Beyond Boundaries pt. 1: The History of SD Street Gangs and Gangsta Ern’s Political Raps


Here’s something a little bit different for you this week. Mychal Odom is currently a professor of history at the University of Texas Pan American. However, hailing from Long Beach and spending 11 years in San Diego (he obtained his bachelors and masters degrees at USD), his primary research interest is the history of Southern California gangsta rap. He recently composed a lengthy essay entitled “Beyond Boundaries: The History, Culture and Politics of San Diego Gangsta Rap.” We’ll be looking at three two select excerpts from his essay this week.

The first excerpt details the history of street gangs in San Diego and examines the socio-political aspects of Gangsta Ern’s music. The second excerpt available here talks about Complex of the E-Mortal Gang and his critique of police brutality. If you’d like to read the rest of the essay, you can download the entire essay by clicking here.

… the proliferation of local Bloods and Crips gangs—as well as out of town cliques from Los Angeles—formed the impetus for San Diego gangsta rap. According to Perry, drug dealing (and gang banging) as metaphor reflected an actual category of human existence as well as providing a symbolic method of communicating a kind of power within the hood, an overwhelmingly powerless context, and an exploitation of the power created by fear of the ghetto by outsiders (thug mimicry).

Street gangs are just as much a part of San Diego’s recent history as it is Los Angeles County’s. While San Diego street gangs and party crews existed before the 1970s, the first Crips and Bloods appear in the early 1970s. The East San Rapper and East Dago Mob Crip Lil CS explained that gangs are nothing new to San Diego in an interview he stated:

Muthafuckas underestimating Daygo, we got some heat out here, you know, muthafuckas been on that gangsta shit out here for the longest, you know people ain’t heard about Daygo that much besides Jayo [Felony] but they don’t really know how it is, you know what I mean? But there’s been Bloods and Crips out here almost as long as L.A. had em, you know L.A. started like in the late 60′s, Daygo’s first gangstas was prolly like 72, 73 or so, so we grew up in that shit just like they did.

The first gangs in San Diego were mostly Crips, while Blood gangs began to appear later on. Gangs appeared in San Diego via a Los Angeles County Probation Department effort titled “Operation Transfer.” African American gang members were transferred to San Diego, where they quickly began to re-create the budding culture already taking place in Los Angeles County. In 1972, a Crip was transferred to San Diego where he started a chapter of his Los Angeles set, the East Coast Crips. The San Diego gang was called West Coast Crips but retained the moniker “The Businessmen,” which was a nod to an East Coast Crips clique in LA (as well as an older East Side gang). Similarly, a member of the 5/9 Brims—a dormant Brim set in San Diego—was transferred to San Diego and created a new base for his set. The Neighborhood Crips and Skyline Pirus also have direct roots in Los Angeles County. From the early 1970s on, the San Diego and California street cultures mixed and gangs grew.

Southeast San Diego is where most but not all of the Black gangs still resided. Though the Crips were the first to settle in San Diego, the Bloods have grown so profoundly that some refer to San Diego as “Blood Capital.” San Diego is home to Crip sets such as: the West Coast Crips, Neighborhood Crips, East Dago Mob Crips, and Linda Vista Crips. Some of the Blood sets are the 5/9 Brims, Little Africa Pirus, Emerald Hills Bloods, Lincoln Park Bloods, O’Farrell Park Banksters, and Skyline Pirus. Throughout history, San Diego’s rap crews have reflected hood or gang loyalties as well as alliances: Wrongkind Records consists of Emerald, Lincoln and 5/9 Brims members; The E-Mortal Gang consisted of Neighborhood Crips; The Hound Foundation consists of 5/9 Brims; Bomb Leery rappers tend to be West Coast Crip; and The Mobstaz were East Dago Mob veterans.

Gangsta Ern, a 5/9 Brim was the first gangsta rapper to send shockwaves beyond San Diego. While Mally [Mal], a former member of the Emerald Hills Bloods, did not know Gangsta Ern, he bought his cassette tapes from the local shopping center, Fam Mart. He remembered being very proud that a San Diego rapper seemed to make it but also feeling sad in 1992 after finding out Gangsta Ern was killed. From 1986 to 1992, Gangsta Ern recorded raps that, similar to NWA and Ice T, transcended local gang conflicts and addressed larger issues. Two tracks, “Nation of Drugs” from his 1989 EP 2 The Hard Way and “That’s How it Happened” from the 1992 EP Up Against It, critique the cocaine epidemic, influx in the growth of the prison-industrial complex, racism, economic disparity and biased policing.

