John Ford, Gary Cooper and TuPac:
Gangsta Rap and the Wild Wild West

created by Keonna Carter, June 2002

Moral Fibers of the Wild Wild West

The reason why Americans excuse and accept the violence of Westerns as entertainment is because they are portrayed to have moral reasoning. The reason why Ringo is the hero of Stagecoach (1939) despite his criminal record and his killing of at least two people is because the audience is able to appreciate the retribution of the killing and the necessity of killing his enemies before they kill him.
   
Although perceived differently by critics (because it is not excused, accepted, or appreciated), this same idea of moral reasoning is usually the driving force behind the violence of gangsta rap. In his song, "Violent," Tupac Shakur laments the following:

Just cuz I refuse to be silent
These hipocrites I havin' fears
Cuz i'm not buying it, defying it
Envious, because I will rebel against
Any oppresor, and this is known as self defense
I show no mercy, they claim that i'm tha Lunatic
But when tha shit gets thick, i'm tha one you got and get
Don't look so confused, tha truth is so plain ta see
Cause i'm tha nigga tha you sell-outs are ashamed to be
And every jeep and and every car, while they stop us
I'm never ignorant, getten goals accomplished
Tha underground railroad on an uprise
This time tha truth is getten told
Heard enough lies
I told'em fight back, attack on society
If this is violence then violents what I gotta be
If you investigate you'll find out where it's coming from
Look through our history, Americas tha violent one
Unlock my brain, break tha chains of your misery
This time tha pay back for evil shit you did too me
They call me militant and racist cause I won't resist
You wanna censor something
Mothafucka censor this!
My words are weapons, and i'm stepin to tha sirens
Wakin up tha masses
But you, claim that i'm violent…

   
In this passage, Tupac proclaims, "I will rebel against any oppressor, and this is known as self defense." Generally, this is an admirable, American, constitutionally sanctioned act. In this song, Tupac is not fighting for the sake of fighting or killing for the sake of killing, but rather he is fighting back because he is tired of being a victim of society's racism, stereotyping, and racial profiling. What could be less moral?
 
watch the Stagecoach clip and compare it to "Violent". clip
   
Introduction | Howdy West Was Born | History of Rap | Death as a Theme | Violence as a Theme | The Moral Fiber of the West | Rapping It Up | References