Though violence was at a temporary low, the introduction of crack — a cheap and potent form of cocaine — had sparked a massive rise in urban gangs and violence. The Sugar Hill Gang set the tone early on: I just threw away a lifetime of guilt-free sex and floor seats for every sporting event in Madison Square Garden. What is a hustler? Out of this culture came gangsta rap.
Style and substance have always kept an uneasy truce in pop music — and now visual style was winning.
I'm A Hustler (R&B Remix)
If early rap was about how the folks in the projects lived, gangsta rap was about how the hustlers lived. The feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers was a synecdoche for gangsta rap itself: You can find more classical fables, from Aesop to Jean de la Fontaine, that honor the cunning prey overcoming the mighty predator than vice versa. Leaked footage of the beating sparked a public outcry, which boiled over into rioting once the four officers involved were acquitted of all charges. Women in sprayed-on dresses and bikinis, rubbing themselves with vacant stares. The schmuck or shlemiel is one of the oldest comic stereotypes.