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  • Original Gangstas

  • The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap
  • Written by: Ben Westhoff
  • Narrated by: J.D. Jackson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (27 ratings)
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Original Gangstas cover art

Original Gangstas

Written by: Ben Westhoff
Narrated by: J.D. Jackson
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Publisher's Summary

"Raw, authoritative, and unflinching ... An elaborately detailed, darkly surprising, definitive history of the LA gangsta rap era."—Kirkus, starred review

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 lead to rivalries between members, 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 thirty 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 PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2016 Ben Westhoff (P)2016 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

"I trust Ben Westhoff. I trust him to report a story and I trust him to tell a story, and that's exactly what he's done here in Original Gangstas. He's taken what's always felt like an almost impossibly knotted string of storylines and plot points in gangsta rap, the most turbulent version of the most popular music on the planet, and turned them into an airtight and unflinching book. Original Gangstas is as resolute as the people and ideas it sets out to profile, and that is no small feat."—Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author of The Rap Year Book

"Scrupulously researched with many incisive revelations, this may be the best book ever written about the hip hop world."—S. Leigh Savidge, Academy Award nominee and co-writer of Straight Outta Compton

"A provocative, multifaceted portrait of essential rap pioneers who ushered the hip-hop music scene to greatness.... As raw, authoritative, and unflinching as the music his narrative chronicles, Westhoff comprehensively uncovers the factual roots of the gangsta rap movement and admirably credits those whose footprints paved the way for the younger rappers emerging today.... An elaborately detailed, darkly surprising, definitive history of the LA gangsta rap era."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

What listeners say about Original Gangstas

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The raw no nonsense telling of a very compelling story

I liked the narrator sounding a bit hood, made the story more authentic and brought me right into the story

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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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1 person found this helpful

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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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  • Kevin H.
  • 2023-04-20

Detailed and attention grabbing!

There are so many topics in this book; it is a great history of gangsta rap. I grew up on the West Coast for the most part, and listened to a lot of the music written about here in this book. Lots of details I did not know despite following the careers of these men for a long time. It literally goes through the entire history. Great read!!

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  • TeddyDog
  • 2023-02-05

So Where's Ren ?

This is a quibble admittedly but I bought 'Straight Outta Compton' on its release and it blew me away like it did the rest of young white America. In the thousand or so spins the cool and menacing rhymes of MC Ren were the high point for me and yet he never seems to merit much more than a footnote in books and films about Gangsta Rap and this book is no exception. Like I said it's a quibble but I hope Ren eventually gets the recognition and respect he deserves for his inimitable rhymes. Otherwise this is both in depth and fast paced and very highly recommended.

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  • Andrew
  • 2022-12-08

A must for any hip hop fan

so much better than a Hollywood wash over. If you love NWA, or Stright Out of Compton, you must hear this.

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