Jul 13

COOLIO ft LV – “Gangsta’s Paradise”

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#729, 28th October 1995

Coolio was 32 when “Gangsta’s Paradise” came out, but the man he’s voicing is 23 – born in ’72, then, the year Stevie Wonder released Talking Book. For some critics, to draw a line from Stevie Wonder to hip-hop was to trace a decline: to tell the story of black American pop’s lost soul, from a 70s full of hope, warmth and conscience to a present day of seeming aggression and amorality. With that reading, Coolio using Stevie Wonder’s beautiful “Pastime Paradise” so fully was flaunting rap’s supposed lack of creativity. But those critics were wrong. Isolating musical developments is a luxury: it means ignoring music’s social and economic context. And “Gangsta’s Paradise” deliberately forces Stevie Wonder’s conscious, anti-materialist soul music into dialogue with that more brutal context. It wants you to remember how sweet soul could be in the early 70s, and then it wants to tell you, as straight as it can, why it can’t be that way now.

If “Gangsta’s Paradise” were only didactic it wouldn’t be effective, and it wouldn’t be great pop. The stern, basic backbeat makes Wonder’s strings hit hard, the bassline gives the track a sinister momentum “Pastime Paradise” never had. They turn the 1976 track from sermon to single. This song earns its sample, in other words. But what really makes it work is Coolio’s storytelling and self-justification. Researchers and other interviewers have a well-known – and no less effective for that – technique for getting the most out of their subjects. They simply shut up, letting the interviewee carry on, expanding their story, filling in blanks, turning back on and contradicting themselves. And that’s what happens to Coolio’s character here. He’s playing a man whose first impulse is to self-knowledge and self-analysis, but whose second impulse is always to anger, and each verse leaves him long enough to see the one switch to the other. “Me be treated like a punk, you know that’s unheard of”: he knows a bad role model, a screw-up, but he’s got his pride.

Two other examples: the top of the second verse, where he jumps from glib explanation to glib explanation – welfare, peer pressure, TV, money – none of them ringing completely false or true: he doesn’t sound quite like he believes them himself. By the end of the verse he’s shrugging them off – “what can I say?” And the final, hopeless conclusion he comes to about the establishment who want him to change: “They say I gotta learn but nobody’s here to teach me / If they can’t understand it, how can they reach me? / I guess they can’t / I guess they won’t / I guess they frontin’” – the verse running rapidly through the gears, from despair to anger. It’s a nod to the film “Gangsta’s Paradise” comes from , Dangerous Minds, in which Michelle Pfeiffer plays the tough but fair white teacher redeeming hood kids with Bob Dylan lyrics. But the contempt with which Coolio spits “frontin’” makes it more like a slap.

This makes “Gangsta’s Paradise” sound nihilistic – but it’s only uncompromising or chilling in the context of the rest of pop. Its success – the first really satisfying hip-hop Number One – and the gulf between its subject matter and anything else in the Top 40 does suggest how weak and backwards the charts might have sounded to anyone interested in rap. But this is far from hardcore hip-hop, nothing like the paranoid tabloid take on ‘gangsta rap’. Instead “Gangsta’s Paradise” is grand pop theatre, without much subtlety but with a clear moral stand. LV’s sorrowing chorus – “the ones we hurt are you and me” – lays it down, the gothickry of the horrorcore choir piles it on. Whatever sympathy we feel for him, however well he tells his story, Coolio’s character is a lost soul.



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  1. 1
    Tom on 23 Jul 2013 #

    (My knowledge of Dangerous Minds is straight outta Wiki, of course. Did anyone see it, and can they confirm it’s as groansome as the synopsis makes it sound?)

