Rapresenting: The Miscellaneous Meaning of Gangsta Rap in 1990s America

by Inge Oosterhoff

Institution: Leiden University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Gangsta Rap; African American Studies; Music; American History; Moral Panic; Black Music; Cultural History
Record ID: 1265360
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/31957


This study examines the public debate surrounding gangsta rap as a musical genre in 1980s-1990s America. Whereas most academic studies of the genre have focused on testing and contesting negative stereotyping of the music by approaching the genre as a cultural and political product with deep roots in African-American history and culture, this study focuses on the public reactions that emerged against the genre as well as the national discourses that ensued. An extensive analysis of the treatment of those stereotypes and characteristics most commonly ascribed to gangsta rap in scholarly research and anti-gangsta rap campaigns, this study constructs a better understanding of the way gangsta rap was defined by its mainstream opponents (black and white), what its societal positioning was in an era of increasing poverty and tension in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and why the genre was considered so controversial. Additionally, the public discussion of gangsta rap is linked to the concurrent public discussion of crime, African-American youth and economically disenfranchised neighborhoods, which offers interesting new insights into the problematic stereotyping of these subjects in American society.