Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: The Roots of Gangsta Rap

Posted by Billyjam, May 26, 2015 09:00am | Post a Comment

N.W.A are routinely credited with creating the genre known as gangsta rap, which is a fair summation since it was these West Coast rappers who inspired a whole new unstoppable generation of hardcore gangsta rap recording artists. However, these LA rappers are predated by fellow LA-based artist Ice-T who in turn was predated by the true O.G. (Original Gangsta) -- Philadeplhia's Schoolly D who in 1985 unleashed the original gangsta rap record. Entitled "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" and released on his own small indie label, Schoolly D Records, the record with cutting by DJ Code Money was an ode to the Philly street gang that the rapper (born Jesse B. Weaver, Jr.) was associated with. The initials P.S.K. stood for the Park Side Killas gang and their song dedication was brimming with references to gangsta activity: guns, violence, sex, and drug use, with usage of the N word ("sucka ass nigga tryna sound like me"), which was something uncommon though not totally unheard of in rap records up to that point.

Although originally considered a regional rap record with likely little appeal beyond its immediate hood, the distinctly hardcore rap record struck a nerve with music fans well beyond Philadelphia. The NJ-born, LA-based Ice-T adapted its style for his single, "6 In The Mornin" (later entitled "6 'N the Mornin'), released a year later in 1986. It was also included on his 1987 debut album Rhyme Pays.

As Ice-T told Maximus Clean in an interview with Seattle rapzine Props back in 1996, "The syncopation of that rap [P.S.K.] was used by me when I made '6 In The Mornin.' The vocal delivery was the same: '...P.S.K. is makin' that green,' '...Six in the mornin' police at my door'. When I heard that record I was like 'Oh shit!' and call it a bite or what you will but I dug that record. My record didn't sound like P.S.K., but I liked the way he was flowing with it. P.S.K. was talking about Park Side Killas but it was very vague. That was the only difference, when Schoolly did it, it was ' by one, I'm knockin' em out.'"

Ice-T went on to note how, while Schoolly D repped the one gang and district on his record, that he took it a step further by adapting that gangsta observation style but making it more universal in appeal. Quick to give credit to all of gangsta rap's early contributors, Ice-T in that same interview noted how, "At the same time my single came out, Boogie Down Productions hit with Criminal Minded, which was a gangster-based album...about gangsterism. That was the New York shit," adding that, "After that, [Ice] Cube wrote Boyz n-the Hood [from N.W.A. And The Posse] which was like a bite of 'Six In The Morning' [with the syncopation]. It's like 'Six in the morning, police at my door...' and 'The boyz in the hood are always hard...'" 

To compare the similarity between these records scroll down and listen to each. All of these early gangsta releases are available from Amoeba including the original "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" which you will find on such Schoolly D collections as A Gangster Story: 1984 - 1996 and The Best of Schoolly D.

Schoolly D "P.S.K. What Does It Mean?" (1985)

Ice T "6 In The Mornin'" (1986)

Eazy-E/N.W.A. and the Posse "Boyz N The Hood" (1987)

Relevant Tags

1987 Hip-hop (1), 1985 Hip-hop (1), 1986 Hip-hop (3), Gangster Rap (1), Gangsta Rap (8), Schoolly D (6), Ice-t (7), N.w.a. (12), Boogie Down Productions (8)