Don't Judge a Man by the Color of his Rag: The Reality and Resistance of Gangsta Rap Among Los Angeles Gang Members
Davis, Mamie C.
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This thesis shares interactive, performative stories regarding the intersection of gang culture and gangsta rap music. For a total of twenty-one days in a nine month span, I conducted ethnographic participant observation and in-depth interviews with sixteen former gang members and gangsta rap artists. While there I encountered, rode around, and hung with countless gang members belonging to both Crips and Bloods in South Central, Long Beach, Compton, and Inglewood. Although focusing on historic influences, this thesis travels through the present and positions itself as a future, utopic plot. The time period discussed in the thesis, 1986-1996, coincides with the first wave of gangsta rap and the years of active gangbanging and/or music training for these men. In the time discussed, the narratives and interviews have collectively shared one story: music was used to resist oppression while also reinforcing the oppressed mindset. By categorizing gangsta rap as a dystopian performative, I provide insight on the reality of music through reception and resistance of the LA Black Community. Through my journey to Los Angeles, I discovered that the reality of the music is deeper than the subculture; instead, it is planted in the larger community. Gangsta rap disrupted the ignorance of society and the ignored concerns of the Black community. It demanded attention and addressed Black oppression. Specifically, the time period encountered entrenched hardship built upon police tactics and the drug trade.