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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics$
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Charlotte Pence

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031564

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031564.001.0001

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Gangsta Rap’s Heroic Substrata: A Survey of the Evidence

Gangsta Rap’s Heroic Substrata: A Survey of the Evidence

(p.75) Gangsta Rap’s Heroic Substrata: A Survey of the Evidence
The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

John Paul Hampstead

University Press of Mississippi

Gangsta rap is a subgenre known for its subversive lyrics. Since emerging from hip-hop in southern California in the late 1980s with the work of Ice-T and N.W.A, it has found a foothold in New York City with hard-hitting rappers Run-DMC and Kool G Rap. Gangsta rap enjoyed commercial success but also created moral panic with its depiction of the noirish intrigue of the inner-city criminal underworld. This chapter examines gangsta rap and places some of its most visible features alongside ancient and medieval heroic poetry, particularly Homer, Virgil, and Anglo-Saxon material. It demonstrates gangsta rap’s excesses as part of a larger sociocultural pattern with a long history by focusing on five themes that run through both gangsta rap and heroic poetry: feasting, raiding, treasure, misogyny, and fatalism. More specifically, the chapter illustrates gangsta rap’s significant continuities with the traditional canon of Western literature.

Keywords:   gangsta rap, heroic poetry, Homer, Virgil, feasting, raiding, treasure, misogyny, fatalism, Western literature

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