The infamous Raiders only existed—in an LA Raiders sense anyways—between 1982 and 1994. Even a few years ago, I was selling vintage Raiders Starter caps for anywhere up to $80. Why would people want to wear the cap of a team that now resides in Oakland and is, at best, an average NFL team? Well, their legacy lies with their time in LA, of course, but the football was almost coincidental.
In case you've never seen or heard of the Raiders, they are an NFL football team who play in black and silver, their logo being a pirate, which further reinforced the outlaw connotations of the gnarly name. It was this symbolism that attracted the first real gangster rap group—what a hateful phrase, btw—to their wares, and when N.W.A. exploded onto the scene in 1988 with their first proper album—N.W.A. And The Posse doesn't really count—they looked amazing. The monochrome was only broken by the Raiders logo on their satin coach jackets or caps and occasionally white Nikes. They were a force whose notoriety gained them worldwide, er, notoriety. I can remember being about 10 or 11, around about the time of the release of N.W.A.'s sophomore release, and hearing a talk show host on the radio calling for their records to be banned. A Tennessee judge did actually rule their Straight Outta Compton—and subsequently 2 Live Crew's Nasty As They Wanna Be—obscene under state law. Conviction for selling these records could bring fines from $10,000 to $100,000, depending upon the involvement of minors in the offense.
But it wasn't just their music that was provocative of violence, their image was. I guess for the mainstream charts at the time—which were plagued by bad hair metal and stadium rockers with their leather gear and hairspray—four black guys head to toe in black from South Central Los Angeles were a shock to the system. Sure, the lyrics were brash and violent, perhaps juvenile and certainly misogynistic, but they were real. I once saw an interview with Ice-T and he said he didn't mean to start "gangster rap", and certainly never called it that, he always thought of it as "reality rap".
Well, the reality of the Raiders was almost as violent as N.W.A. themselves. Joh Matuszak was notorious for his drug intake, Bob Brown would take his guns to practice, shooting them off behind a local motel, and these were some of the team's stars, who they apparently got away with it "because they won". And the rappers themselves almost took after their heroes, as everyone in LA at the time were huge Raiders fans.
Never mind all the rappers and kids who were imitating the style and colors of the Raiders, other sporting franchises wanted a piece of the action. One being LA's own hockey team, the Kings, who, having always played in royal and yellow, changed their colors to black and silver in an attempt to cash-in on the millions being spent on Raiders gear. The Kings stuff ended up being almost as iconic as the Raiders apparel and many rappers, including N.W.A., rocked it in the end too. N.W.A. wore black and silver to avoid showing any allegiance to the Bloods or Crips, when wearing gang colors was rampant and often had deadly consequences. Paradoxically, it also signified a shift in rap to nihilistic west coast values.
Harry at AMCK, Henry at AMCK, Bakar, Blayar, Gerald.
Special thanks to Vincent.
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