Hip-hop is really close to the gang culture, and rappers like TuPac and Biggie Smalls were known to be associated with gangs all their lives. However, there’s a seemingly unending dispute about whether or not the newer generation of rappers is indeed “gangsta” or if it’s just a façade they’re putting on to preserve the culture. In an interview with Rolling Out magazine earlier this year, rapper Ice Cube pointed out that some rappers are indeed only “liking” what’s going on and are just “playing with it.” He said:
“If you think it’s cool to be cliqued up and promoting that on records, that’s irresponsible. They are promoting a lifestyle that [they] don’t really live. You can make a general statement about anything, but once you start affiliating yourself with a gang that you’re not really a part of, you’re faking it.”
So are all rappers “gangsta” and gang-affiliated? SoJones takes a look at some rappers who could easily be called gangsta, but (probably) aren’t.
1. The Game
Known as a really nice guy to his fans and peers, rapper The Game does seem far removed from the gangsta culture. However, it’s not just being nice that makes people wonder whether he’s real or fake. In several hip-hop forums, The Game is called “inconsistent” for apologizing during beefs, and then starting the same beefs with the same targets all over again.
He’s also been called “fake gangsta” by hip-hop fanatics because he constantly mentions that he’s “a Blood” in about 90% of his songs. Well, we don’t want to draw any unfounded conclusions, but you know what they say. When you try too hard to make people believe something, it might not be true.
2. 50 Cent
What is sadder than being called a fake gangsta? Rapper 50 Cent has the answer to this one. It’s being called a fake gangsta by a fast food chain. As ridiculous as it sounds, back in 2008, Taco Bell slapped Fifty with a lawsuit, claiming that the rapper contributed to a failed promo campaign. The case started when Fifty received a fake letter from Taco Bell Corporation that asked him to change his name for one day to 79 Cent, 89 Cent, or 99 Cent to help publicize the chain’s value menu. In return, the company offered to donate $10,000 to the charity of his choice.
50 Cent responded with a lawsuit for improper use of his name. The restaurant chain filed a countersuit that claimed the rapper “used his ‘colorful’ past to cultivate an image of ‘belligerence and arrogance,” and that he has a “well-publicized track record for making threats, starting feuds, and filing lawsuits, while also painting himself as a charitable person who gives back to his community.”
Oh, yes, the lawsuit fight was kinda gangsta, as Taco Bell had the last laugh because throughout the whole drama, Fifty’s name was never even used in any of Taco Bell’s ad campaigns.
3. P. Diddy
P. Diddy earns a fortune from his business ventures, his albums, and his endorsements. That’s not exactly news for us. However, to affiliate him with a gang (either East Coast or West Coast) is somewhat of a stretch because the rapper/mogul was born in a public housing project in Harlem, New York, to Janice, a model and teacher, and Melvin Earl Combs. The only street association that can be made to him is that when he grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, his dad was shot to death in his car at a Manhattan park. Melvin Combs was then known as an associate of Frank Lucas, New York’s drug lord. Other than this, there is nothing that suggests Diddy ever belonged to a gang. However, he does belong at Ibiza’s hottest parties these days.
He might have written American Gangster, but to associate Jay-Z with gangster life is rather far-fetched. Born Shawn Carter to a single mom, Gloria, Jay was left by his father when he was only 12. Having no father figure to look up to, he turned to the streets of Marcy for inspiration. Naturally, he got involved in various clandestine street activities, but he soon became a street rapper. As for a gangsta association, he might not get that a lot, but he (and now his wife, Beyonce, too) is more often associated with the secret organization, Illuminati.
Discovered by a true West Coast gangsta rapper, Snoop Dogg, the rapper who was ironically known as Kid Gangsta was never a part of a gangster world. Meet Shad Moss, a.k.a. Lil’ Bow Wow, who shed the Lil’ part of his name upon entering adulthood. This guy might look scary now with tattoos and stuff, but Bow Wow is a rapper who climbed the career ladder the right way, under the care of great producers like Snoop Dogg and Jermaine Dupri.
Bow Wow released his first album titled Beware of Dog in 2000 under the So So Def record label, and he reached the top 10 on the pop album chart with Bounce With Me and Bow Wow (That’s My Name). But then, boys will be boys, and there was one time when Bow Wow pulled a gangsta attitude with the police who cut his performance. Watch below.
6. Soulja Boy
The controversial rapper is often called a child prodigy who made his fortune by virally marketing his music. A breakthrough in the hip-hop world, his instant fame didn’t strike a chord with most senior rappers. Gangsta rap veteran Ice-T even threw out a harsh remark about Soulja’s venture into hip-hop:
“F*ck Soulja Boy! Eat a d*ck! This n**** single-handedly killed hip-hop. We came all the way from Rakim, we came all the way from Das EFX, we came all the way from motherf*****s flowing like Big Daddy Kane and Ice Cube, and you come with that Superman sh*t? That sh*t is garbage.”
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up that Soulja is not…and will never be…gangsta.
7. Lil Wayne
He’s got grillz, bad-ass tattoos all over his body and face, and generally looks like the stereotypical criminal. But is he gangsta? This debate has been going on for years, and we decided to include Weezy on our list because up to now, we’re not really sure whether he’s gangsta or not. What do you think? Do you even agree with our list? Share your thoughts right here.