Monday, 11 October 2010

All In The Chain Gang - Corporate Rap, Sports Giants, the Virtual University of Crime and Gang Franchising - Part 1

Almighty Dollar

*Hollywood Gang Bangers*
Corporate Rap, Sports Giants, the Virtual University of Crime
& Gang Franchising

"Step into a world of Gangsters, where the rules of power and vengence demands respect and dominance. Where your action will either make you the Kingpin of the crime underworld or leave you as a simple low criminal." - a Computer Game “Made by Gangsters for Gangsters” press blurb

To many people, from a huge variety of backgrounds, it is beginning to appear that more and more everyday, there is a virtual bombardment of young people's psyche through computer games, Movies and Gangsta Rap imagery. The modern Hollywood based entertainment industry is almost promoting a Criminal Warrior Class, feeding the worldwide Drug pandemic, and revolving doors of privately run prison industrial complex.

"Throw Up your virtual Set!" - G.T.A. San Andreas

The economic and social situations of the late 60's and early 70's, have dictated the situations that many young people find themselves today in the West Coast, and Ghettos throughout the U.S. Generations of Gang Bangers who live and die, for Gang Sets and corners are a tragic reality, and affiliation is often a requirement from birth. Is there any truth that many of the biggest media and sports corperations using this tragedy as a cynical sales pitch?

This series of articles attempt to discuss how through popularization in the Hollywood Coorperate media industry, there is an an almost "McDonaldization" of the Gang Franchise system. Where the the logos, flags and identity of a small neighborhood in L.A., have exploded into a National and quite possibly an international phenomenon.

The Remains of The Party

Bastards of the Party on HBO, Traces the history of the Bloods and Crips in L.A.

Despite popular belief, much of the style and trappings of modern Los Angeles and West Coast Gang iconography comes from a fusion of Latino Zoot Suit style of the 40's and 50's, and African American culture of that time. According to many, like University of Southern California researcher Alex Alonso, the many gangs, now known as Bloods and Crips and others, are a result of the harrassment and destruction of the African American Grass Roots Leadership in the late 60's, and the subsequent in-fighting within the remaining groups left by the social vacuum.

Alex Alonso discussing the Bloods and Crips in Los Angeles
"Los Angeles gangs in south Los Angeles go back to the 1940s. The Crips and Bloods did not become active as gangs until the early 1970s, and it was not until the 1980s their actions brought an epidemic to Los Angeles."

In the late 80's, L.A. Gangsta Rappers were extremely careful not to openly flaunt their actual Gang Affiliation details on their records and imagery. Wisely, many Rappers would not even claim a Gang! They were honest enough to describe themselves as Artists, and smart enough for basic self preservation reasons, or not wishing to end up on Law Enforcement watch lists, and chose to wear "neutral colours". Rappers then, were still often living within their communites, and thus affiliated physically and most likely answerable to them.

N.W.A. L.A. Kings, Lakers & Raiders hats

L.A. Gangsta Rappers like King Tee, ICE-T, and N.W.A. in particular wore Black, representing local Baseball Teams like the L.A. Raiders and Ice Hockey Teams like L.A. Kings, these teams were L.A. teams and yet did not have the traditional Gang Banging colours Red & Blue in there team strip.

N.W.A re-issue hat more info here

As we have discussed many times at The Kool Skool, the influence of the Illegal Drug Industry, and Organized Gang "Banging" references have actually been accessorized into modern Rap culture. Being that it is the most popular music genre of the recent years, the image and style of so-called Gangsta Rap culture in particular, is responsible for popularizing Gang hand symbols, "Flags" (Bandannas) and even Gang "War Dances" in Music videos, Mainstream Stage Shows and on album covers.

Popular Illustration demonstrating various examples of Gang signs

New Zealand Gang wearing Blood set colours

The U.S. gang structure has proliferated the far reaches of the Western United States, and for some time now there have been Blood sets and Crip sets throughout all of the United States, many European Nations, even in the UK. It is true, that although some of them are claiming the name, but are not officially affiliated, there are definately OFFICIAL Bloods and no doubt Crips also, perhaps MS13 and Latin Kings as well world wide. The West Coast Gang style and imagery have been accessorized into the make up of modern Rap culture, and as a result are bound to become a fad, and the visual trappings of colours and styles are bound to follow. As is the "Gangsta" menatlity.

Crips, Strapped'n'Strong from Revolver on Vimeo.

