Nuthin' but a "G" Thang

Nuthin' but a "G" Thang: The Culture and Commerce of Gangsta Rap

EITHNE QUINN
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/quin12408
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  • Book Info
    Nuthin' but a "G" Thang
    Book Description:

    In the late 1980s, gangsta rap music emerged in urban America, giving voice to -- and making money for -- a social group widely considered to be in crisis: young, poor, black men. From its local origins, gangsta rap went on to flood the mainstream, generating enormous popularity and profits. Yet the highly charged lyrics, public battles, and hard, fast lifestyles that characterize the genre have incited the anger of many public figures and proponents of "family values." Constantly engaging questions of black identity and race relations, poverty and wealth, gangsta rap represents one of the most profound influences on pop culture in the last thirty years.

    Focusing on the artists Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the Geto Boys, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur, Quinn explores the origins, development, and immense appeal of gangsta rap. Including detailed readings in urban geography, neoconservative politics, subcultural formations, black cultural debates, and music industry conditions, this book explains how and why this music genre emerged. In Nuthin'but a "G" Thang, Quinn argues that gangsta rap both reflected and reinforced the decline in black protest culture and the great rise in individualist and entrepreneurial thinking that took place in the U.S. after the 1970s. Uncovering gangsta rap's deep roots in black working-class expressive culture, she stresses the music's aesthetic pleasures and complexities that have often been ignored in critical accounts.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51810-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Further Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. CHAPTER 1 A Gangsta Parable
    (pp. 1-16)

    In 1986, the San Francisco–based brewer McKenzie River Corporation launched a new brand of malt liquor, a kind of high-alcohol beer, called St. Ides. Two years later, struggling to find a market niche, the brewer dramatically reoriented St. Ides’s brand image by dropping the soul group Four Tops as endorsers and turning instead to rap artists. Rather than employ the services of more established rappers, McKenzie River approached the underground, burgeoning rap scene in Los Angeles to market its product. The brewer signed up producer DJ Pooh (Mark Jordan), who was entrusted with production of the commercials. McKenzie River...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Gangsta’s Rap: BLACK CULTURAL STUDIES AND THE POLITICS OF REPRESENTATION
    (pp. 17-40)

    At the same moment that West Coast gangsta rap began to make an impression in sales charts and that King Tee and Ice Cube started to appear on urban billboards brandishing 40s, debates were heating up in the field of black cultural studies. Across the Atlantic in Britain, Stuart Hall influentially proclaimed “the end of the innocent notion of the essential black subject” in a 1988 conference paper and article entitled “New Ethnicities.” He identified “a significant shift in black cultural politics”: a shift away from replacing “their” bad forms with “our” good ones and toward a “new phase” that...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Alwayz Into Somethin’: GANGSTA’S EMERGENCE IN 1980s LOS ANGELES
    (pp. 41-65)

    Underpinning the New Times outlined in the last chapter were profound changes in the economic order of Western capitalist societies. “Post-Fordism,” as Edward Soja describes, marked the end of the era of mass production based around manufacturing, and the move, since the early 1970s, into increasingly flexible modes of accumulation. This new economic phase is characterized by the shift from manufacturing to service-sector work, the increasingly global flows of goods and services, and flexible but corporatized modes of production. All these trends assisted and even incubated production trends in the cultural industries such as gangsta rap. Like the St. Ides...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Straight Outta Compton: GHETTO DISCOURSES AND THE GEOGRAPHIES OF GANGSTA
    (pp. 66-91)

    Of all places, “the ghetto” increasingly gripped the public imagination in the 1980s. The charged, now-ubiquitous term “underclass” first featured in political debates in the presidential election campaign of 1988, when it was used to great effect by the Republicans.¹ The urban “underclass” connoted moral permissiveness and criminal threat, both figured in terms of race. It was shorthand, according to Jacqueline Jones, for “poor blacks in general, and a predatory youth culture in particular.”² The strategy of dubbing poor black communities as “dangerous” and “dependent” helped consolidate the white, rightward-realigning political imagination. “Continuing to feed off the fears of its...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Nigga Ya Love to Hate: BADMAN LORE AND GANGSTA RAP
    (pp. 92-115)

    Gangsta rap is populated by two broad sets of archetypal protagonists: loosely, we might label them the nihilistic gangbanger and the enterprising hustler. Indeed, the genre title itself encompasses both street gang member and upwardly mobile gangster. In a roundtable discussion published in The Source, two leading gangsta rappers grapple with competing definitions:

    Mc eiht: I don’t know why they call it gangsta rap ‘cause ain’t nobody here wearin’ colors and rags and shit when we makin’ records. That’s bangin’ on wax. That’s gangsta rappin’ right there: niggas claiming sets and colors and shit.

    Scarface: [pauses, laughs] Gangsta. My definition,...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Who’s the Mack? RAP PERFORMANCE AND TRICKSTER TALES
    (pp. 116-140)

    “Mack,” as these definitions attest, is synonymous with “pimp” and was so deployed in gangsta rap as both a noun and a verb. From this denotative meaning, the term “mack” assumed secondary resonances: to persuade, to “rap,” or, as Ice-T says, “to talk someone into something.” The “mack” came to mean the persuader, the trickster, the rapper. This semantic drift strikes at the center of the equivalencies between rap artist and pimp (or “player”). As music critic S. H. Fernando says, “the one specific quality that pimps and rappers share is their way with words.”¹ If a broad parallel can...

  11. CHAPTER 7 It’s a Doggy-Dogg World: THE G-FUNK ERA AND THE POST-SOUL FAMILY
    (pp. 141-172)

    In 1993 Snoop Dogg, the rising star of Dr. Dre and Marian “Suge” Knight’s new Death Row Records label, released his debut, Doggystyle.¹ The album rocked the industry, selling more copies in its opening week than the rest of the top five combined—the highest number ever for a debut album and the second highest for any album since the computerized system of monitoring sales was introduced in early 1991.² Doggystyle’s first single, “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” was released with an acclaimed video directed by rap impresario Fab Five Freddy, becoming MTV’s top requested clip for several weeks....

  12. CHAPTER 8 Tupac Shakur and the Legacies of Gangsta
    (pp. 173-192)

    By way of conclusion, I want to offer another exemplary story, serving as a counternarrative to the St. Ides parable that opened this book. The chief protagonist is Snoop’s Death Row stable mate Tupac Shakur, the “bad boy” gangsta rapper who was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in September 1996. At first glance, his murder seems to provide a neat point of closure—falling as it does late in the final year of this book’s main time frame. To date the demise of classic gangsta rap to the high-profile deaths of key personnel would preclude the possibility of any...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-236)
  14. Index
    (pp. 237-252)