Trends: Mafia Rap
Kool G Rap: Road to the Riches is regarded as the first Mafia rap album (1989).
Kool G Rap set the standard for rappers to talk about tales of organized crime, whilst making references to mobsters and drug traffickers (whether real or fictional).
Sonically, the sub genre was heavily influenced by mob movie scores. For example, producers would sample mandolins & string sections (or use live musicians), to create a soundscape that would make the record sound like a film in itself. Sound effects were also added into the mix to emphasize the feel of a motion picture.
Alternatively, some producers would try to create a Spanish sounding backdrop for rappers to craft their tales over, reminiscent of certain scenes in Scarface.
It’s important to take into account a few things. During this era, mob films had become a huge part of popular culture. Within a few years, many critically acclaimed mob films hit the cinemas.
- 1990: Goodfellas/Godfather III/King Of New York
- 1991-1992: Highly publicized trial of John Gotti
- 1992-1993: Manhunt for Pablo Escobar
- 1993: The Firm/Carlito’s Way/A Bronx Tale
- 1995: Casino
- 1997: Donnie Brasco
Songs and videos within the mafia rap sub genre, would constantly make reference to these events. Videos became 4 minute mob flicks.
Wu Tang became Wu Gambinos on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Raekwon told stories of organized crime, with Rza providing the score.
Notorious B.I.G became Frank White. A.Z became Sosa. Fat Joe became Don Cartagena.
Havoc started using strings as Mobb Deep went the Mafia rap route on Hell On Earth.
The sub genre saw a revival in 2007 with the release of Jay-Z: American Gangster, which was also the soundtrack to the mob film.
Several recent records that follow the theme of Mafia Rap include Cuban Linx 2, Deeper Than Rap and Teflon Don.