To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Hardback)
  • To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Hardback)
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To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Hardback)

(author)
£21.95
Hardback 352 Pages
Published: 01/02/2020
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How gangsta rap shocked America, made millions, and pulled back the curtain on an urban crisis.

How is it that gangsta rap—so dystopian that it struck aspiring Brooklyn rapper and future superstar Jay-Z as “over the top”—was born in Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, surf, and sun? In the Reagan era, hip-hop was understood to be the music of the inner city and, with rare exception, of New York. Rap was considered the poetry of the street, and it was thought to breed in close quarters, the product of dilapidated tenements, crime-infested housing projects, and graffiti-covered subway cars. To many in the industry, LA was certainly not hard-edged and urban enough to generate authentic hip-hop; a new brand of black rebel music could never come from La-La Land.

But it did. In To Live and Defy in LA, Felicia Viator tells the story of the young black men who built gangsta rap and changed LA and the world. She takes readers into South Central, Compton, Long Beach, and Watts two decades after the long hot summer of 1965. This was the world of crack cocaine, street gangs, and Daryl Gates, and it was the environment in which rappers such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E came of age.

By the end of the 1980s, these self-styled “ghetto reporters” had fought their way onto the nation’s radio and TV stations and thus into America’s consciousness, mocking law-and-order crusaders, exposing police brutality, outraging both feminists and traditionalists with their often retrograde treatment of sex and gender, and demanding that America confront an urban crisis too often ignored.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674976368
Number of pages: 352
Dimensions: 210 x 140 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

[Viator’s] understanding of the hip-hop music and the musicians that first emerged from the streets of L.A. in the ’80s is deep and profound. - LA Weekly

Much more than the story of the creation of gangsta rap, the rise of NWA, or the history of early West coast rap in general. It’s a cultural history. What one is left with at the book’s end is the powerful idea of how art can be formed out of pain and suffering, and how injustice can be the crushing weight that can incite change. - Under the Radar

Zero[es] in on how economic devastation and militarized policing bred a subgenre whose extreme lyrics were fueled by indigence…A fast-paced and engaging read for music fans, history buffs, and anyone with an interest in social justice…Eye-opening. - KQED

Rattling hatchback trunks and terrifying suburban parents, gangsta rap went harder and further than everything that preceded it. Suddenly, everyone was listening and the media wagons began to circle…Viator excavates this music's unique political, social, and mercantile origins. - Raymond Cummings, The Wire

This book was really fun to read…[Viator] gives a comprehensive, interesting view of how this genre came to change our culture. - Los Angeles Review of Books Radio Hour

Viator’s conclusions about the cultural impact of Hip-Hop resonate today—they are accurate, timely, and timeless… By confronting the harsh realities of LA race relations and police brutality from the ’60s to the ’80s, To Live and Defy in LA sees Gangsta Rap as an important way to understand how systemic racism has worked (and works) in America today. - Deanna Costa, Arts Fuse

Rich with drama and details, To Live and Defy in LA tells the story of Los Angeles hip-hop during the eighties, a much-mythologized but often misunderstood period. - Hua Hsu, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure across the Pacific

[An] engaging history of gangsta rap’s emergence and eventual commercial success. - Katherine Rye Jewell, The Metropole

There have been other gangsta rap histories, but what makes this one excellent are the many candid stories about crucial groups like the Coalition Against Police Abuse, Macola Records, and KDAY 1580 AM radio. This is a deep dive into a legendary era that is often misunderstood. - L.A. Taco

Viator’s book is more than a history of hip-hop, it’s a meticulously researched cultural and political portrait of Los Angeles at a pivotal time. - Epiphany

Viator explains how the rapid rise of West Coast rap became engulfed in the culture wars of the late 1980s and 1990s and shaped perceptions of the 1992 LA uprising. - New Books Network

This book is smoothly written and is a useful primer in outlining the rise of a form of music that has come to define South Los Angeles nationally, if not globally. - Gerald Horne, Southern California Quarterly

Shows how LA rap was, from its beginning, an artistic response to police power…A thorough and timely study of an important intersection between music and social conditions, because the ascendance of gangsta rap since the 1980s reflects the rise of militarized policing over that same span, and we’ve seen all too clearly in recent years why it continues to resonate. - Nicholas Stoia, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books

A deep analysis of cultural practices in the spatial and political context in which these sources emerged…Viator offers a blueprint for study that leaves room for historians to address the significance of other artists, like Tupac Shakur, and aspects of the culture that further illustrate rap’s force in late twentieth-century American popular culture and politics. - Austin McCoy, Pacific Historical Review

A tour de force of novel material and insights, combined with convincing argumentation for why these subjects matter. To Live and Defy in LA is a thorough and compelling contribution to hip-hop history. - James G. McNally, Journal of Popular Music Studies

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