By 1985 and 1986, crack cocaine became a national epidemic. While many rappers neglected to address this in their rhymes others did. The crack cocaine epidemic gave rappers from West to East a common topic to address. California did not only experience the arrival of crack cocaine but it also experienced a rise in street gangs and easy access to weapons. All of these elements created a very unique experience in the streets of California. It also helped to separate California’s brand of rap—originally referred to as reality rap by Ice T; it was later branded as gangsta rap. While most of the historical analysis of this era has focused on rappers from the Bay Area and Los Angeles County, the rise of San Diego rap paralleled the others as opposed to following it.

Gangsta Ern “Nation of Drugs”

Similar to NWA’s 1987 track “Dopeman” but with a deeper analysis, Gangsta Ern critiqued the presence of the crack cocaine epidemic [on "Nation of Drugs"] and even suggested that the Nixon, Reagan and Bush administrations were complicit in crack cocaine’s appearance in Black neighborhoods. Gangsta Ern acknowledged, that “the problems over here started overseas” but also acknowledged the differential treatment by way of the criminal justice system when he asked, “The penalties are stiff for all drug addicts, but why don’t the drug lords ever get static?” While Democratic and Republican state and federal legislators were authoring tough mandatory minimum laws, Gangsta Ern’s tracks addressed issues that legislators of both parties would not address until almost a decade later with the release of Dark Alliance by journalist Gary Webb. Gangsta Ern extended his critique to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign when he rapped, “Why do poor black addicts go to prison, when rich white addicts all go to clinics?/They got a war on drugs, they’ll never win/Until the white collar crime all comes to an end/Nancy Reagan, she said say no to drugs/Did it work? (Hell No) All we got was blood.” In Gangsta Ern’s quaint observation, the disproportionate blame being placed on poor African Americans was not only racial but a poor allocation of resources. Gangsta Ern went on to state:

Kids selling drugs, to stay alive
While politicians in the closet, gettin’ high
All the check points, drugs still getting through,
Judges and lawyers, gettin’ paid off too
They don’t deal in g’s out the keys,
They deal in tons, from overseas
Cartels straight cut ‘em off,
So they mad, because they profits loss
So they ready for war, no matter the cost
Spending multi-millions and Bush is the boss
In a nation of drugs…A nation of Drugs

We got Bush on tv, making all these speeches
Wantin’ more money, but we know we gon’ need this
Push a drug war to the class who’s coolin’
Doin’ this and doin’ that but who are they foolin’?
You, not me, ‘cause I’m not buyin’ it,
Ask the politicians and they keep denying it,
Drugs in America, he says he won’t have it,
But how can he stop, a crazy bad habit?
My mother’s on drugs, my brother’s on drugs
Just because they use it, they’re labeled like thugs
Reagan to Bush, I really don’t understand
It seems like Richard Nixon, made this plan
In a nation of drugs…In a nation of drugs

But Gangsta Ern’s critique was not only applied to the government. His last verse was a warning to younger generations to not become political pawns:

We got a little workers that’s in every town,
Give ‘em a little forty and they try to clown
Give ‘em a sack and they pass it out
Not a street dealer, ‘cause you got the clout
Tellin’ all the girls that he got the dollar,
Walkin’ ‘round town wit’ gold on his collar
Rollin’ so hard, but it came to an end
Caught a federal case, now you in the pen
Pushin’ behind this is win or lose,
So if you come up short, that was the President’s move
In a nation of drugs.

Gangsta Ern “That’s How It Happened”

“That’s How It Happened” reflects what Imani Perry calls “hip hop realism”. Perry states, “hip hop realism is filled with metaphors and metonyms of existence that trouble listeners or commentators from a wide range of political, social, and intellectual perspectives.” But Gangsta Ern’s realism is not metaphoric, instead—in a reflection of the extreme local aspect of San Diego gangsta rap—Ern uses his verses to talk about senseless acts of violence that took place in Southeast San Diego and to even castigate OG gang members who have snitched on others gang members for fear of going to prison. The first verse of “That’s How it Happened” refers to the 1988 shooting death of Officer Jerry Hartless. While the facts of this case are worthy of a full-length book, it is important to point out that Gangsta Ern once again showed keen foresight when he proclaimed that the person the police arrested for the murder was not the person and questioned the reliability of San Diego’s confidential informants. The defendants in this case were eventually freed.

You can download the rest of the essay here. If you’d like to reach Mychal Odom, hit him up through his Facebook page.

Be Sociable, Share!

