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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,” out 9/13/2016 On the twentieth anniversary of the death of Tupac.
Check out the Official Original Gangstas book Facebook Page.
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 quickly redefined pop culture across the world.
Award-winning journalist Ben Westhoff explores how N.W.A. shifted the epicenter of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how their shocking success led 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 its peak, two of gangsta rap’s biggest names—Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls—would be murdered, and the surviving superstars would have to make peace before their music collapsed in its own violence.
Based on five years of intensive investigative reporting, interviews with more than 100 principal and secondary players, and packed with never-before- told, news-making revelations, ORIGINAL GANGSTAS is the full, unvarnished story behind the mostly one-sided Oscar-nominated film Straight Outta Compton, and the gangsta rappers like Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur who followed.
In the book, Westhoff reveals:
*A secret jail meeting between Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight convinced Knight to go into battle against Biggie Smalls and his ally Sean “Puffy” Combs,” thereby igniting the East Coast and West Coast rap war that left both Tupac and Biggie dead.
*Firsthand accounts of Tupac Shakur’s actions during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
*New details about Dr. Dre’s early years in the music industry.
*The real story behind Eazy-E’s drug-dealing past and his death from AIDS in 1995, including the Nation of Islam’s attempt to save him with an emergency, cutting-edge treatment from Africa.
*Details on Suge Knight’s violent early days in security at Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, and his ascent at Death Row to become the most feared man in hip-hop.
*Ice Cube’s early life and neighborhood rap group Stereo Crew, his days with Da Lench Mob and their altercation with Above the Law in 1990, and his relationship with the Nation of Islam and its leader Louis Farrakhan.
Packed with insights from original interviews with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, D.O.C., Michel’le, Mopreme Shakur, and dozens more – including rappers, girlfriends, family members, and industry professionals – ORIGINAL GANGSTAS is a monumental work of music history.
“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, bestselling author of The Rap Year Book
“Original Gangstas is as real as it gets if you want to know the so-called ‘gangsta rap’ scene. Ben Westhoff refrains from using rumors and innuendos, and instead reports the facts, and he tells all sides of this music movement. The book goes into depth about many stories I’d only previously heard via the streets. As the first DJ to play almost everyone mentioned in the book, I found Original Gangstas compelling reading. Thank you, Ben Westhoff, for this great book!” –Greg Mack, “The Godfather of Hip Hop Radio,” former KDAY DJ, current host of the nationally syndicated “The Greg Mack Show”
“Original Gangstas takes readers to the source, the battered communities and difficult lives that spawned an unlikely musical revolution. Eazy and Dre, Tupac and Snoop–Westhoff admires his subjects’ music talent but isn’t afraid to expose their darkest secrets. His research is exhaustive, while his prose is concise, and the result is an unforgettable history of the last time music was ever really dangerous.” –Stephen Witt, author of How Music Got Free
“Original Gangstas shows how the rap West was won. A social and cultural study to read along with a head nodding-soundtrack ‘fo sho'” –Chuck D, Public Enemy