Gangsta: Merchandising Rhymes of Violence
Posted Mar 28 2006
Ro lends a critical, if not disgusted, look at the music known as “gangsta rap.” Arguing that big corporations sell violent behavior and attitudes, as well as violent music, he asks who is really benefiting and who is really suffering in the name of “free speech” and “keeping it real?” In his own words, “It details the regression of the art form into a minstrel show, where performers battle over who drinks more 40s, kills more n*ggaz, jacks more cars, slaps more hoes, and emerges as Gangsta Degenerate # 1.” Heavily composed of writings that appeared in magazines such as The Source, older fans might recognize some of these pieces, including an interview with Snoop Dogg.
His writings on various artists aren’t glorified press releases and the interviewees often come off as simpletons when asked tough questions. In addition to information culled from Q & A sessions, Ro gives his opinions on the truthfulness of the information he is fed and describes the interview process, which is often more interesting than the interview themselves as he describes gang beatings at a car show and hunting down Too Short in strip clubs. On the flip side, he probably could’ve kept some of the more personal information about himself to himself.
Another downside is the lack of cohesion of the articles in this book. They all have the common theme of hip hop, but the majority directly have little to do with the title itself. A feature on Luke is more about the misappropriation and stereotypical objectification of Black culture in Japan than shootouts, although Luke’s sexually explicit lyrics can be see as violence towards women. An interview with Gang Starr is quite insightful and gives a more personal view of member’s GURU and Premier than are usually seen, yet it fails to directly address the violence associated hip hop. A title change might have gone a long way in keeping this book from feeling disjointed. Considering that Ro also addresses how drug use and misogyny affects the industry, the title fails to do justice to this collection. Still, this is a good read and packed with great information, serving as no-holds barred look at the industry-side of hip hop, both good and bad. Pick it up.