Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You're Not A Gangsta

What is your definition of a "gangsta?"

If you described little boys running around with their pants around their ankles and shooting at people, then you're sadly mistaken. If you thought of any rapper that you've ever heard on the radio, then you may need to crack open a history book now and then.

I'm going to explain the difference between a "thug" and a "gangster" ("gangsta" is a term rappers coined to make them seem harder than what they actually were).

First, let's discuss thugs:

Is there anything about this photo that says "masculine?"
thug: a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.

This is what we see daily. The guys walking around trying to "look hard" and act as if they don't have a care in the world are thugs. Thugs are rough, but they're dumb. They don't make the effort to plan the dirt that they do, they just do it. Thugs are the smash-and-grab guys that break in your home, pull guns at gas stations, and wear Obama masks while robbing banks.

They are generally broke which is why they're constantly pulling off multiple petty crimes to "stay fly." They sell weed, crack, etc. just to be able to put gas in their SUV sitting on 26" rims. Although they may appear to be kings of their block, they're actually rulers of nothing. They terrorize a small group and often mistake that group's fear for respect.

Thugs generally work for gangsters.

gangster: a group of persons associated for some criminal or other antisocial purpose.

These guys still exist, but we don't see them.  They thrive on being anonymous because the spotlight threatens their very existence.  They may be well-known in their local communities, but it's not from them flaunting their worth. They develop reputations from getting things done (be it good or bad).
Al Capaone was the definition of a gangster.

Gangsters (also considered Mafia, mob, or organized crime), have a method to their madness. Things are planned and not done impulsively. That's why they've been successful for centuries while thugs generally have a shelf life of around six years (before long-term incarceration or death). Gangsters don't do petty crimes. They get thugs to do petty crimes for them and bring them the money. It's very similar to a pimp's treatment of a ho. Gangsters were so big in society at one time that it was an all-out war by the U.S. government to stop them.

When's the last time you saw a U.S. Amendment being directly affected by something a thug did?

Never. Thugs are local. They're not worldwide like gangsters. The reason gangster life is called "organized crime" is because they are just that. "Organized."

With any organization, you have rules. Here are the Sicilian Ten Commandments:
1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
2. Never look at the wives of friends.
3. Never be seen with cops.
4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
5. Always being available for Cosa Nostra is a duty - even if your wife is about to give birth.
6. Appointments must absolutely be respected.
7. Wives must be treated with respect.
8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra: anyone who has a close relative in the police, anyone with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.

Now looking at those 10 requirements of being a gangster, do you see the things I've highlighted that absolutely don't apply to any thug we see on the streets today?

The Mafia is not a myth. Gangsters still exist. We just don't see or hear about them often. Why? Because they know how to handle business. They don't buy flashy vehicles to attract cops. They don't "make it rain" at the club because they don't do clubs. Again, the attention thing.

Sure, the mob boss may flaunt his wealth a little, but that's because he's untouchable. His funds may have been achieved through dirty means, but he's laundered his cash and cleaned it up through a side business. His i's are dotted and his t's are crossed. People may know he's crooked, but they can't prove he's crooked.

Lil' Rooster from around the way will have $3,000 cash in his pocket, a semi-automatic weapon in the trunk of his car, six dime bags of weed on the back seat, and then will run a red light in a hot pink Escalade sitting on 26's. Five minutes later, he's face down on the pavement while one of the boys in blue gives him a new set of matching bracelets for his wrists.

Do you see the difference now?

So, don't go thinking that holding a gun sideways makes you a gangster. It doesn't. It makes you a thug. Besides, anyone holding a gun is scary. Even a two year old flailing a gun in your direction is scary.

Gangsters can ruin your life without touching you. Gangsters go after your family. Gangsters own politicians and police. The difference between a thug and a gangster is the same difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.


  1. When I was a kid, gangsta in my neighborhood meant having your last name tatted on your back in old english if you were mexican, and having big-ass gold chains around your neck if you were black.

    If you were white, well, sorry wonderbread. You can't be gangsta.

    I like the mafia reference. I'm going to wear pinstripe suits, carry around a tommy gun, and bootleg alcohol. Can I be a gangsta?

    (Somewhat related: My favorite line from the geto boys... "Gangsta ass niggas can't run fo shit, cuz real gangsta ass niggas can't run fast..." fun mental imagery there...)

  2. What we have around here are wannabe gangstas who are itching for street cred they can use as leverage with one another... and it makes them dangerous as hell, regardless of race or ethnicity. There were gangs operating in urban areas when i was a kid, but damned if I knew anything about them, being lily white and living in Mayberry RFD.
    A better question is how do we bring people out of this mentality, this lifestyle? I think if people have a chance to contribute and be respected for what they're doing, most tend to do the right thing. Case in point, the gangbangers in New Orleans during Katrina's aftermath. Some robbed and looted, but some delivered water, diapers, baby formula, milk, and other essentials to stranded people when the authorities were helpless. They earned street cred and respect through acts of charity and kindness, and it's reported that many have left gang life to work in their communities.
    How do we make community service, volunteerism, and mutual respect more attractive than guns, bling, and prison tats?

  3. @squat: More ho's. If the ho's are down with philanthropy, everyone is down with philanthropy.

    Honestly, it's like the "who's dick is bigger" game with some of these idiots. They all try to outdo each other to impress their peers, and most of all, women.

    If all women found volunteerism sexy, all men from about 13-300 would be at their local soup kitchen in minutes.

  4. Q - a very nice summation of the difference between the two. I think of "thugs" just like you described them - two-bit, money-waving, flashy, in your face - "Thug Life" - just like Tupac glorified. When I think of Gangsters - yes, there is the Mafia, but I mostly think of Larry Hoover and Stanley "Tookie" Williams - and I actually think of them as (crooked) "business men." True, the business included a lot of violence - but just like you said - it was ORGANIZED (which doesn't make it right...it just makes it less nauseating than these little street tramps running around with their underwear sticking out). Any respectable "Gangsta" wouldn't be caught DEAD with their butt crack showing! LOL

  5. When I was in high school, I only heard the term thug. Gangster, was never uttered from anyone during my day (80's). Gangster you hit right on the button. I have read so many mafia books, its not even funny.

    One thing about both groups, they will never die because once you kill one, another simply rises up to take his place. It's a never ending situation and apart of our lives.

  6. @ LiI - If you wear the pinstripes and look the part, you can be a gangster. At least until you run into a real one. Then you'll wind up "sleeping with the fishes."

    @ Squatlo - Volunteering isn't cool to most people. Serving is a sign of weakness to a lot of people. No one has priorities now. All they know is they want to do what gets them "respect" from their peers in any shape or fashion just like Brandon mentioned.

    @ Reckmonster - Thanks! Hoov and Tookie were definitely more than thugs. They were the real deal. And you're right, if someone in the mafia got caught with their pants sagging, they would be whacked.

    @ Sonia - Thugs will always be an essential part of the cycle. They do the gangsters dirty work. They also end up killed quicker or in jail.



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