Gangsta Rap

Gangsta rap appeared in the mid-1980s whereby the lyrics or the artists themselves were connected to American street gangs. The style originated in 1985 with artists such as Schoolly D, who influenced the genre with his self-title debut record, and Ice-T, who experienced success in 1986 with his defining track, 6 in the Mornin’. The following year, Ice-T released his similarly successful debut studio record Rhyme Pays. 1988 was a landmark year for gangsta rap, seeing the release of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton which featured the infamous and controversial track Fuck tha Police which was a protest song covering the ongoing problem of police brutality. Coming from California, N.W.A’s immediate success subverted the idea that hip hop was exclusively an East Coast movement. Into the 90s, Ice Cube left N.W.A to release a variety of highly influential records. 

1991 also saw the release of N.W.A’s second record (now without Ice Cube), Efil4zaggin which was immensely successful, topping the Billboard 200. Other artists, such as Too Short and Above the Law were also experiencing success through gangsta rap style, meanwhile East Coast artists, such as Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane were adopting the style into their music. By 1992 Dr. Dre had left N.W.A and released his first solo venture, The Chronic, featuring Snoop Dog on many tracks. The record was extremely successful and is certified triple platinum. Gangsta rap continued to be incredibly popular and influential, leading to many of the biggest names in hip hop, if not all popular music. Gangsta rap typically feature aggressive beats and lyrics. The lyrical themes vary, covering socio-political issues, but also regularly cover gang crime, misogyny, drugs, materialism, and violence.

Notable artists:


Ice Cube


Dr. Dre

Snoop Dog



Too Short

The Notorious B.I.G.

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