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  • Original Gangstas

  • The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap
  • By: Ben Westhoff
  • Narrated by: J.D. Jackson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Music
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (22 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A monumental, revealing narrative history about the legendary group of artists at the forefront of West Coast hip-hop: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

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 they quickly redefined pop culture across the world.

Their names remain as popular as ever: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Dre soon joined forces with Suge Knight to create the combustible Death Row Records, which in turn transformed Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur into superstars.

Ben Westhoff explores how this group of artists shifted the balance of hip-hop from New York to Los Angeles. He shows how N.W.A.'s shocking success led to rivalries between members and 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 30 years. At gangsta rap's peak, two of its biggest names - Tupac and Biggie Smalls - were murdered, leaving the surviving artists to forge peace before the genre annihilated itself.

Featuring extensive investigative reporting, interviews with the principal players, and dozens of never-before-told stories, Original Gangstas is a groundbreaking addition to the history of popular music.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 Ben Westhoff (P)2016 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Westhoff manages to knit together all the group'soutsized personalities, feuds, fist fights and drama into a stunning and entertaining read.... [His] detailed recounting of the long history of Death Row is required reading even for those who may think they know the story." ( New York Daily News)
"Insightful... Westhoff's history is especially relevant amid the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement." ( Booklist)
"This is the hip-hop book of the season, and it gives readers a thorough and engaging history of the West coast rap scene." ( Bookish)

What listeners say about Original Gangstas

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Great book

Very comprehensive, great and a pleasure to listen to. Lots of unknown facts and gives a very good understanding of historic events

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must if you love gangsta rap

good read everything you need to know about the world of gangsta rap and more

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Brilliant, interesting, riveting.

Brilliantly written and researched, Ben Westhoff interweaves a complex story that begins with the forming of NWA and ends with the death of Tupac. The book delves into the context of the time both for the rappers and the USA at large, and does not shy away from the problematic, particularly regarding misogyny. Highly recommended, I hope Westhoff does a book about the east coast next.

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  • guyzilla
  • 19-02-2017

Very Informative and well told

Originally I purchased this because I searched for keyword "Tupac" this was in the results and sounded like it was a good listen for my drive to work. it turned out to be a great story and very informative.

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  • Hi
  • 10-03-2018

I am a metal head and this book is great.

I didn't have high hopes for myself to like it. I am mostly a huge heavy metal person. I learned so much I feel I deserve street credit. But to be serious it was a great book might even listen to it again soon.

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  • herb
  • 28-11-2016

Excellent, rap needs more of these!

Would you listen to Original Gangstas again? Why?

Yes I would, there was so much information to absorb, but it was never overbearing. History and facts are abundant

Who was your favorite character and why?

Eazy-E was my first favorite rapper so I suppose you could say he was! Wish there was more on him but Ben did an excellent job of covering him.

Which character – as performed by JD Jackson – was your favorite?

JD did a great job with the reading and I feel like his portrayal of Ice T was the most convincing

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Sure, but I'd probably take breaks to listen to the music the book talks about

Any additional comments?

The only criticism I could levy against this book is that it sometimes jumps ahead of itself, talking about things before they happen (in the context of the book) but otherwise this was a fantastic read and I am most impressed by the writers ability to tie in so many different characters so flawlessly! I've purchased 54 books on audible & this may be the best one yet!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Christina Hernandez
  • 06-02-2019

Reliving a moment in time

Great narration, took me back to the moment. Back to the time. Just as I remember it. I will be listening to this often. RIP Eazy, Pac, Biggie and the rest of the people who created the best music in my lifetime.

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  • Shedrick Brown
  • 15-02-2017

A must listen for fans of hip hop and rap

Thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish!! It will make you go back and listen to the classic west coast rap sings you've enjoyed for decades now, but with a better understanding of the lyrics music and production behind them. Great job by the author

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  • San
  • 09-01-2017

Very great

I this was a great book. The author did great job in researching and telling the story. I recommend this book.

