It’s no secret that the city of Los Angeles is the gang capital of world. For years the Crips and Bloods have terrorised the streets of Compton with their strong chokehold over the area and the collateral damage that gang violence and drug wars have caused the area have been devastating. Once a prosperous, all white neighbourhood in the 1940s, Compton businesses boomed. However, after a Supreme Court housing ruling, there was an exodus of upper class white businessmen and an influx of middle income African Americans. Unfortunately, over time due to this exodus and a range of other socioeconomic reforms businesses shut down, poverty and deprivation reigned and college dropout rates soared in the area leading the youth with no hope but to turn to a life of crime and to end up in a cycle of death and incarceration.
But pressure creates diamonds, some of your favourite West Coast Hip Hop artists have hailed from these tough neighbourhoods and are proud of their roots - particularly the fact they’ve made it out of these notorious neighbourhoods. Immortalised through their music and through Box Office hits like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ the hero that is Hip Hop has helped so many talented rappers find a way out of the street life and shot them into a life of fame and fortune. We explore the West Coast’s top 5 gang affiliated Hip Hop artists and how they made it out of the hood.
1. Tupac Shakur
Unapologetic. Ruthless. The most influential hip hop artist to have ever lived, anyone who knows about Hip Hop should be familiar with Pac and his hard – hitting lyrics which exposed the social injustices of his time and which are still so relevant today. He represented the success story of the underclass; people from the inner city ghettos – popularised through his term ‘Thug Life.’ Pac went onto to sell 75 million records worldwide and is one of the most decorated hip hop artist of all time – a true cultural icon. His untimely demise is most likely to have come from his gang affiliation with the Bloods. The most prominent artist during the East Coast - West Coast beef of the 90s, Pac had a lot of eyes on him. The beef with Biggie was sparked after he was shot and robbed in the elevator of a New York studio which he alleged was a set up by Puffy and Biggie. The heat from songs made in the studio spilled onto to the streets and on the night of Shakur’s death he was involved in a fight with a Crip associated with Puffy in Las Vegas following Mike Tyson’s heavyweight championship bout. The car he was in with record label owner and notorious Blood Suge Knight was sprayed with bullets and 2pac was hit – he later died in hospital. Dearly missed, his story too will be immortalised in the biopic ‘All Eyez on Me’ which will be released next month. Despite achieving major success, it seems he couldn’t quite escape the street life for long enough – R.I.P Pac.
2. Snoop Dogg
‘Snoop D O Double Gee from the LBC’. A label buddy of Shakur at Death Row Records, he’s a man who had the audacity to smoke a blunt in the White House. He still has one of the silkiest, smoothest flows in the game and is a cultural icon from the West Coast who has spent the last few years encouraging young people to turn away from a life of crime. Snoop was a known Crip from California (he even crip walked in music videos), and his gang affiliation almost landed him in jail after he was acquitted on murder charges in 1997. Revolutionising the Hip Hop scene with Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg is worth an estimated $143m. The West Coast rapper has dabbled in Hollywood movies, reality TV shows and appropriately invested in weed dispensaries which have all made him a fortune as well as made him one of the most recognisable faces in Hip Hop. His wisdom has grown with his age and he now serves as an apt role model for young artists trying to make it out of the hood.
3. The Game
From the streets of Compton and inspired by the city’s Hip Hop super group N.W.A, Game has made his gang affiliation with the Cedar Block Pirus known in his music. His hard hitting lyrics spew tails of memories growing up in Gangland. At the age of 12, Game was torn between becoming a Blood gang member like his brothers or a Crip like the rest of his neighbourhood – either way he would end up gangbanging. Unapologetic about his days of drug dealing he turned his life around through music and documented his life on his critically acclaimed album Documentary – signing to Aftermath with Dr Dre and later G Unit with 50 Cent. Still a proud rapper from Compton, Game painfully explored the hardship of his city in his 2015 documentary series ‘Streets of Compton’ where he revealed some disturbing events in his personal life including his Dad’s addiction to crack cocaine following the death of his uncle and his separation from his siblings due to their father’s physical and emotional abuse. Despite finding a way out, Game regularly returned to the hood but had a final warning when he was shot visiting his mother in 2005 – we’re glad Hip Hop gave this man a way out so he can tell the tale of a life no young person should have to live.
The rapper from ‘Bompton’ – the Blood side of Compton is soon becoming one of the biggest names in Hip Hop and his gang affiliation is known to rappers and fans alike. Titling his sophomore album ‘Still Brazy,’ an ode to Blood gang code not to pronounce C sounds, YG is a man on his way up. After being shot in a studio in 2015 and admitting he still doesn’t know who did it, YG has turned his attention to bigger and better things penning a multi – million dollar deal this year between his independent record label 4Hunnid Records and Interscope – we’re excited to see what the future holds for him.
5. Kendrick Lamar
The leader of the new school and arguably the best lyricist of his generation, Kendrick Lamar has worked his way up to superstardom but hails from humble beginnings. The rapper from ‘Bompton’ has made it known to fans of his artwork that he’s had it rough, layering his albums like ‘Good Kid M.A.A.d City’ and the critically acclaimed ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ with tails of his hardship growing up and his temptation to join a gang. He lost three friends to the streets growing up – experiences he muses over in the track ‘Really Be’ featuring YG. His album cover for TPAB features his old friends from his neighbourhood pictured in front of the White House and his song ‘King Kunta’ also features many old friends and Blood gang members in the video. Heavily inspired by fellow West Coast rapper 2pac, Lamar has been an inspiration to many, winning five Grammys this year. Seen as more of a raw narrator of the deadly lifestyle, Kendrick has led a relatively gang free lifestyle himself, K Dot’s first love was Hip Hop and he has certainly made a successful career out of it.
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