  2. 2
    taDOW on 24 Jul 2013 #

    it’s fairly groansome – not quite the end of the line of a bunch of stand & deliver knockoffs (the awesome/hilariously bleak samuel jackson vehicle 187 is probably the end of the line there). kinda shocked to see the ‘9’ there, for the longest this was example a for me of moments when critics or the ‘industry’ (‘gangsta’s paradise’ the first rap song to get serious grammy attention iirc) went vaguely popist but overreacted. stateside it was kinda the first straight rap song to achieve that #1 omnipresence of yr mariah/whitney/boyzIImen #1’s (there had obviously been massive crossover rap hits prior – ‘u can’t touch this’, ‘ice ice baby’, ‘nuthin but a g thang’ the 3 obv ones – but none had achieved that ‘dear god plz go away already’ stature. i greatly preferred the coolio hits both before ‘gangsta’s paradise’ (‘fantastic voyage’, which i believe did almost as well as ‘gangsta’s paradise’ in pazz & jop) and after (‘1-2-3-4’ the pinnacle but even ‘too hot’ as ‘message coolio’ goes and ‘c u when i get there’ as ‘coolio w/ strings’ goes). maybe it sounds much better than i remember (it was a massive hit for a reason) but i just remember a guy i knew djing where i lived in italy at the time moaning about having to play this even though it was a lousy song to dance to. eventually either thru inspiration or just ‘fuck the audience’ frustration he started playing a inadvertently awesome sped up version only w/ coolio’s vocals pitch corrected or whatever so he sounded normal, non-chipmunk (chorus was all helium though, in retrospect it was a kinda proto-kanye move, down to the obnoxiousness even). ‘7’ for me.

  3. 3
    mintness on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Interesting to read that Coolio was 32 when this was released, given the “I’m 23 now but will I live to see 24?” line. Playing a character and all that, I know (albeit not one from the high school environment of the movie in question), but still – I can’t imagine an acknowledgement of the extra (near-)decade on his clock would have served the impact of the song particularly well.

    For me “Gangsta’s Paradise” has been harmed somewhat by what came next – it soon established itself as a queasy combination of student bar singalong (aaaargh) and The Rap Song Your Dad Likes (double aaaargh) – but at the time it felt like a perfectly logical place for hip-hop and pop to be butting horns, and its comparatively prolonged success was welcome. I’d give it an 8 adjusted for slight overfamiliarity.

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    taDOW on 24 Jul 2013 #

    curious to what extent hip-hop and more specifically the hip-hop of this particular moment had breached brit pop – i know hip-hop was more successful than betty boo and zane lowe having to explain in hushed tones who jay-z is to bbc one listeners would suggest but at the same time i know that biggie smalls was relatively unknown there (which makes the success of a certain bunny track mystifying to me). in the states biggie and tupac were huge pop stars, dre and snoop megapopstars that probably came the closest during that era to producing a thriller/purple rain/bitusa type of megahit spawning unavoidable for a year and half type album. curious to see the bleakness respected here, among ppl i knew this song was at least a little corny (most gangsta rap reveled in and romanticised the life generally, there might be an occasional acknowledgement of the depressing reality but it was just as likely that a ‘serious’ turn would treat that depressing reality as an excuse for horror or thriller tropes – ‘murder was the case’, ‘natural born killaz’) and it being coolio’s ‘but seriously folx’ gesture didn’t help. not saying that that ‘cnn of the streets’ and ‘either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood’ element wasn’t there, esp initially, but by this point gangsta rap (which in 1995 nearly meant rap period) was about a gleeful almost nihilistic hedonism (a hedonism that could extend to violence) and ‘gangsta’s paradise’s message cloak was in many ways a pop crossover move done w/ the full awareness that an older white audience might be comfortable w/ it in ways they could never be w/ ‘real’ gangsta rappers.

  5. 5
    mapman132 on 24 Jul 2013 #

    First the stats: A massive hit in America, its three weeks at #1 actually understated its chart performance, as it was Billboard’s top single of 1995.

    Now the song: This is a perfect example of a song that I didn’t like at the time, because it was in a genre that I absolutely hated at the time, but that I’ve eventually come to appreciate on its own terms. Of course maybe this is what #3 means as “The Rap Song Your Dad Likes”, even though I actually was 23 in 1995 (unlike Coolio – didn’t know that until now). But overall in terms of cultural impact, chart performance, and iconic status, I’d consider this the defining single of gangsta rap, and rap in general in the 90’s. 8/10 for me, although 10/10 could be justifiable if you’re into this sort of thing.

    Of course, there’s also the classic Weird Al parody, but I’ll address that in a later post.

