Between the years of 1995 to 1997 there was a war waging between the two coasts of the United States. The East Coast Gangsta Rap scene, led by Puff Daddy and his boy Biggie Smalls, against the hardened West Coast Gangsta Rap scene led by veterans of the L.A. gang scene, and pioneers of the genre N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and newcomers Snoop Dogg, The Dogg Pound, and 2Pac. While Death Row Records was at the forefront of the West and Bad Boy was taking the helm in the East, there was a newcomer about to bust things wide open.
Shots were fired, literally, in late 1994 when 2Pac was gunned down entering the Bad Boy Record studio. He miraculously survived this attack, taking five bullets and then recovering to launch the war full force at Death Row records a couple of years later. In September of 1996 the shots fired again, this time ending 2Pac’s life. Presumably in retaliation, or perhaps as an indirect results of the gang wars, for whatever reason Biggie Smalls was shot and killed just a few months later right before the release of his double album, Life After Death.
Just when everyone thought the Gangsta Rap genre was going to fizzle out, Puff Daddy quickly dropped the gangsta rap persona and shifted to a more radio friendly hip-Pop sound, reminiscent of the main stream sound Will Smith was employing. The gangsta scene looked like it was going to disappear for a brief moment. Even Bad Boy’s next rising star, Ma$e, altered his gangsta image to a more MTV friendly look and their music videos reflected this by focusing more on their flashy parties and money than their gangsta life styles as previous videos had done. The Mafioso rap would live on, under the head of superior producer to Puffy, Jay-Z, as his masterfully crafted Rocafella Records picked up the pieces of the crumbling Bad Boy empire.
In the middle of all the coastal wars there was a new gangsta rap guru waiting to take over and push both Bad Boy and Death Row into obscurity. The mans name was Master P. The record label was No Limit Records. The album, Ghetto D.
By the time No Limit Records came onto the scene, gangsta rap was either west coast G-Funk or east coast mafioso, the southern blend of hard core street and down to earth thugs just trying to make a living was a different change of pace. Although No Limit Records quickly supplanted the two dominant gangsta rap labels of the day, they did so using the very same talent Death Row used to launch. Snoop Doggy Dogg, rebranded as just Snoop Dogg when he left Death Row and joined No Limit. This story is going to focus on the record that made the shift happen. Keep an eye on part two where you can learn more about Snoop’s time with Master P and company.
Ghetto D (short for Ghetto Dope, as per the albums title track) came out hitting hard and fast. The first track on the record hits you in the face with it’s message, “a shout out to drug dealers” as the record claimed. The record didn’t spend a lot of time talking about pimping hoes, drive by shootings, or hit men coming to snipe the snitch, the record just painted a picture of a working class thug trying to make a living selling drugs.
The album gets straight to the point with tracks like Weed & Money, Ghetto D, and Stop Hatin’, it’s the single and subsequent music video that really propelled the record to mainstream recognition. “Make Em Say Ugh!” quickly became a radio hit, a hit on MTV and the anthem for the new wave of hard core gangsta rap that was about to burst onto the scene. That track brought the entire No Limit studio crew right to the front of the Hip-Hop scene and proved that gangsta rap didn’t have to take a side in the deadly gang wars.
The record itself is massive. It sports 19 tracks of pure, hard core hip-hop. Not a single track of interludes, fake radio broadcasts or people talking. The album didn’t tell a story using theatrics like Doggystyle, a superior gangsta rap album in many respects, it did manage to get straight to the point. Master P didn’t need a lot of story lines cluttering up the record, he let the music speak for itself. With solid base lines, quick battle raps, hard beats, and lot’s of G-Funk melodies mixed with some southern beats, the record demonstrated there truly was a middle ground to the gangsta rap turf wars.
1998 was defined by the sounds of Master P, C-Murder and Silkk The Shocker, all who quickly dethrowned the entire Bad Boy and Death Row crews from prominence. Ice Cube, one of the founders of the Gangsta Rap scene, turned to Hollywood and left the music industry mostly behind. Dr. Dre responded to the new label by hiring a White Boy to get his game back on track. Snoop Dogg himself even followed the old, if you can’t beat em, join em, mantra as he released several albums on the record label that left Death Row in the ashes. Silkk The Shocker would quickly follow up Master P’s glorious sounding Ghetto D with a record of his own, Charge it to The Game, featuring the hit “It Ain’t My Fault” and prominently featuring newcomer Snoop Dogg on some respectable gangsta tracks.
Much like Doggystyle before, each track serves a purpose in getting the listener to fear and respect the talents of the producer behind the scenes. Ghetto D rose to the occasion of filling in the gaps created by the decline of the two East Coast/West Coast giants. Their reign didn’t last forever as Jay Z and his Rockafella Records would soon surpass all three gangsta rap labels in terms of sales, money, presence in the market, and number of important artists all combined.
The aftermath of the decline of the Coastal Wars left Death Row in ruins, Bad Boy turned pop, and Dr. Dre selling records featuring a bleached blond Backstreet Boy lookalike. Master P stood up and reminded the world that gangsta rap music could still be about hard music with a prominent message interlaced within some head bobbing tracks. Ghetto D is easily one of the top 25 gangsta rap records of all time.