More info on Dutch documentary "Crips: Strapped 'n' Strong" about the Dutch Crip Gang can be found here

Russian Blood Gang "Crab (Crip) Killas" Fan site

Young people have always joined gangs or glorified the "Rebellious" lifestyle in its culture. Colors have often been associated as ways to represent your Gang or Family, recently the use of colors for Area based "Ends" Gangs in London have gained popularity, eg. Red for South London Brixton based groups, Black for North East based Hackney groups and so on. It is undisputed that their popularity can be linked to popular US Rap music and "Hood Videos".

All In The Same Gang and Bangin' On Wax

We're All In The Same Gang-Various Artists (1990)
The West Coast Rap All-Star promoted an anti-violence message.
Produced by Dr. Dre it featured: King Tee, Body & Soul (including Dee Barnes), Def Jef, Michel'le, Tone-Loc, Above The Law, Ice-T, N.W.A, J.J. Fad, Young MC, Digital Underground (Money-B and Shock G/Humpty Hump), Oaktown's 3.5.7 and MC Hammer.

In 1990, the cream of the West Coast Hip-Hop community assembled to record the "We're All In The Same Gang" project. It was a collaboration of West Coast hip-hop artists and community leaders of the L.A. and West Coast cities, to promote unity within the West Coast Black Community. Being that the artists were on many different competing labels, it must have been complicated to organize the record, but also shows the feeling of urgency of the situation at the time. Or perhaps to appease the Grass Roots African AmericanCommunity Pressure Groups, and defuse the amount of preassure being applied to the Record industry, to promote a more positive message. Although criticized at the time as a superficial gesture, it was incredibly positive, and was a West Coast answer the "Stop The Violence Movement" that was formed by rapper KRS-One in 1988/1989. Interestingly, the All In The Same Gang album was released on Warner Brothers, the same corporation that produced the motion picture "Colors", the first legitimate mainstream movie documenting L.A. gang Banging culture. Some have suggested that the film, by popularising the Gang Banger lifestyle, also exacerbated the problem.

Bloods Crips -Bangin On Wax

Released in 1993, Bangin' on Wax was the first album by unified Bloods & Crip Rappers. The album was created by real Bloods & Crips to promote unity and preserve the Gang Truce that came as a result of the L.A. Riots, and provide an alternative for young men who knew very little but the Gang lifestyle.

Snoop_Dogg & The_Game Mixtape - "One Crip One Blood"

Although the Game and Snoop Dogg are some of the most prominant Platinum Gangsta Rappers, they have both toured together, as high profile sponsors of an on going Gang Truce. Snoop Dogg has been extremely positive in sponsoring events, trying to get dialogue between Beefing West Coast Rap stars, a fact suspiciously underreported by the mainstream Rap press.

"Its no wonder street gangs are on the rise, we live in a culture that blatantly glorifies street gangs in the name of profit.” -Queens N.Y. Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr.


One of the most open Mob Piru Blood Set affiliate: $uge Knight CEO of Death Row Records
His Criminal past and subsiquent down fall is well documented, yet his attempt to create a Black owned Music Distribution with fellow Rap Label owners Dame Dash and the late J Price has also been suspiciously underreported. The Kool Skool has briefly discussed this here

The most high profile Blood Set Platinum Rappers Lil Wayne & The Game "Blood Sweat &Tears Mixtape Vol. 3

The Game has literally draped himself in Blood Flags and imagery, in his song "One Blood", a re-working of conscious Reggae artist Junior Reid's song of the same name. Junior Reid's One Blood, is a Roots Reggae call for Black Unity, where diversely The Game's Piru Blood anthem has turned the concept on its head, further propagating the status of that gang world wide.

Mithchy Slick- "Won't Stop Being A Blood"
Blood Rapper Mitchy Slick in his self explanitory titled video reflects the conflicting attitudes in the modern era of Gangsta Rappers.

The video starts with an unexpectedly positive message...

then pans to clean gun. The seemed hipocracy of talking about Unity, in a strictly Gang affiliation sense, is not lost on most, but it is a reality for many.

The Unity that Mitchy Slick is talking about is Nationwide Blood Set Unity. One interesting fact is that the video also displays is, not just the comfort in which most modern Gangsta Rappers feel they can show their affiliation, or how strong the Gang they represent is, but that Gang members even want to appear in such high profile displays. In the era of "The Hip-Hop Police", is this another example of the Hip-Hop Generations "Dry Snitching" on themselves?