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    Doctor Casino on 24 Jul 2013 #

    This is an interesting read about a song I’ve never really sat down and thought much about, though I like it decently enough. You hardly ever hear it anymore – might be interesting to suss out why. I do wonder a bit about the idea that the sampling is intended to point up some contrast between the Seventies and the Nineties; American black urban life was hardly a bed of roses when Wonder wrote his song, as he knew quite well (“Living For The City,” “Cash In Your Face,” and arguably “Pastime Paradise” itself). I don’t think the sample is so much “let’s take this happy thing and turn it dark” as it is trading on the associations that are already there for a certain audience. In the process maybe it also reminds us that the Seventies weren’t so different from the Nineties in certain ways.

  7. 7
    Doctor Casino on 24 Jul 2013 #

    To put it another way, if someone sampled “Ghost Town” for a song about troubled youth in 90s Britain it’d be pretty clear what they were trying to do. This isn’t as cut and dry as that, but still.

  8. 8
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    #4 I put the word “corny” in and deleted it in about 3 different places actually! I couldn’t find a way to make it sound positive, which it is. My final paragraph – no, this isn’t especially hardcore, it’s certainly not the nihilistic/brutal/funny end of gangsta rap – is an approximation of the point I was hoping to make. In fact, at the time – even though I listened to hip-hop a lot less than I do now, I think I’d only heard one Biggie track – I would have agreed with your comment, and I’d have given it a 7: kind of preachy, awkward; “but seriously folx” is a good way to put it.

    But a) Rap is still rare enough in the UK charts at this point, let alone the UK #1, that there’s a Rap Dividend paid to the marks – the sound of someone rapping well on a #1 hit is very pleasant indeed to me. (When does this actually wear off? Not for a long while yet.) As usual on Popular I’m comparing this mostly to the rest of successful pop.

    b) As gangsta rap this is – not a failure exactly but a lot more ‘worthy’, on-the-nose moral than what the genre had evolved into. But as big pop message rap it’s terrific, all the more so for recognising the bleakness. Which is what the charts were rewarding (Arrested Development were big here too). Method Man and Mary J Blige’s “You’re All I Need To Get By” had been a pretty big song that summer, and would have been a good shout for a 10.

    c) This may very well be Dadrap. But I am also a Dad!

    It was a Pazz & Jop #1 single – tho I don’t know the make-up of the P&J academy at this stage.

  9. 9
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    #6 this is a good point – I definitely didn’t mean to suggest Stevie Wonder’s records don’t have their share of anger, or that all was happy in 70s black America (though my understanding is that inner city communities and especially black communities were disproportionately hard hit by Reaganomics). The sample is definitely updating as well as contrasting. I tend to think of Stevie Wonder’s albums as acknowledging pain and trying to move up from it or at least mixing overt beauty with it – but “bittersweet” would have been a better word than “sweet” in para 1.

    My take is partly influenced by the fact that this is the first time I really had the “rap isn’t creative it’s just stealing other people’s pop songs” argument, I can’t remember whether I articulated this defensive response at the time (I didn’t care THAT much about Coolio).

    Basically by using a very recognisable sample you’re letting a whole different order of meaning invade your song, one you don’t have a lot of control over – or you’re willing to take the gamble that what you hear in it is what everyone else hears in it. So Stevie Wonder is a soul man dealing with the troubles of his day, in direct continuity with hip-hop. But he’s also a canon fixture, an agreed point of quality. So critics who like rap can point to the continuity. But critics who don’t can use him as a marker for pre-rap black music, something rock critics can contrast to rap, and in ways unfavourable to rap. And for me the song takes on and pushes back on that contrast, as well as also owning the continuity.

  10. 10
    Andrew Farrell on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Is this really a very recognisable sample though? I mean, it’s recognisable as a sample, which is enough to start the argument, but I’d be surprised if the majority of people putting it at number one knew without being told what track it was off.

  11. 11
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Well if you don’t recognise the sample there’s not a problem in the first place I guess! (I suspect in the US a lot more listeners did, certainly most critics – though whadda they know etc etc)

    re. hip-hop in the UK charts at this point: I did some digging and it’s even rarer than I thought/remember. The Method Man hit and Warren G’s “Regulate” the year before went Top 10. As did House of Pain. Arrested Development had two top 5 hits. Nothing for 2pac until 1996. One tiny mid-30s entry for Notorious BIG. Even Snoop got tabloid front pages but only one Top 20 hit and a couple of lower charters.

