The term gangster rap was coined in 1985 by the Detroit-based rapper Big Moe (born Marvin Carter) after hearing of a New Jersey rapper who had a similar sound. Moe, who had been in jail for some time after having been involved in a gun-running scheme, was particularly aware of the differences (among other things) between the two sounds.
“I remember a rhyme on Eminem’s tape for an album back in the day,” says Moe. “I was listening to it, and they mention one of my rhymes, and they say it ain’t ‘gangster rap’, but then they go on and mention, ‘But [Eminem] can rhyme like a gangsta rap guy and a lot of the records in his repertoire are gangsta rap’.”
Moe added that “most of the people doing this hip-hop thing are just trying to cash in”, but noted “I don’t agree with them. I think this is the beginning of a movement.
“The real gangster rap is out there somewhere, it’s just not acknowledged yet.
“The next step in me finding that out is to start doing the production for it, to make it for the real album.”
Eminem’s rap on ‘My Name Is’ (2006)
As Moe points out, in some respects Eminem’s album My Name is “one of the most rap-oriented” records in recent years. The album’s title tracks (My Name Is) (2005) and All That Remains (2006), among other songs, emphasise “rap power” with the likes of J Dilla and Talib Kweli appearing on tracks.
Moe’s take on this sound is that “some dudes have made some really good ‘gangster rap’ but then they’re not trying to be rappers. You know what I mean? They’re not trying to make the best album. Their ‘gangster rap’ is something that sounds, that sounds like gangster rap.
“But in doing that they’re doing it with great songs. I think that the main influence of that in this record is the sound of Talib Kweli. There’s the beats, too, which are really smooth and perfect. They’re like ‘Eminem has done it again.’ No, I love it.
“You can’t tell the difference. I just think it’s the best thing going.”
Where’s Eminem when you need him?
how to write a rap song, how to flow on any beat, how to master the art of rapping, how to rhyme syllables, guide to making rap music