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Racial Discrimination and Gangsta Rap Essay Sample

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Racial Discrimination and Gangsta Rap Essay Sample

One of the entrenched and multifaceted problems that continuously plague and segregate the American people is racial discrimination.  It had been intimately intertwined within the fabric of American society following its deep historical roots that shaped that nation from its record of slavery and oppression, racial equality and the civil rights movements to its present culmination of electing the first black president of the country.  In our contemporary times, the explicit forms of enmity and tension similar to the tyranny perpetuated by slavery or the Klu Klux Clan may have wane down, but the segregation brought about by racial stigma and inequality continue to persist and manifests itself in institutionalized mechanisms. (Tynes, et al, 2008, p345)   This is the reality that is depicted in the Gangsta Rap music of Tupac, Ice-T, NWA and other similar artists.  Beyond the glitz and glamour of street parties, the promiscuity of the “bitches and hoes”, the profanity of its language and seeming exaltation of violence and aggression, Gangsta Rap is the serious literary art that portrays the experience and reality of African Americans in the ghetto.

“Gangsta” rap refers to subgenre of hip-hop music characterized by violent lyrics with themes that involve “criminal acts, sexism, amplified misogynistic perspectives and violent demeanor (e.g. vandalism and substance abuse) often perpetuated by the artists themselves”.  (Price, 2006, p58)  “Gangsta” is the distorted term for gangster, which refers to members of notorious street racial gangs (i.e. African American gangs) that proliferated in the inner city streets across America and the corruption of the youth. Gangsta Rap was meant to capture the difficult life, insecurities and injustice that African youth experience in the white dominated American society.  One of most influential pioneers of gangsta rap that tried to open the public’s eye to racial discrimination is Tupac Shakur. In his song “Changes”, which was meant to encourage people to end racial discrimination, Tupac explicitly and plainly declared the oppressed state of African Americans, to wit:

“I’m tired of bein’ poor & even worse I’m black. my stomach hurts so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch. Cops give a damn about a negro, pull the trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares, one less hungry mouth on the welfare. First ship ’em dope & let ’em deal the brothers, give ’em guns step back watch ’em kill each other”
(Lyrics cited from McKittrick and Woods, 2007, p72)

Without the need to further interpret or read between the lines, this rap song unambiguously described the oppression, injustice and discrimination that African Americans experience in reality. It illustrated that the poverty and the weakness of Black Americans are consequences of racism, economic discrimination and other forms of oppression.  These are incidentally the circumstances or conditions that pushed minorities into joining gangs, distrust and defy the government.

Meanwhile, the popularity of Gangsta rap among African Americans had precipitated discrimination in the musical culture creating a dichotomy of rap typified as black music and rock typified as white music (Reeves, 2009, p48).  However, the prevalence of gangsta music and hip hop in general in modern culture provide African American artists greater mileage and representation in mainstream media. Through music, as a creative form of human expression, activist artists were able to channel their condemnation or denunciation of the extant racial repression and suppression that afflicted the ethnic minorities in the US.  With the pervasiveness and dominance of mass media as a source of information and opinion, Gangsta rap have enormously contributed as a mass mediator to open the eyes of the people to the unseen face of discrimination and hope to ideally shape the people towards a better, more just and orderly society.


McKittrick, K. and Woods., C.A. (2007). Black geographies and the politics of place 2nd edition. Between the Lines

Price, E.G. (2006). Hip hop culture. ABC-CLIO Publications

Reeves, M. (2009). Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence in the Aftershock of Black Power. Faber & Fabers Press

Tynes, B.M, Neville, H.E. and Utsey, S.O. (2008). Handbook of African American Psychology. Sage Publications

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