    Critics in Select, Melody Maker, the NME etc were still paying attention to an extent – I played the first Gravediggaz LP a lot around the start of 1995 and I can’t have bought it on a whim.

    I bought and played this a ton http://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Hip-Hop/master/205847 – a very good 1-volume “what’s up in hip-hop” compilation, there’s a high strike rate on that. But few of those acts would even get a release here. (Though “Fantastic Voyage” is on it which explains how I knew that one.)

  12. 12
    swanstep on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Looking at wiki now, ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ was a #1 almost everywhere. The only exception it lists is Canada where it stalled at #29. Wassup Canada? :)
    Anyhow, for whatever reason, while vaguely agreeing with the consensus about its evident quality/hit-worthiness, GP in fact just just kind of bounced off me at the time. I liked its first 16 bars but didn’t typically stick with the track to the end. Listening carefully now though, and with Tom’s analysis in mind, there’s plenty to like all the way through. E.g., there’s a touch of Arrested Development phrasing in the second verse’s ‘too much television watching got me chasin’ dreams’ that I suspect is intentional; AD were hated by most rappers and, yes, thought to be glib explanation peddlers so Coolio affecting *that* voice is perfect. Probably a 7 from me, but I understand people going higher.

    @ 10, Andrew. Agree that GP’s sample counts as a much deeper cut than Every Breath or Forget Me Not or Superfreak or I’m Coming Out whose whole-song re-usage really did start some bad-tempered conversations

  13. 13
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    I had just started working in a record shop chain (Music And Video Exchange) so I guess I got to have that conversation early :)

  14. 14
    James BC on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Much like Common People, the storytelling in this song is compelling enough to make you identify very strongly with the protagonist even if (or maybe only if?) you aren’t from his world. And much like Common People it’s suffered from being endlessly recited and adopted by non-common people as though it was about them.

    But unlike Common People, it’s still great to hear it. It hasn’t quite been overplayed as much and was probably better in the first place.

    If anyone here is actually from the places Coolio is talking about, I’d be very interested to hear what they think of the song.

  15. 15
    Steve Mannion on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Surprised at the high mark as always found this too worthy and plodding (without a really interesting or beautiful hook…and bearing in mind i generally disliked the sound of gospel choirs throughout the 90s…unlike much trip hop at the time – solid vocal performances aside) to really get behind, can only respect it from distance.

    I once attempted (along with about half a dozen others) to collar Coolio for an interview when he played at our college summer ball (iirc he did the gig for about 17k but it felt quite a coup – second on the bill? Boney M!). Inevitably after the (pretty great) show in which he actually jumped out of a casket that had been wheeled on stage he dodged us all and proceeded to make his way to the student bar to the unexpected delight of the throng therein. So we ate half of his rider instead.

  16. 16
    Izzy on 24 Jul 2013 #

    I always found this worthy but a bit lame, so I was surprised to have it on this morning and find it a jolly good listen. Certainly it’s an arresting no.1, gothic touches at the top do stand out and are rare enough to always have power (which is how they get there of course). Ghost Town is a good comparator, but Meatloaf may be a better one.

    What’s strange is that in my mind Stevie Wonder’s tune was all fluid musicality, which Coolio had stripped down and turned into a rhythmic black mass – but no, it’s Stevie’s that is haunting and skeletal, whereas Coolio’s bulked it out with bass and a much fuller production. They’re not a million miles apart in subject either – or at least in mood, I can’t be sure whom Stevie’s taking a pop at here. Gangsta’s Paradise has more power for being first-person, but then Pastime Paradise sounds like it’s actually being sung by the dead.

    And yet Stevie’s is by far the better record, in that it presents a unique and terrifying soundscape, where despite the sample Gangsta’s Paradise is leaning more on what was happening at the time (I hear it as a midpoint between Cypress Hill and G-Funk, both of which had crested already.