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  • mr shy!
  • 23-10-2016

Great read

Great audio book, so much information that I did not know, during certain eras in hip hop.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Siobhan Ricci
  • 27-06-2021

Best rap history book on Audible

Original Gangstas is a great book and the best choice on this platform for hip hop history. I’ve read ones I’ve liked more that aren’t on Audible, such as, Have Gun Will Travel, as well as documentaries like Welcome to Death Row, or Murder Rap, if you’re interest is in the Biggie and Pac killings. That being said this book delivers on what it promises, the history of west coast rap, from the birth to the downfall, everything is covered. The NWA portion was sluggish at times though. Legit book!

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  • Matt F.
  • 26-04-2021

Excellent book some minor details are off but good nonetheless

I’ve studied west coast hip hop enough to know what details are some what off and what is new to me. This book had a little of both, which is fine because I do know the differences. Last podcast on the left sent me here though, after their Tupac and biggie episodes. This book is a really interesting look at the history of the WEST COAST. Packed with info.

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  • Rishbha
  • 31-12-2020

West side where we rideee

This book gave a deeper outlook on hip hop. I think some of the stories mentioned were interesting and well researched. If you are a hip hop head, I think you will enjoy this one.

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  • PMeehan
  • 25-09-2018

Possibily the most well-researched book I've read

Ben Westhoff manages to present two decades (and more) worth of testinmonies, inside storys, interviews and lives into a staggeringly detailed and engrossing timeline of the emergence, rise and fall of gangsta rap in South Central Los Angeles and beyond.

This isn't just 'the inside story', this is 'inside the inside story', with details that not even the most ardent of hip-hop fan would know about.

Charting the details of many players including Ice Cube, Dr Dre, Eazy E, Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight and hundreds of other rappers, lawyers, personalities, hangers-on and money-grabbers.

I don't think I will read another book as well-researched, engrossing, captivating and historically accurate as this book.

In my experience, the best narrators give you the story without adding their distracting flair, and JD Jackson provides exactly that, with a few attempts at impressions during quotes which add a bit of variety to the narrative.

A MUST-READ for anyone with even the a vague interest in rap and hip-hop.

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  • Scott
  • 24-01-2020

This is the absolute best breakdown of the history of gangsta rap.

This book from the perspective of myself who is around for the early years I am now in my mid 30s, but grew up in the 90s

What I highly recommend doing is as each song track et cetera it’s mentioned refer yourself to Spotify or Apple Music for the briefest Moment and listen to that song before continuing the book. It extends upon and brings immense detail into the story and the things that are referenced.

I have learned a great deal upon this lesson I would highly recommend it to anyone who are not only fans of the fathers of the genre but to simply those who want to understand more about these days of the music industry.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-08-2021

amazing story and amazingly detailed.

A must for any hip hop enthusiast!!!
so many details and stories you wouldn't imagine

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  • Richard Alan Lockwood
  • 18-05-2021

memories of old skool. god i miss 2pac. go get it

this is a great story told and surprised to learn a new perspective if 2pac and suge saga too

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  • Anonymous User
  • 23-02-2021

Highly recommended

Brilliantly researched and a well balanced historical retelling of a fascinating period in rap music; the narration is excellent. Very enjoyable and informative listen.

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  • Daz
  • 19-07-2020

The best book on this era of hip hop

I have read so many books about hip hop from this era and this is by far the best, with new insights that are so refreshing to hear, rather than the same stuff that’s in most other books out there.

A must buy!

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  • Phil
  • 09-09-2018

Excellent throughout

Just superb. A must for any West Coast rap fan. An excellent and detailed account. Well researched.

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  • Ramona S.
  • 23-08-2018

For hip-hop fans and American culture vultures

This book provides a superb overview of the topic for hip-hop fans and those interested in the impact of it upon wider American culture. Focusing on the origins of West Coast gangster rap, it progresses to show how social reality was projected by those immersed in it to a wider audience. It has a superb range of sources that JD Jackson manages to quite staggeringly interpret vocally with one of the best audio book performances I have heard. Highly recommended listen.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-08-2018

brilliant

brilliabt listen. would recommend to any hip hop fan around the world. thank you for a great audiobook

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  • william
  • 15-08-2018

The book would be a triple platinum record

I found this book to be very interesting and informative. from the heart of Gangster Rap music it’s self it transcends many different aspects and areas of Rap music from the beginning to recent times. With a easy listen and gritty feel it flows nicely. This book will sit next to my Dre Snoop and Cube Alums.

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