The Perversions of Gangsta Rap: Death Drive and Violence

  • Jan Jagodzinski


What can be possibly written about gangsta rap that hasn’t yet been said before? Written in 1994, Patricia Rose in Black Noise captures the African derived rap music and hip-hop culture succinctly, providing many insights as to why its repetitive rhythms and recontextualizations constitute a cultural difference, providing an expressive outlet for disenfranchised black urban youth in the core cities of capitalist America.1 Such difference is to be found both within its own forms of musical expression that rely heavily on samplers as “looped” tracks to highlight repetition, the manipulation of rhythm, bass frequencies and music breaks; and difference from Western classical music based on triadic forms of harmony. With its prioritization of high-volume and low frequency sound, often with shouted lyrics, her term “noise” was an apt description—a tactile sound. At the outset many rock musicians didn’t consider rap “music.” The conservative press refused to legitimate rappers as composers; they didn’t play “real” instruments. But it soon became obvious rap’s oral/aural drive was intimately tied to the latest technological innovations, which were exploited parasitically for its own ends, breaking the rules of established sound. Rose’s fine work stops just short of the escalating controversies that continued to intensify around gangsta rap in the mid-1990s, ending her epilogue with a reflection on the South Central riots in Los Angeles after the accused policemen were exonerated for the beating of Rodney King.


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© Jan Jagodzinski 2005

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  • Jan Jagodzinski

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