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

created by Keonna Carter, June 2002

The Birth and Delivery of Rap Music

Rap music is unapologetically direct and personal. A part of a continuum-- rap is the latest in a line of new music created primarily by Black Americans. Like its forerunners, the blues, jazz and rock 'n' roll, rap has been subjected to attacks by mainstream white America for its explicit language and frequently raunchy themes.
When it began, rap was apolitical "party music," with limited social relevance. However, that changed in 1988 with "A Nation of Millions" by Public Enemy (Rose 276). The rap scene became even more political with the emergence of N.W.A. (Niggas With Attitudes), which ushered in an era of anger rooted in the frustration of being young and Black in Los Angeles, CA. Its lyrical violence was often directed towards the white LAPD and was heavily criticized because like the LAPD's handling of young Black men, it held no punches.
Akin to the genre of Westerns, rap music is a blend of reality and fiction. Rap music is a contemporary response to conditions of joblessness, poverty and disempowerment. Smitherman writes:

Given its mission-- "disturb the peace"-- much of rap music has a moral edge. This music has become a-- or, perhaps the-- principle medium of Black youth to "express thier views of the world" and to seek to "create a sense of order" out of the turbulence and choas of their, and our lives, (Smitherman 5).

Despite the 1990s' emergence of guns, violence, misogyny, and overused taboo language in rap music, the founding mission of rap remains that clearly reflected in pioneer Rapper Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 1982 hit song, "The Message." They decry the deplorable conditions of the "hood" as follows:

Broken glass everywhere
People pissin' on the stair,
You know they just don't care.
I can't take the smell, I can't take the noise...
Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge,
I'm tryin' not to lose my head.
It's like a struggle sometimes
That make me wonder how I keep from going under.
watch the beginnings of rap clip. Next watch how the rap sound is produced clip. Finally, watch how rap changed by listening to The Message 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