fans, the wooping 9 man group is regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time.

1994 saw the emergence of 2 of arguably the best lyricist of all time in Tupac and Nas. These 2 need no introduction, you can't find a person around the glob that has not heard of 2pac and Nas is no slouch himself.

This began to mark a bit of a change of trajectory as far as content goes, as these 2 among others began to cover all aspects of the ghetto not just the shoot shoot bang bang stories of a drug dealers life. Despite the yen and yang nature of artist like Tupac's craft, activist such as C Delorious Tucker worked hard to bring an end to this particular style of rap.

By 96 a new class of usual suspects began to make waves, Mobb Deep, and Big L represented the cold gritty streets of New York with their tales of hustlers lore and action rap. While rappers like Jay z and Notorious Big would weave beautiful tapestries of a drug dealers past laden with with and words to live by wisdom.

Groups like the ghetto boys and 8 ball and mjg showed that the south could hold it's own, but in 1997 Master P and his No Limit records would take it to a whole new level. Percy Miller revolutionized the way rappers get paid by laying out a blueprint that minimized the role that major labels played in a rappers earnings.

The late 90s saw the height of record sales, a sort of peak before the fall if you will, Rappers like 50 cent cashed in on the tail end of the bullish run. He and the Young Jeezys of the world made no bones about being street guys first with Jeezy proudly proclaiming not to be a rapper but a hustler.

At the turn of the century gangster rap began to transform and take on a new look, autotunes slowly inched it's way into the genre and many rappers began to take a how should we say, less edgy tone.


Recent Posts

Follow Us

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon
bottom of page