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Publisher's Summary

A monumental, revealing narrative history about the legendary group of artists at the forefront of West Coast hip-hop: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

Amid rising gang violence, the crack epidemic, and police brutality, a group of unlikely voices cut through the chaos of late 1980s Los Angeles: N.W.A. Led by a drug dealer, a glammed-up producer, and a high school kid, N.W.A. gave voice to disenfranchised African Americans across the country. And they quickly redefined pop culture across the world.

Their names remain as popular as ever: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Dre soon joined forces with Suge Knight to create the combustible Death Row Records, which in turn transformed Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur into superstars.

Ben Westhoff explores how this group of artists shifted the balance of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how N.W.A.'s shocking success led to rivalries between members and record labels and eventually a war between East Coast and West Coast factions. In the process hip-hop burst into mainstream America at a time of immense social change and became the most dominant musical movement of the last 30 years. At gangsta rap's peak, two of its biggest names - Tupac and Biggie Smalls - were murdered, leaving the surviving artists to forge peace before the genre annihilated itself.

Featuring extensive investigative reporting, interviews with the principal players, and dozens of never-before-told stories, Original Gangstas is a groundbreaking addition to the history of popular music.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 Ben Westhoff (P)2016 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"Westhoff manages to knit together all the group'soutsized personalities, feuds, fist fights and drama into a stunning and entertaining read.... [His] detailed recounting of the long history of Death Row is required reading even for those who may think they know the story." ( New York Daily News)
"Insightful... Westhoff's history is especially relevant amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement." ( Booklist)
"This is the hip-hop book of the season, and it gives readers a thorough and engaging history of the West coast rap scene." ( Bookish)

What listeners say about Original Gangstas

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One of the best ones yet!

Really good! Lots of information about what all went down in the rap world.

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Some of the best narration I’ve ever heard

There were some real impressions of the different hiphop icons in this book that felt smooth and didn’t take me out of the experience. I learned some details I hadn’t heard before also. A1

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Great read for hip hop fans!

Absolutely fascinating and in depth story of not only the main players of NWA but the lesser known members of the entourages including Daz, Warren G, Herron, Neckbone, Nate Dogg etc. Any fan of the 1990s west coast rap rap will be very pleased to listen and hear that the books goes so much further in depth than the movie Straight Outta Compton or even the Netflix series about the Biggie/Tupac murders.

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An excellently written and researched book

Highly enjoyable and informative listening experience, a must for anyone interested in gangsta rap .

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Great read for hip hop fans

This book gives a incredible detailed insight of the life and progression of hip hop and rap music. I learned so much with this book. #Audible1

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  • guyzilla
  • 2017-02-19

Very Informative and well told

Originally I purchased this because I searched for keyword "Tupac" this was in the results and sounded like it was a good listen for my drive to work. it turned out to be a great story and very informative.

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  • Hi
  • 2018-03-10

I am a metal head and this book is great.

I didn't have high hopes for myself to like it. I am mostly a huge heavy metal person. I learned so much I feel I deserve street credit. But to be serious it was a great book might even listen to it again soon.

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  • herb
  • 2016-11-28

Excellent, rap needs more of these!

Would you listen to Original Gangstas again? Why?

Yes I would, there was so much information to absorb, but it was never overbearing. History and facts are abundant

Who was your favorite character and why?

Eazy-E was my first favorite rapper so I suppose you could say he was! Wish there was more on him but Ben did an excellent job of covering him.

Which character – as performed by JD Jackson – was your favorite?

JD did a great job with the reading and I feel like his portrayal of Ice T was the most convincing

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Sure, but I'd probably take breaks to listen to the music the book talks about

Any additional comments?

The only criticism I could levy against this book is that it sometimes jumps ahead of itself, talking about things before they happen (in the context of the book) but otherwise this was a fantastic read and I am most impressed by the writers ability to tie in so many different characters so flawlessly! I've purchased 54 books on audible & this may be the best one yet!

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  • Christina Hernandez
  • 2019-02-06

Reliving a moment in time

Great narration, took me back to the moment. Back to the time. Just as I remember it. I will be listening to this often. RIP Eazy, Pac, Biggie and the rest of the people who created the best music in my lifetime.

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  • Shedrick Brown
  • 2017-02-15

A must listen for fans of hip hop and rap

Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish!! It will make you go back and listen to the classic west coast rap sings you've enjoyed for decades now, but with a better understanding of the lyrics music and production behind them. Great job by the author

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  • San
  • 2017-01-09

Very great

I this was a great book. The author did great job in researching and telling the story. I recommend this book.

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  • mr shy!
  • 2016-10-23

Great read

Great audio book, so much information that I did not know, during certain eras in hip hop.

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  • Siobhan Ricci
  • 2021-06-27

Best rap history book on Audible

Original Gangstas is a great book and the best choice on this platform for hip hop history. I’ve read ones I’ve liked more that aren’t on Audible, such as, Have Gun Will Travel, as well as documentaries like Welcome to Death Row, or Murder Rap, if you’re interest is in the Biggie and Pac killings. That being said this book delivers on what it promises, the history of west coast rap, from the birth to the downfall, everything is covered. The NWA portion was sluggish at times though. Legit book!

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  • Matt F.
  • 2021-04-26

Excellent book some minor details are off but good nonetheless

I’ve studied west coast hip hop enough to know what details are some what off and what is new to me. This book had a little of both, which is fine because I do know the differences. Last podcast on the left sent me here though, after their Tupac and biggie episodes. This book is a really interesting look at the history of the WEST COAST. Packed with info.

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  • Rishbha
  • 2020-12-31

West side where we rideee

This book gave a deeper outlook on hip hop. I think some of the stories mentioned were interesting and well researched. If you are a hip hop head, I think you will enjoy this one.