• 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: JD Jackson
  • Length: 15 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-15-16
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Hachette Books
  • 5 out of 5 stars (294 ratings)

Regular price: $29.65

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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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very great

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Great read

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic- demands another listen!

Research and content excellent. Narration top notch. Worth multiple listens! I don't write reviews ever, but I've already sent this to friends and recommended it. I was born in 1981, so I lived this, but I was a little young to really experience it. A fascinating look at a misunderstood subject, this is my favorite book this year out of about 200 or so. Even if you think you hate rap, you'll find this interesting- and may even have a new appreciation or respect for it when you're done.

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Dense, fun book about Rap History.

To start off, I am not a huge fan of rap. Never have, Never been. I was actually requested this by the Last Podcast on the Left. It does a very good job of helping you understand what was going on with the rap scene before, during and after Gangsta Rap. It also gives every artist it can (including Shug) some form of humanity. Come for the stories of Bigge and Pac, stay for the conspiracy theories.

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Great read

Loved listening to the book, it really gets you thinking what would have happened if social media existed back in the day. Would everyone who had died been able to resolve everything with a tweet or a quick page. These guys didnt play around...they influenced alot of people in good and bad ways. Enjoy learning about the west coast lifestyle.

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Well researched and compelling

This book provides a well researched and compelling look at gangster rap on the west coast as it came about in the mid to late 80s up to mid to late 90s. This book really excels at cutting through the media narrative about who these people are and tells the straight facts. A lot of people in the gangster rap scene are artists who have very little or none legitimate claim to being gangsters, criminals, and gang members but often have to embody that persona for their music.

You get to learn about the real lives and people behind the music in both a sympathetic but also critical way. The writer doesn't moralize about the genre at length but largely provides an unbiased prospective and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. If this genre of music in an interest of you I would highly recommend this book.

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  • PMeehan
  • 09-25-18

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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  • Phil
  • 09-09-18

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.
  • 08-23-18

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
  • 08-20-18

brilliant

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

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  • william
  • 08-15-18

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-13-18

The definitive history of West Coast Gangster Rap

The definitive history of West Coast Gangster Rap.
Superbly well researched, magnificently narrated and with a story that kept moving.

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  • Martin
  • 05-29-17

Great book

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 07-30-18

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.