Bizarrely, despite the fact that many critics have said the word is “disrespectful of police,” they are still taught to use it within the context of gangsta rap lyrics.
“It is a derogatory term,” he says, “but what are you to do? The term has been in the public eye since its invention in the mid-1980s. It is not a compliment.”
So if rap is not the genre, what is?
“There is no established genre in which to categorize it,” he explains. “It has come to be called ‘rap’ and we’ve seen a surge in popularity over the last few years. I think that’s true of any culture.”
Can gangsta rap be classified simply by what it is?
In a word: Yes! While not all gangs use lyrics that express gangsta rap, much of it does.
“There are rap artists that use gangsta rap as a method for conveying a message,” says Dr. James Gee, a sociology professor and rapper who also helps curate the website Hip Hop Nation. “There is a clear consensus among researchers about the social value of use of gangsta rap—although one of the most frequent criticisms about gangsta rap is that it is a tool used to sell drugs.”
“Gangsta rap” does not, however, denote rap songs that use the same kind of language one might expect for pop songs: lyrics that promote violence, drug use, and gangster style gangsterism. Nor does it refer only to lyrics made by gangsta rappers from New York, as one might assume. In fact, according to research published online this month in the Journal of Communication, some of the most common rap lyrics today don’t even come from the Bronx. In fact, they are often from Miami, the other major hip-hop city.
“In these songs, the lyrics often are about a specific person, such as a gang member,” says Kevin Linn, director of the Social Justice Research Institute at the University of Kentucky. “In some cases, the gangster is called the author of the rap because the speaker or lyrics include a reference to their own gang or violence. They are sometimes not even references to their own group; they could be describing their own or that of their friend’s gang.”
Why do some rap lyrics have gangster tendencies?
“I think of them simply as a way to connect to the audience,”
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