"Virtual Flaggin'!" Blood 5-pointed star Piru myspace layout

The phenominum, and promotion by major Corporations of a simplified understanding and packaging of Gangsta Rap, and its attributes, have seemingly crossed into all spheres of the commercial world. Where as in the past, rap videos on MTV and other video stations would blur the logos of Baseball teams and sporting teams, due to having to pay broadcast royalties, and possibly teams not wanting to be associated with the percieved negative connotations of Rap Music. In the last few years the intersteller popularity of Gang Set infused Rap culture, sporting companies have made their products available in colours completely unfamiliar to the teams traditional colours. Below is a brief selection of examples of this.

"Outraged local activists charge that New Era, the caps' manufacturer, and the New York Yankees — whose famous interlocking NY cap features a choice of a red and black bandanna design for the Bloods, blue and gray for the Crips and a gold crown for the Latin Kings — and Major League Baseball are deliberately marketing to gang members and wannabes." - Fox News More info here and here

Official New York Yankees with replicating Blood Set Red Bandana/Flag Blatent Gang culture cash in on Gang culture. This was a story that was picked up by many in the mainstream and Hip-Hop News.

New "Red Crip Killer" Kansas City Royals

New York Red "Blood" Yankees

New York Red "Blood" Yankees

New York Red "Blood" Mets

Crooks And Castles Gun Blood Colours

Crooks And Castles High Society Blood Set colours and pattern similar to Bandana Rags.

Boston Red Sox Blood Red


Snoop Dogg-Original Gangsta Crip

Flaggin' & Saggin'

Snoop Dogg C-Walk

Coincidently, the rigid C-Walk/Crip Walking War Dance could appear to replicate the First 3 steps position in Freemasonry, also a traditional L.A. gang stance that Snoop is often seen in, in photos are the foot position of a Master Mason "on the square". We are in NO WAY suggesting that Snoop is associated with Freemasonry, OR that Freemasonry is associated with Gang culture.

Recently there has been much discussion of Gang sets being active within the U.S. Military and its effect on the civilian population in the U.S. Although this is no way a new phenomenon, The Kool Skool has looked at this and the Militarization of Computer Games and Hip-Hop culture here

The basic structure of the Military and indeed Freemasonry could easily be corrupted by a group so inclined to do so for criminal enterprises. As the gang lifestyle necessitates a military style structure, and as African Americans and Latinos have always been very prevalent in the Military, and make up an unnatural percentile within the U.S. Prison system, where they would presumably be exposed to the strict disipline regime. As has been documented time and again, the prison environment is the ideal recruiting ground, (and even a necessity) for young initiates into a Gang. Indeed, the language of the Military are of course often used in Gang circles, phrases like "Soldier, "Leutenant", and others are used in the arena of Gang Warfare. The perceived taking on of Freemasonic handles and imagery, could be an aid by the gangs to add more mystery to their Set, as opposed to reflecting an actual sponsorship by corrupt members of the Freemasonic Brotherhood.

Examples Occult imagery within Traditional Mid-west Gang Symbols

Pyramid Hand "Flash" of Miami Gang Member

Latin Syndicate -Youtube Video

The Pyramid structure also represents the traditional gang structure, likewise some researchers are noticing the similarities in Black and Latin Gang imagery, and Freemasonic iconography, and are making a connection. Whether there is in fact a link, is unsubstantiated.

Six Pointed "Solmon's Seal" Hand "Flash" of Miami based "Imperial Gangsters"

Unknown Gang Logo (found on internet)

"Imperial Gangster"

Crip Myspace Layouts to "personalize" your page..

New York Yankees Crip Set Red Bandana/Flag Blatent Gang culture cash-in

Snoop Dogg has made much money releasing Crip Bandana print signature goods. Here are some Snoop Dogg Slippers (available in Red and Yellow no doubt)

Snoop Dogg signature Headphones in Crip Bandana print
Notice the Snoop Dogg in his "trademark" Crip walk pose on the earpiece

Cincinnati "Reds" - Blue colour way

Traditional "Blue" Kansas City Royals

Boston Redsox in Crip Blue?

