Translated into multiple languages and taught in classrooms around the country, Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap is based on five years of research and reporting. It’s the definitive history of L.A. gangsta rap, revealing how a cohort of then-unknown rappers, including Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur, grappled with rivalries, crime, drugs, gangs, racist cops and bad record deals to create the defining music of a generation. The book is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookseller.
Ben Westhoff is available to speak to college and high school classes about Original Gangstas via Skype, at no charge.
“This may be the best book ever written about the hip hop world.” –S. Leigh Savidge, co-writer and Oscar nominee, Straight Outta Compton
“A provocative, multifaceted portrait of essential rap pioneers…As raw, authoritative, and unflinching as the music Westhoff’s narrative chronicles.” –Kirkus (starred review)
“[Adds] fresh detail to the oft-told stories …[A] history that won’t settle for easy heroes or villains.” –Rolling Stone
“My favorite book of the year” — Sermons Domain
“An impressive and exhaustive look inside the real world of the pioneering group” N.W.A. –People
In the late 1980s the emergence of a new genre, gangsta rap, shifted the epicenter of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. Award-winning journalist Ben Westhoff shows how N.W.A’s shocking success led to rivalries among members and clashes between Eazy’s Ruthless Records and Suge Knight’s Death Row; backlash from the FBI, politicians, and police; and eventually an all-out war between East and West Coast rappers that would turn deadly. In the process, hip-hop burst into mainstream America at a time of immense social change.Original Gangstas includes revelations about seminal events, including the death of Eazy-E from AIDS, Suge Knight’s ascent at Death Row, the whereabouts of rappers – including Tupac Shakur – during the 1992 L.A. riots, the events that led to the East Coast / West Coast feud, and the murders of Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G, among many others.
Packed with insights from original interviews with Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Snoop Dogg, D.O.C., Mopreme Shakur, Ice-T, and dozens more – including rappers, girlfriends, family members, and industry professionals – Ben Westhoff’s Original Gangstas is a monumental work of music history.
Shea Serrano, New York Times bestselling author of The Rap Year Book says:
“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.”
Greg Mack, hip-hop radio godfather and host of “The Greg Mack Show” says:
“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!”
Stephen Witt, author of How Music Got Free, says:
“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.”
Chuck D of Public Enemy says:
“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