February 5, 2015


Suge Knight remains stuck in a gangsta rap past (AUGUST BROWN AND GERRICK D. KENNEDY, 2/05/15, LA Times)

[W]hile his travails have stacked up, a new kind of Compton hip-hop artist has emerged, one indebted to the accomplishments of Death Row but almost entirely divorced from its image (and real-life history) of violence. For today's generation of L.A. hip-hop, who grew up after the ravages of violence depicted in '90s gangsta rap, the kind of tumultuous lifestyle embodied by Knight was something to flee.

Kendrick Lamar became a best-selling artist on the strength of his LP "good kid, m.A.A.d. city," which documented his rough childhood from the perspective of a deeply observant outsider with a loving family and even once told The Times, "You hear stories from the '80s about people selling dope and becoming millionaires, but in reality it'd just be guys walking around with $70 in their pockets. I knew I wanted something else."

Aspirations of pushing a different kind of West Coast rap is the driving force of Lamar's label Top Dawg Entertainment, founded by Anthony Tiffith in nearby Carson, which has actively rebutted the Death Row-era stereotypes of a South L.A. hip-hop collective.

In an April interview, before a performance on Jimmy Kimmel's late night show, South L.A. rapper Schoolboy Q said that for him and his peers music was a way out of that nihilistic lifestyle, not a means of glorifying it. 

"TDE was an escape for me," he said. "I was on my last legs with drugs and banging and I hit rock bottom. But [the label's founders] were street dudes who got away, and seeing that that changed my whole life around. It took time, but I became the dude who could smile and tell jokes again."

Compton itself has dramatically changed its image too.

The city, once known for its violent gang-ridden streets, hosts a gospel music festival to specifically counter the gangsta rap images that are still associated with the city. Compton's charismatic mayor, 32-year-old Aja Brown, has worked to bring amenities like a farmer's market and healthy new investments to the city.

Posted by at February 5, 2015 8:21 PM

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