    More damningly, Stevie’s vocal is far more interesting. Partly this is unavoidable because he’s such a wonderful singer (I don’t care for Coolio’s voice, and though his delivery is fine here he’s sludge compared to eg Snoop’s light, playful touch), but Stevie’s rhythms are so much more complicated (without losing any accessibility) that a back-to-back exposes Coolio as a journeyman with a surefire hit. Nothing wrong with that, we can’t all be part of the elite, and Popular is full of them. Mark accordingly. (7)

  17. 17
    anto on 24 Jul 2013 #

    This reminds me of ‘Tainted Love’ in so much as I feel like I’ve heard it once too often. On top of that is my basic hang-up about hip-hop which is that rather like C&W I can never find a way into it.
    I can see the ingenuity/innovation of it as a genre but it just does nothing for me.
    This song is surely the main thing ‘Dangerous Minds’ is known for. I don’t remember it causing any rush to the box office. Michelle Pffiefer seemed to be making steady and continual progress up to that point but I can’t call to mind anything I’ve seen her in more recently. The whole inspirational-pedagogue-gets-through-to-the-ghetto-kids trope is one the film industry never seems to tire off despite now seeming rather hackneyed. You can go back as far as ‘The Blackboard Jungle’ and then you also have more recent films like ‘Freedom Writers’ with Hilary Swank. Even something as lightweight as ‘Sister Act 2’ is one of these types of film thinly disguised.

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jul 2013 #

    the slow pace of GP and the strings/choir remind me of trip-hop – whether this was deliberate or fortuitous it may explain why it appealed to some at the time. The Stevie Wonder sample sweetens the overall effect so that the more pessimistic tone of the rap is blurred.

  19. 19
    Cumbrian on 24 Jul 2013 #

    I don’t feel like this was overplayed at all at the time – nor do I feel like I have heard it loads since it got to the top of the chart – but then I guess, at the time, I was a narrowly focused teenage boy delving into Britpop and was not listening to the right stuff to hear this over and over. So I don’t have the baggage others do listening to this.

    What I do have, and it has been alluded to here, is the baggage of worthiness. I don’t want to be another one of those guys on the internet banging on about The Wire – but I definitely get the sense that, as that show told a tale about its cops and criminals in the round, with shades of grey on all sides, we are being sold something here that deliberately plays up to similar ideals. Indeed, listening to this and watching the video, I kept thinking about how it might link to The Wire – for instance, Coolio as Omar (“I ain’t never crossed a man that didn’t deserve it” parallels “I ain’t never put my gun on no citizen”) and Wee-Bay (when he reaches out and takes the sunglasses from the young boy paralleling Wee-Bay putting his foot down and ensuring his son is fostered by a police officer rather than staying with a mother who would put him in the drug game – neither want their life for the child), plus all the invocations of factors that Tom points to in the second verse being explored in depth by the series (education failures, the role of the media – though in The Wire, it was newspapers, etc).

    The thing is, even if The Wire or GP are offering a sop to white liberal guilt (I watch/listen to this so I understand – but of course, you don’t unless you’re in the life, a comparison point with Common People as mentioned at #14) that doesn’t stop both from being terrific entertainment. So even though I can feel that worthiness, I don’t mind it because the track is well constructed, the sample is great, bringing in a sense of creeping dread and Coolio’s delivery is well calibrated to suit the different points that he’s trying to raise. For me, it’s a mini-masterpiece; I matched Tom’s score.

  20. 20
    thefatgit on 24 Jul 2013 #

    A great essay by Tom for a puzzling single. There are examples of Gangsta Rap, which may have already graced the charts and become so ensconced within the Hip Hop canon, that “Gangsta’s Paradise” would be an afterthought. This made #1 and the others didn’t. So Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang and Tupac would have to bide their time. How important is it to get your #1 in the moment? Britpop was in and of the moment. Boybands are in and of the moment. Somehow, Gangsta Rap could score big hits after the fact. I’m not sure if “Gangsta’s paradise” reflected a mood in the UK. I’ve not seen Dangerous Minds, so I couldn’t say if it was the film or the song at the front of people’s minds when buying it. You couldn’t put it down to Stevie Wonder either. Compared to the #1’s we’ve seen from 1995 so far, it seems so out of place, yet so of the moment. Put it another way, if “Protect Your Neck” was re-released this year (20 year anniversary, so not implausible), a record so totally out of context in 2013, but even now, immediate and compelling, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if it hit the top spot. “Gangsta’s Paradise” itself is very much driven by Coolio’s delivery, and the way he’s simmering with anger through each verse. As startling now as it was in 1995.

