"Raw, authoritative, and unflinching ... An elaborately detailed, darkly surprising, definitive history of the LA gangsta rap era."---Kirkus, starred review
A monumental, revealing narrative history about the legendary group of artists at the forefront of West Coast hip-hop: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.
Amid rising gang violence, the crack epidemic, and police brutality, a group of unlikely voices cut through the chaos of late 1980s Los Angeles: N.W.A. Led by a drug dealer, a glammed-up producer, and a high school kid, N.W.A gave voice to disenfranchised African Americans across the country. And they quickly redefined pop culture across the world. Their names remain as popular as ever--Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Dre soon joined forces with Suge Knight to create the combustible Death Row Records, which in turn transformed Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur into superstars.
Ben Westhoff explores how this group of artists shifted the balance of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how N.W.A.'s shocking success lead to rivalries between members, record labels, and eventually a war between East Coast and West Coast factions. In the process, hip-hop burst into mainstream America at a time of immense social change, and became the most dominant musical movement of the last thirty years. At gangsta rap's peak, two of its biggest names--Tupac and Biggie Smalls--were murdered, leaving the surviving artists to forge peace before the genre annihilated itself.
Featuring extensive investigative reporting, interviews with the principal players, and dozens of never-before-told stories, Original Gangstas is a groundbreaking addition to the history of popular music.
About the Author
Ben Westhoff is a longtime music journalist whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Spin, Pitchfork, and the Village Voice. He spent three years as the Music Editor at L.A.Weekly, and is the author of Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop (Chicago Review Press), which Rolling Stone called "packed with lively reporting and colorful social history."
Scrupulously researched with many incisive revelations, this may be the best book ever written about the hip hop world. - S. Leigh Savidge, Academy Award nominee and co-writer of Straight Outta Compton
[Adds] fresh detail to the oft-told stories ...[A] history that won't settle for easy heroes or villains. - Rolling Stone
[A] captivating chronicle... Central to Westhoff's research are original interviews with key figures balanced with the author's efforts to frame the music as a piece with the surrounding social and political upheaval... He doesn't flinch in providing a rounded picture of the history of the genre, in which the danger wasn't confined to the music - Library Journal