Reading be fun though:

  • Pingback: Beyond Boundaries pt. 2: Complex, Sagon Penn, and Police Brutality | SDRaps.com

  • 2xDope

    I like how black people try to assert themselves at the forefront of everything. San Diego gangs are ad old as LA gangs. And Mexicans been banging since the first half of the last century, oldest hoods are Mexican barrios, such as East Oceanside that’s been active since the 20′s! Old Town National City is another hood that’s been around since the 40′s…ain’t no black hoods that been around that long

    • Daniel_morris57

      Blood shut up,Them Gangs Is Weak. Emerald Hillz, Five 9, Linkoln Park, Are the Most Respekted! Since They Started, Dnt Know What Watered Down Gangs U Talking About In Daygo Thats Why They Irrelevant And Vanished, Dude There Only In Your Thoughts And In Your History Lol

      • X907xx7

        Then why do you kick it with them and try to peacetreaty Logan and Westcoast shelltown and brims lincoln park with everybody sidros been around since the 20s plus theres not one area you foos run surenos control most of southeast eastside most of westside and all the southbay

      • 2 Dope

        Respected? Homie i didn’t know Dago had black hoods until i heard Mitch Slick when i was in High School. Diego is primarily ran by Sureño gangs. them boys ain’t vanished, Ice Cube said it best, “Eses deep don’t Fuck wit them boys”…Logan Heights been putting in work. Shelltown is deep. Diego Sureños have connections with Mexican drug cartels, serious shit not petty shit

        • Heads Up

          Cartels and Surenos are separate entities! The cartels don’t care what race a gang is. Why do you think there’s no race issue in gang warfare in SD!?! Because SD borders Mexico, Surenos don’t control the market. What Surenos do control is the markets away from the border where they can intercept, and take neighborhoods using their numbers.

    • Fsbulldogs1904

      Thats very true, I live in oceanside and heard storys about how the gangs here go back many years, and as far as being around alot longer than black gangs, thats also true, no disrespect to the blacks, those are just the facts, us Mexicans never get our props but we will soon

      • 2Dope

        I lived all over O’side, Eastside to Downtown to Tri City. O’side hoods are some of the oldest in Dago.

        • JAGUARSWAG

          you aint from ANYWHERE YOU DUSTY ASS BITCH !

          • 2Dope

            Yes, you are correct, I don’t bang any set. So what is your point, fag swag? Who still uses swag in 2013. Get off the nutts and stop dick riding. Been in Oceanside since 1997, only real hoods out there are Eastside, Center Street, Mesa Margarita, Deep Valley Bloods (Samoan gang), and that’s it. No black gangs, I read somewhere that there was supposedly a “Fireside Crip” gang, that shit cracked me up, ain’t no Crips in Oceanside, they are too scared to claim anything for fear of getting capped by Samoans

          • Heads Up

            The Valley Boys (now Deep Valley Bloods) became a Blood set under the guidance of OOOGs from 5/9; ask anybody from the Mad or Mad A** family. CMG was originally suppose to be a Blood set and were cool w/ the Valley Boys, but changed their minds. Why do you think CMGs original enemies were Crip sets; namely DVC. Samoan gang!?! The Valley is far from labelin’ itself a Samoan gang, and a good amount of them are black. If anything that’s what the media says or people with no knowledge.

          • O’side or Die

            Crook Mob isn’t even worth mentioning, they got stomped out by the Eastside before it even got started, Posole wasn’t down with sharing their hood. Deep Valley bloods in O’side is primarily composed of Samoans. Ain’t no cripping in O’side. The only cripping is done by crippleds. The entire area of San Diego county had Mexican gangs long before any black ones came up. The only thing that stands out about black gangs is their Blood/Crip banner which is easily recognizable. Kinda sad black gangs in SD originated from LA.

          • Heads Up

            IDK what you’re talkin’ about sharing hoods (CMG & Posole), but you have mis-information… That feud started because Speedy from Posole said he got jumped by some CMs @Burger King which lead to dude from Posole gettin’ shot in the neck on Dubuque; thus, starting the war. No Crips in Oceanside!?! There are Crips off Los Arbolitos (Timbers & Meadowbrook/Fireside) & on the corner of Douglas & N. River Rd. The only part of Oceanside controlled by Southsiders is Center St. and the East Side. Kinda sad Surenos originated from LA…

          • O’side of Die

            Are you kidding son? Crips in Oceanside are as much a factor as milk is to lemonade. That part of O’side off Arbolitos is controlled by Mesa margarita Locos. Crips make no noise in O’side. Last gang injunctions in served in O’side Crips have no history in Oceanside. Oldest gang in San Diego is the Eastside. They have history that’s generations deep. Seeing a Crip in O’side is like finding a Latin King in Southern California, try just dont exist.