  21. 21
    Izzy on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Why is Mr Tambourine Man generally cited as the example of lyrics ≡ poetry? Even restricting the field to Dylan’s oeuvre, and even to his early oeuvre, it’s hardly the one I’d pick.

  22. 22
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    #20 as someone mentioned this was a huge global hit, #1 in all sorts of places, and in any such case some of the explanation is simple copying – by record labels allocating marketing budgets, by radio stations, by listeners.

  23. 23
    Cumbrian on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Oh God. I’ve just seen what’s next out of the spoiler bunnies’ hutch.

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 24 Jul 2013 #

    This was VERY big in Ukraine (or Odessa, at least, which is certainly not without its share of gangsters, even if the broader social context has little in common with the US).

    Ashamed to admit I’d never heard (or even heard of!) the Stevie Wonder track until…err, last week, so I don’t think I can meaningfully comment about the track, as the background clearly changes a great deal of the intended meaning and references. But still, it’s a great track even without that background, lyrically and musically, and in how it’s performed. (And it kept a fairly dull Meatloaf track & a fairly dull Queen track – the latter of which was also enormous in Ukraine -off the top)

    8 or 9

  25. 25
    James BC on 24 Jul 2013 #

    I’d just like to praise Coolio’s use of “fool”.

    Theoretically it’s a great deal milder than a lot of gangsta rap insults he could have used, but the way it’s used gives it far more power than the vast majority of more profane slurs that have been chucked into other raps.

    First verse: Tacked startlingly on to the end of a line. You’re looking at a shadowy figure through a cloud of smoke, and then the “fool” zooms the camera right in on his face as he stares you menacingly in the eye.

    Second verse: Same trick. Turns “don’t arouse my anger” from a general piece of advice into a personally directed threat.

    Third verse: By now we’re expecting it, so he delays it right until the end of the verse, which makes it the last word of the song. But here, rather than aggressive, it’s despairing – he realises that he is the real fool, out of luck, using his learned aggression as a cover.

  26. 26
    Tom on 24 Jul 2013 #

    #25 great point!

    #23 fool.

  27. 27
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Pretty sure Dangerous Minds was not a massive hit as a film, in the US or the UK or anywhere else — I slightly suspect it was seen as MP’s way to ease herself into that tricky second stage of a Hollywood actress’s career, when the next tranche of Gorgeous Young Things are getting first bite at the roles you used to get. And it didn’t really take.

    My sister unleashes “fool” in exactly this fashion: maybe she got it from Coolio. (Maybe he got it from her.)

  28. 28
    Billy Hicks on 24 Jul 2013 #

    A very, very rare example for this musical era of *both* my parents knowing this song despite both being 28 at the time, both long moved on from pop after being immersed in it through their 1980s teens.

    Didn’t quite hit me as a seven year old and this style of music wouldn’t for about a decade, but it’s a ok listen now. Later sampled by Blue of all people for 2004’s ‘Curtain Falls’ which I secretly enjoyed at the time.

  29. 29
    Mark M on 24 Jul 2013 #

    I’ll give this another listen this evening, but at the time I didn’t like the beat, the choir or Coolio’s flow.

    It always felt to me that although there has always been a fair number of hip hop fans in the UK, for the wider pop audience it was something that drifted in and out of their view, and also that there was a limit to the number of hip hop acts they could engage with at any one time. Also, while the UK had seemed a priority for Def Jam in 1987, by the mid-’90s there were thriving regional hip hop markets in the US to the extent that, say, Master P was unconcerned about making inroads on the East Coast let alone Europe. There was a movie-biz style lag between US and UK releases. Biggie and Tupac weren’t unknown over here – the still breathing Pac had a top 10 hit – but they certainly were much bigger posthumously.

    I was mostly reviewing hip hop for Select, and doing it poorly, unable to find a way in 130 words to explain stuff to the uninitiated at the same time as slipping some thoughts in for people who were immersed in the culture. I lacked confidence in my own judgment, with good reason (3/5 for Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers? Fool)

  30. 30
    Mark M on 24 Jul 2013 #

    Re 6 (etc): according the most plausible stats I can find, 1993 was the worst year for homicides in California (like a lot of the other social indicators, it had been rising during the 1970s but wasn’t near as bad as it would become). By 1996 it had dropped sharply, but that wouldn’t have been noticable at the time, nor would anyone have known it was a long-term trend.

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