John Ford, Gary Cooper and TuPac:
created by Keonna Carter, June 2002
Gangsta Rap and the Wild Wild West
Live by the Gun, Die by the
Gun: Death and the Wild Wild West
|In his book, The American West: The Invention of a Myth, David
Murdoch explains that ultimately, living in the West is a matter of death.
The genre of Westerns are essentially about conflict. The plots invariably
pit the lone hero against society, (usually represented by a sheriff in
the form of "the law"), enemies, or nature itself. Since both the hero and
his enemies cannot triumph, death not only becomes a recurrent theme, but
a necessary phenomenon in Westerns, by which challengers are eliminated.
| Like Westerns, conflict is the thematic underpinning of gangsta
raps. In keeping with the Western conventions, the rapper becomes the lone
hero who is pit against society, (most often represented by the police department
in the form of "the law"); enemies from adjoining neighborhoods,
gangs, or sets; or nature itself, in the form of the deplorable living conditions
and menacing environment of their "hoods." And because there can
only be one victor, death becomes the vehicle by which the rapper's opposition
| In Clint Eastwood's 1992 western, The Unforgiven,
Ned Logan and The "Schofield Kid" discuss what they believe to be the imminence
of Bill Munny's death. The "Schofield Kid" claims to be well acquainted
with death and non-emotional about its looming presence. His plans for action
following Munny's "death" illustrates how commonplace and central death
is to heroes in Westerns.
|Similarly, in Tupac Shakur's song, "To Live and Die in L.A."
from the album "Makaveli-- The Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory,"
Tupac addresses the ever-presence of death by rapping, "Shed tears
as we bury niggaz close to heart; What was a friend now a ghost in the dark."
In a more poetical fashion than typically found in Westerns, Tupac describes
the death of a close friend. The fact that Tupac only allots two lines for
the death of a close friend may seem unfeeling and insensitive, however
it is just a reflection of the indifference that accompanies the repeat
occurrence of an event. The title of the song, "To Live and Die in
L.A." equates life and death in the West (L.A.) and the repetition
of those six words immunes the listener to the inevitable deaths that occur
in L.A. because it is so often accompanied by living in the song.
|watch the The Unforgiven clip
and compare it to "To Live and Die in L.A.". 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 |