"Dubs Up!" L.A. Dodgers foam hand in a West Coast/Watts hand flash

Miami Dolphins Uzi (un-official logo)

Latin Kings

Latin King Crown handsymbol combined of two interlocking "Baphomet" hand signs

New York Yankees Latin Kings Yellow

Latin King flying colors at the New York Puerto Rican Parade

Latin King myspace profile

New York Yankees Gold logo tipped with Latin Kings Crown

Black and Yellow New York Yankees Latin Kings Colours

Gang Colour Promotion

Fashion Label Stussy with alternate Crip/Blood version of one of their classic t-shirts, comical, social comment or Corporate Cash-in?
Originally an L.A. based Surf leisure label, now a multi Million dollar fashion corperation. It is interesting that they would release T-shirts like this, when people are arrested even killed just for wearing "the wrong colour"...

Gang colour promotion

The response to the percieved Gang Colour cash-in, created a lot of Grass Root and local Political preassure in New york,(and no doubt L.A.) so much so that some companies felt obliged to remove the items from sale and made several press statements.

Councilman Leroy G. Comrie Jr., a Queens Democrat, said in a City Hall news conference today that he was not satisfied. “My office has conducted an investigation that has revealed the sale of gang-related apparel in New York City is thriving and parents should be wary of what they purchase for their teenage children this year,” he said in a statement announcing a hearing on the subject for Dec. 13. “Each day we read stories about gang initiation shootings, gang activity in our schools and youth involved in criminal enterprises. Its no wonder street gangs are on the rise — we live in a culture that blatantly glorifies street gangs in the name of profit.” -From New York Times

"It is our mission at New Era to create, design and market headwear that follows fashion trends around the world. Recently, it has been brought to our attention that some combinations of icons and colors on a select number of our caps could be too closely perceived to be in association with gangs. In response, we, along with Major League Baseball, have pulled those caps." - New Era Statement 24/8/07

In August 2007, we alerted all our retail partners of a recall on a series of caps that were perceived to be gang-related. Recently, it was brought to our attention that these caps are still being found in stores. Any retail partner that has not returned the caps to New Era is essentially out of compliance.

Our position regarding this issue has not wavered and we’d like to reaffirm our ongoing commitment to get these caps off the market. Our continual efforts to implement more stringent policies, both internally and externally, and to take pro-active steps are all to ensure that there is no possibility that our products are seen as promoting gangs or gang related activity."
- New Era (Spots Company) Chief Executive, Christopher H. Koch

Accoring to an article from Echo Unltd. Magazine Complex these are the most recent "Top 10" of Gang Afiliated Sports teams The Top 10 (click the link above to see the associations and reasons)

1. Oakland A’s
2. Georgetown Hoyas
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Houston Astros
6. LA Kings
7. Chicago Bulls
8 .Oakland Raiders
9. Cincinnati Reds
10. LA Dodgers

Blood Rapper Jay Rock Reppin' Blood territory Nickerson Gardens Projects in a Red L.A. Dodgers Jacket

The Kool Skool is in no way accusing any particulal companies of promoting Gang violence, yet there is money to be made, and companies will always take advantage of a new market.
The use of Sports Teams as a way to communicate a wearers affiliation is not new, but however, what is new is the Manufacturers alleged cash-in on Gang fad popularity. For a comprehensive list of Sports Team Apparel, or Logos that have previously used as a sign of Gang Affiliation check here


Gang Banger Programming "from the cradle to the grave"

Disturbing "Gangsta Babies" by Mexco Ltd.

Rap culture is a huge international, multimedia platform, multi-Million Dollar industry, and a huge "Player" in the Entertainment Industry. When Record Label/Entertainment/Sportswear conglomerates are making huge profits on the adoption and promotion of so-called Gang Life and Gang Culture, where is their "Corperate Responsibility"? To a variety of intellectuals and commentators, one of the only Mass Media sanctioned Realities afforded African American or Latin American Males, is that of a one-dimensional in-fighting Criminal Warrior. Although Gang life is a reality for some, what really needs to be asked is, what kind of effect is this packaging and peddling of Cartoon like "Gangstas", having on the image and identity of the Black and Latino communities as a whole, and just as important, the image of those communities from outside of those communities. Is this commercial model documenting real life, or propagating the problem? Is this just an issue of the freedom of speech or freedom of expression argument, or is there something more underhanded at play? You decide...

Serious debate is welcomed!!!


Anonymous said...

the popularity of hip hop has made the inter-city gangsta somewhat of a mythical figure to the wider public, since there is a lot of distance between most people and that reality. something like a cow-boy or a pirate. however gangs are tragic, real, and very contemporary.

The Kool Skool said...

I absolutely agree, this one dimensional image is being marketed by Hollywood, and in doing so, is shaping millions of young peoples outlook around the world. Many thanks for your comments,
all the best