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Gangsta Rap

Let's be clear: Hip hop music is by no means a '90s phenomenon. It has its roots in 1970s urban culture and broke through to mainstream success in the '80s. In the '90s, though, rap was heavily commercialized, just like rock music had 20 years before. On one hand, MC Hammer achieved massive success with the single "U Can't Touch This," a palatable, pop version of hip hop that didn't feel out of place on Top 40 radio. At the same time, edgier, so-called "gangsta" artists such as NWA, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur became household names and sold millions of albums.

If grunge was the inevitable response to commercialized rock, then gangsta rap was probably the inevitable response to pop hip hop. In rejecting dance-oriented songs in favor of slice of life vignettes that depicted the violent world of inner city life and chest-thumping machismo, gangsta rap artists created a gritty, often controversial form of hip hop that ruled the '90s. Although it's been decried for glamorizing drugs and violence and encouraging misogynistic attitudes over the years, gangsta rap hasn't gone away. Despite fading record sales, it continues to have a pervasive influence on urban culture [source: Jones].

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