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

created by Keonna Carter, June 2002

Problems Solved by Violence

In the Wild Wild West, there is only one way to solve conflict: voilence. Violence is one of the fundamental elements of Westerns. Because audiences expect violence, they are largely able to set aside its vulgarity and frequency and extract the violence's "merit." They accept the violence as something the hero had to do to survive because they are able to identify with the feelings of morality and necessity that the portrayal of the hero attaches to his violence.
For example, in the clip of Will Smith's 1999 film, Wild Wild West, President Grant, played by Kevin Kline admonishes James West, (played by Will Smith) about his method of using violence up to and including killing to solve conflicts. Also, James West has many guns, which he brandishes to instill fear and gain respect from those that oppose him.
Gangsta rap music is not much different from Westerns in terms of the frequency and sense of morality attached to violence. In his 1989 hit, "Wild Wild West," Kool Moe Dee raps:

We chill nobody get ill
In the place we call the hill
But if you try 'em
That's when they will
Get wild but they don't fight, they kill
At the...

The Wild Wild West (repeat 4x)

In so many words, Kool Moe Dee is expressing the sentiment that when there is no conflict, everything is cool--they "chill," however, in keeping with the Western conventions, as soon as conflict arises ("if you try 'em"), not only will they violently respond by fighting you, "they kill." Moreover, many rappers use guns as the weapon of choice to do just what James West does in Wild Wild West-- instill fear and gain respect from those that try to test them.
watch the Wild Wild West clip and listen to the "Wild Wild West"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