LETTER : Gangsta rap's antecedents

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The Independent Online
From Mr Melvyn Hirst

Sir: There is nothing new in gangsta rap's "songs" about shooting police officers ("They're poisoning our kids", Daniel Jeffreys and Lloyd Bradley, 31 July.)

The first commercial recording of any consequence by an African-American artist was Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues", recorded in 1920.

The final verse of her song is as follows:

Now I've got those crazy blues,

Since my baby went away,

I ain't had no time to lose,

I must find him today,

I'm gonna do like a Chinaman and go and get some hop,

Get myself a gun

and shoot myself a cop,

Ain't had nothing but bad news,

Now I got those crazy blues.

Perhaps the lyrics of this pioneering record explained, in no small part, its reputed sales of 75,000 within a month of release, and the creation of a whole new market for what were then termed "race" records.

Yours sincerely,

Melvyn Hirst


31 July