Rap and Popular Culture

If you follow this blog or if you are one of my students, you have a pretty good idea about my interest in exploring the relationship between rap music and contemporary history. A few years ago when looking to design a lesson on the 1980s, I thought why not center much of the period around popular culture. Besides heavy rock and T.V., I thought rap was a particular genre that encapsulates the heightened unrest of the period. That lesson has since evolved into a new course that I will teach come the fall, and a conference paper I am seeking to get published. Moreover, I have taken parts of the concept of gangster rap and linked it to American religious constructs as I noted here. Interestingly, I cannot help but be excited about Ice Cube’s ESPN 30 for 30 documentary entitled, Straight out of L.A., which airs tonight. This former gangster rapper turned actor will explore the relationship between rap, politics, race, and sports via the Los Angeles Raiders football team. You can bet I will be in front of the tube with pen and paper. My high school football coach was a big Raider fan…. I never was. I recall Tim Perry always talking about the great Raider nation and stating “I am a bad man.” For me, kids my age liked the Raiders because it represented gangster. Before I attended ACA (Montgomery private school), brothers at my previous schools used to arrive on campus sporting a black and silver Raider jacket. Well, this is before the Montgomery Public School system outlawed them, seeing that they promoted gang activity.

In his introduction to this documentary, Ice Cube states:

Ice Cube

Ice Cube

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president, few white kids were listening to Rap and I was an 11-year-old kid in South Central Los Angeles. I was into sports and watched as many games as I could on TV—the Lakers, USC Football, UCLA, but I hadn’t developed a connection to any particular football team. But that fall, something clicked as I watched the Oakland Raiders….wanted to make this film for two simple reasons: 1) I’ve been a Raiders fan for most of my life and 2) My music career will probably always be linked, in one way or another, with the Raiders’ era in Los Angeles. The Raiders played in L.A. from 1982 to 1994—just 13 seasons—but during that time, the team’s colors, aura and superstar players became a phenomenon. And to put it bluntly, I had a lot to do with that.

The music, lyrics and images that I created with N.W.A as a solo artist and as an actor helped turn the Raiders into something more than a football team. It’s been 21 years since we released “Straight Outta Compton,” but to this day, kids all over the world buy Raiders gear, imitate the “Gangster Rap” style and try to connect with the South Central L.A. vibe that we brought to the masses. Over the years a lot of people have written books about the history of hip-hop, the cross-marketing of sports and entertainment, and the influence of Rap music on youth culture. Now it’s time for me to tell the story of how it really went down.

And it starts with the Silver and Black.

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5 thoughts on “Rap and Popular Culture

  1. The on the Miami Hurricanes was great. I like what ESPN is doing. It shows the impact sports has had on society.

  2. Ice Cube did a great job! I like that he pointed out the great things about the Raiders and what that particular time meant for L.A. But, I also appreciate that he pointed out the problems of hip-hop and its decline due to things becoming too commercialized.

  3. I saw it Tuesday night and really enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting how the Raiders were thought of as a gangster football team and it is weird to see where they are now. Also when watching Coach Carter the other day, I noticed how one of the kids in the movie who was associated with his cousin’s gang was wearing an Oakland Raiders hat, showing how the Raiders were an icon for gangster wear.

  4. I didn’t have the pleasure of watching the show but Ice Cube always makes me think of Ice-T. Though you may not regularly listen, Ice-T was a guest on the NPR show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me last week. His interview and subsequent quiz was hilarious and informative. Well worth the listen.

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