1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $29.95

Buy for $29.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

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

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    542
  • 4 Stars
    144
  • 3 Stars
    19
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    504
  • 4 Stars
    114
  • 3 Stars
    24
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    510
  • 4 Stars
    115
  • 3 Stars
    19
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Hi
  • 03-10-18

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.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very great

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

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great read

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

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gangsta Originals

IMO - As a forty plus year old brown skinned man in Amerikkka - Original Gangstas gave me exactly what I’ve been itching to hear for years on end from beginning to end. The back stories of celebrated men of a certain culture now allows me to rest easy about my personal opinion of the trickle up effect of NWA and the west coast Allstar regardless of whatever gang affiliations or corporate conundrums they are leaders, lords and warriors at war with the foolish intent of the 13th Amendment, lynching and caucasian supremacy. So thank you very much for putting this project together.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

it's about time . . .

this art form, and these artists, the underlying culture, and the incredible contributions not just to american, but worldwide culture, begin to get their due.. this book is a good start

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic.

A fantastic story told incredibly vividly. Was interested to learn more about Tupac but the entire book was highly interesting and I found myself soaking everything up about things I kinda already knew but also things I knew next to nothing about. Fantastic.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for PMeehan
  • 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.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Scott
  • Scott
  • 01-24-20

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.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Paul
  • Paul
  • 06-15-22

Enjoyable listen

As much as some of what’s in this book is already public knowledge, the author reveals some stuff that is unknown which is good. It’s well read and keeps you involved in the story.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Drew
  • Drew
  • 04-07-22

Great 👍🏼

This really was interesting and made me want to listen to more as the story progressed.The most interesting for me was the section on 2Pac👍🏼

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jackie
  • Jackie
  • 04-04-22

really good read

This book is first rate informative, insightful and, as strangely as it may sound given the subject matter, an enjoyable to read.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for neil stafford
  • neil stafford
  • 02-23-22

By far the best book, covering every angle of the genre, and the best history lesson I have had on the subject!!!

As a teenager growing up just outside London, UK, I still remember my mate playing me this tape he said I had to here. Ice T, that was my introduction and I was instantly hooked and still am too this day. The book gives just the right amount of detail on every subject it covers and taught me so many things I didn’t know on the WHOLE story. 35 years later from my first listen to ICE T, I am still a huge fan of all forms of Rap and Hip Hop, across the board.

This has rubbed off on my son fortunately and as soon as Straight out of Compton was released at the cinema, we went and watched it together!

The book is a solid 10/10
Also. I listened via Audible and a note of respect to the narrator, as well as the author and anyone involved behind the scenes, fantastic work.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-24-21

amazing story and amazingly detailed.

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Richard Alan Lockwood
  • Richard Alan Lockwood
  • 05-18-21

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 02-23-21

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.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Daz
  • Daz
  • 07-19-20

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!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Camo
  • Camo
  • 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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Brendan
  • Brendan
  • 02-16-22

So much more information than we know

I learned so much from this after thinking I already had all the info. Little did I know that what I knew was only surface information. The only issue I had with the performance was some of the pronunciation of names. I just thought, we know the names from the songs, have you heard them? However, it did sound like the reader had to do some research or already knew a lot. It was just the mispronunciation that did my head in, but I'm weird like that.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for troy davis
  • troy davis
  • 11-07-20

must if you love gangsta rap

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Peter McDermott
  • Peter McDermott
  • 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.