Ben Westhoff

Original Gangstas

The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap

Hachette Books 2016

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in MusicNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network January 9, 2017 Richard Schur

The real story behind the origin of gangsta rap is difficult to discern. Between the bombastic rhetoric and imagery, the larger-than-life characters, and the...

The real story behind the origin of gangsta rap is difficult to discern. Between the bombastic rhetoric and imagery, the larger-than-life characters, and the subsequent success of many of the individuals, it is hard to know exactly what to believe.

Ben Westhoff’s new book, Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur and the Birth of West Coast Rap (Hachette Books, 2016), sets the record straight with a clear account of the rise and dissolution of N.W.A., the founding of Death Row Records, and the events that led up to the deadly beef between Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Based on scores of interviews with the principals, Westhoff provides a definitive account of 1990s gangsta rap’s birth and growth. It offers clarity on the confusing turn of events and explores in rich detail the murders of Tupac and Biggie. Westhoff’s book also provides a great opportunity to reflect on the legacy of gangsta rap, especially after the film Straight Outta Compton and the transformed images of Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre.

Ben Westhoff is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Vice, Pitchfork, and The Wall Street Journal. He spent three years as the music editor at LA Weekly and is the author Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, and Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop. His website can be found at http://benwesthoff.com.


Richard Schur is the host of this podcast and is Professor of English at Drury University.

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