          • Heads Up

            Show me VMesaLS off Los Arbolitos posted; and I’ll show you the entire Timbers, Meadowbrook filled w/ nothin’ but ICGs. The center of VMLS is off Calle Montecito w/ homies sprinkled around Ave. Descanso. The only Surenos I seen ’round Fireside were bangin’ MV13, and is nothin’ but busters who use to bang Krook City until they hit the pinta; thus, becomin’ transformers.

          • Heads Up

            Who hit up the brick wall on the corner of Douglas & N. River Road 3 months back!?! I believe it read “DVC ’30s MK” just had to point that out. Right across the street is Arbor Cove Circle right off N. River; filled w/ nothin’ but DVCs.

          • O’side or Die

            There are 20 gang injunctions in San Diego County, 15 in North County, 6 in Oceanside. All six are placed on Mexican barrios. Crips make no noise. They aren’t a factor in O’side. And that’s the truth.

          • EVilLoCsT@

            You dont kno WTF u talkin bout… lmao. The crooc aint neva signed on a redline. Crips since day one.. Who is this character??

  • Harrypotter

    fake ass bangers ^

  • Dannibz

    Blood This Souf East San Diego Shit Has Never Been A Place To Sleep On So Wake Up Haters…. Yeadatt…

  • jmac

    What it do? Big June been rappin! Real ones like June,criccet,hunchbac oside and southeast been doin it. Lil slim!Baby Lon Don is legend living! Damafiamu is #1sd label!

  • jmac

    OWestside,cmg,icg,south o,dvc,kcb,dvb I’m a vet from the o from valley boys to deep valley boys then we was sonic boys! G from Garfield street! A lot of usos been here! Matt Wilbo Crip !

    • mossi

      Matt is from lvc he’s will bo’s brother matt anit from no damn o’side

      • JMAC

        AIN’T KNOWBODY SAID NATHIN ABOUT DA HOMIE MATT EPINESA FROM SDC AS WE’LL AS LINDA VISTA CRIP!! I’M S.D.C AS WE’LL,CUZZ! MY USOS WHISPER,REDRUM,FLUFFY,JBONE,SICBONE!YEAH I’M A REAL ONE!DLOC WHISPERS BIG BRO SOUTH O C.M.G!

        • EVilLoCsT@

          Kno wat the fucc your talking bout before runnin off at the mouth bout OS Crippin history. OSIDE FACT: E/S CROOC MOB GANGSTS CRIP was the ONLY set dirt nappin outta town niggas from L.A. & still holdin it down solid at war wit PissBoys in the 90′s.Fucc a sewer rat!! They all turnin PC n the pen anyways.
          Stop snitchin on us OSC’s & respect the the culture you mexicans constantly biting off of.. Go make a nigga a burrito or somethin. 1400% E/S CMGC .
          》CMGC, DVC, WSC, SOGC, ICG《
          OSC’s we ain’t went nowhere.

          • crabkilla

            All you faggots are gonna suck a fat dick ,

  • 4th coast

    wow, just reading the comments here does nothing but prove how CORNY sd so called gangsters are! go to the beach and chill out bitches.

  • Oside upper county

    Wassup to them young ese’s from OS VILLAINS I see a lot off there hit ups around el camino real & Oside blvd always kicking it around the tri city area as we’ll

  • be cool baby

    Maaann what?? San Diego?? Hard?? Don’t make laugh!!! I swear these football jersey wearing San Diego dudes have no idea of the world outside theirs. they need to look at LA, Chicago, Baltimore, Philly, Miami, New Orleans, Texas and New York. those places have REAL gangstas and prob laugh at San Diego wannabe’s. c’mon man San Diego is a beautiful and SAFE city. All these guys on here trying to sound gangster are hilarious!! I laugh when ppl say that’s a bad neighborhood when I visit sd. I say I never felt safer than I do right now. THERE ARE NO REAL HOODS IN SAN DIEGO!!!!!

    • 322OHHKILLA

      what do u do travel the u.s. and visit hoods?san diego has been banging since b4 UR LAME ASS BEEN ALIVE. not like these other cities that started banging when they heard NWA and watched COLORS, we og west coast foolio. thats y the world bites the stilo lowriding colored rags and crispy levis and white tees! Sd got rules and regulations homeboy, this aint detroit or chicago, or philly? u gota do ur homework b4 u do sum dirt out here, cuz if not the big brothers gona come knoccn’ on your front door and u gona be found headless in a trunk. thats the get down out here. i cant speak for the bloods or crips, but the southsiders know the bizness. so be coo baby when u come to the town, and dont speak on something u have no clue about. aint no drivebys out here homeboy, aint no shooting into crowds hittin lil kids, i guess thats what u consider gangster. nah REAL GANGSTERS SHOW UP ON YOUR DOORSTEP.