L.A. Street Gangs Join Forces for Hip-Hop CD Members of the Bloods and Crips street gangs in Los Angeles put aside their feuding, at least temporarily, to represent their L.A. neighborhoods on a new CD and DVD. It's still gangsta rap — filled with violent and sexist imagery — but gang members say the project is proof they can profit by getting along.
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L.A. Street Gangs Join Forces for Hip-Hop CD

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L.A. Street Gangs Join Forces for Hip-Hop CD

L.A. Street Gangs Join Forces for Hip-Hop CD

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One more California story now, this about two of the most notorious street gangs in Los Angeles.


Some members of the Crips and the Bloods are putting aside their violent feud to collaborate on a new music project. In the past they've used rap tunes to challenge each other.

CHADWICK: But as NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, the Crips and the Bloods are singing the same tune to boast about their neighborhoods.

(Soundbite of music)

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: In the street gang capital of America, gangsters are known to kill each other over turf and colors, blue for Crips and red for Bloods. Even between subsets of the gangs, rivalries go back decades.

BAM LOCO MOCO(ph) (Crip): Well, a Blood will see a Blood, a Crip will see a Crip and there was immediate gunfire, fighting and action, you know what I'm saying? I see you in it's cracking.

DEL BARCO: Bam Locomoco, a Holmes(ph) Street Watts Crip, says over the years there have been gang truces but none as harmonious as on the new project, Repuset(ph), a CD and DVD featuring Loco and 26 other active Crips and Bloods who rep, or represent, their sets, their neighborhoods.

(Soundbite of "Repuset")

RAPPERS: We Bloodin' over here, their Crippin' over there. But nobody care, it's (unintelligible) from block to block to hood to hood. (unintelligible) get that understood.

Now everybody on the floor, take (unintelligible) ed, red, blue, red, everybody goes.

DEL BARCO: For the project, rapper Big Chuck and producer Robert Lewis went to some of the roughest parts of town to ask rival gang sets to show off their best rappers. From the Avenue Pirus, Bloods from Englewood, came Jermaine Carter(ph), who goes by the name Redrum.

The Kelly Park Compten Crips presented TC the Original. And the neighborhood Pirus gave them Squeak Roo(ph).

Unidentified Man #1: It being 27 different hoods in Los Angeles, can you imagine what this studio looked like? It wasn't real tension, but it was like a little eerie feeling, like, man, who's going to set it off? And nobody set it off.

It was like, okay, we're here for music. It's a possibility we can make money off of this. We're going to put our rivalries aside.

Unidentified Man #3: I had my doubts at times. Cash was looking a little iffy. But, you know, I thought instead of letting the problem get bigger, let me introduce myself to you. (Unintelligible) we both come from the same tree. You feel me? Just different areas.

Unidentified Man #4: You see, a group of young black guys come together to do this, it goes to show, say, Oh hey, I know them guys over there wear red, I know them guys over there wear blue, but hey, I think just like them, you know what I'm saying? I got this - something in common with them guys over there, too. So what are we beefing for?

(Soundbite of "Repuset")

RAPPERS: Picking the mics up, laying the guns down. Let's make it turn green with the red and blue. Let's all come together like it's supposed to do. Red, red.

DEL BARCO: As active gang members, the Repuset rappers say they've lost friends and family to gang violence. And some have gone to jail or prison for things they now regret.

They've also been frustrated by the success of hip-hop groups like NWA, who capitalized on their gangsta lifestyle. In 1993, rapper Tweety Bird Loc, a/k/a Richard Johnson, first decided to channel the beefs in the recording studio.

Mr. RICHARD JOHNSON (Rapper): I was tired of guys in my neighborhood killing one another. And I wanted to put together a project that can help brothers vent that anger and let that frustration out.

DEL BARCO: Tweety Bird Loc and his producing partner held open auditions, searching for talent, American Idol style, in the hoods. The result was a CD called Bangin on Wax, with enemy Bloods and Crips battling for lyrical supremacy.

(Soundbite of Bangin on Wax)

RAPPER: (Unintelligible) down by the curbside. Another Crip lost his life from the fury of the (unintelligible)

DEL BARCO: With songs like Piru Love, Bangin on Wax became an underground hit that spawned sequel albums and music videos. But Tweety Bird Loc says success was bittersweet.

Mr. JOHNSON: Yeah, we sold millions of records and got screwed out a lot of money. So it hurts me to even talk about that situation. There's a lot of guys that came off the album, they passed on.

DEL BARCO: Thirteen years later, the producers of Repuset promised to do right for their artists, like 26-year-old Marcell Thomas(ph), G Cell from the Avalon Crips. As a teenager, G Cell rapped on Bangin on Wax. But he says this new project is different.

Mr. MARCELL THOMAS (Crip): So it's really not that type of record where people are coming out and just straight saying, well, I'll kill a Blood or I'll kill a Crip and I'll tie up your family. You know what I mean? It's not that type of record at all.

It's more of a everybody is celebrating their hood record, like a star spangled banner for each hood.

(Soundbite of "Repuset")

RAPPERS: We're packing (unintelligible) so long. (Unintelligible) been a Blood since birth (unintelligible)

Mr. THOMAS: Repuset is just each neighborhood bragging on their neighborhood but doing it in a way where they're not disrespecting. Like more of a WWF shouting match type of thing. Let's see whose song is more gangster and more harder in what neighborhood without disrespecting one another.

DEL BARCO: No disrespect, but I got this AK47 pointed at your head. I mean that's what - I listened to the lyrics.

Mr. THOMAS: Yeah, you're right. You're right. Well, I mean, it's better for us to vent it through a microphone firsthand instead of getting a bullet from them firsthand.

DEL BARCO: G Cell says instead of insulting any particular enemy by name, the gangster rappers on Repuset challenge all potential foes.

Mr. THOMAS: That's a big step from where we come from. You know what I mean? That's a big step.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of "Repuset")

RAPPING: Picking the mics up, laying the guns down. Let's make it turn green with your reds and blues. Let's all come together like we're supposed to do. Red, red.

One homey, two homey, three homey, four. Five homey, six homey, squeak that floor. Rock me to the west where the work cost less. (Unintelligible) wear your best. (Unintelligible) gang bang capital. Just so you know, we're Bloodin' over here, they're Crippin' over there, but don't nobody care...

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