Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Revolutionary But Gangsta / 50 in the Clip

When you roll up on us, you better make sure we is dead – cause Mayor or not, we gonna roll back up on your punk ass!!!
- Gangsta Rap Posse

On a cursory glance, Gangsta Rap Posse reads like the scrawling of a twelve year old who watched to many NWA video's, but it is so much more than that. Operating both as an artistic reaction to the inherent silliness of Gangsta Rap (because as many cops as Ice Cube shot, its 2012 and he works for TBS now) and a love letter the the genre, Marra's walks the fine line between farce and sincerity. Cenetering around a prominant Los Angeles 'Gangsta Rap' group, as they make there way across town to a release party.

This book isn't a mad dash across town though, Marra allows the Posse to explore the city. Taking breaks to shoot up a Neo-Nazi party, and prove who the real "Master Race" is, foil an assassination plot set forth by the mayor over the Posse releasing a sex tape "G.R.P. Gang Bangs Mrs. Mayor", and settleling the issue of copyright infringement over a balcony window. Gangsta Rap Posse exists for these digressions, the plot is irrelevant really, except as a pretense for these moments.

Marra, in these cut-aways, is able to weave historical Rap events; creating a depth one wouldnt expect from a book with the title Gangsta Rap Posse. Harold Smithsonion (George Clinton) and Snoozy Koblins (Bootsy Collins) of the Funk Congress International (Parliament-Funkadelic) attempting to assassinate the Gangsta Rap Posses over sampling, is a controversy which has plagued Hip-Hop since its formation (entire albums have been created with sampled beats). When the Posse holds Harold Smithsonion out a window and forces him to sign over the rights to his music, Marra is referencing Suge Knight's ("supposed") acquisition of Vanilla Ice "Ice Ice Baby" royalties, an event which lead directly to the formation of Death Row Records and the birth of Gangsta Rap.

As Tucker Stone pointed out, Marra's greatest artistic strength is his ability to make his characters act. Subtle gestures,like the cocking of the Mayors neck after being corrected for going on a racist tangent, the childlike shame on the Mayor's face when talking about his wife's sex tape, tell so much more about the character, than any exposition dump ever could. In addition to facial gestures, Marra plays with the stiffness of his lines to give an additional dimension of character to his figures. While the Posse and members of Funk Congress International are depicted with a loose swagger, the Police are posed like manikins, a subtle and effective way of differentiating the two groups.

This book would have failed if was merely an exercise in irony, a send off to 70's Blaxpoitation films with Gangsta Rap archetypes swapped in for Dolomite. An interesting elevator pitch, but not much more than that. Instead Gangsta Rap Posse takes this simple idea and builds on it. Adding tidbits of Hip-Hop history and controversy, gives Gangsta Rap Posse a depth that allows it to rise above simple parody. Gangsta Rap Posse delivers on its title, but through Marra's art and reverence for the genre, does so much more.

Written and drawn by Ben Marra (http://www.benjaminmarra.com/)

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