There was a moment, somewhere between the 1980s and 1990s, when Black music turned gangsta. This moment shaped two of the world’s most influential genres: American Rap and Jamaican Dancehall. The story behind the music is one of oppressed Africans unlocking the ancient powers of their ancestors to break free. The dark side of this story is that many of those Africans, descended from slaves, embraced the pattern of violence that had cursed them for so long and slowly turned against each other. Was gangsta music the explosion of Black culture, or the implosion of Black power? In the end, the market decides.

Warning: This episode contains very strong language and language which may offend, as well as adult themes.


Written by George the Poet

Produced by Benbrick and George the Poet

Mixing, recording and editing by Benbrick.

With music from:

Bob Marley - Get Up Stand Up

The Sugarhill Gang - Rapper’s Delight

Billy Boyo - One Spliff A Day

Ninja Man - Murder Dem

Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full

Super Cat - Boops

Ice-T - New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme)

Mad Cobra - Bad Boy

Bounty Killer - Copper Shot

The Notorious B.I.G - Juicy

Craig Mack - Flava In Ya Ear Remix

Bounty Killer - Disrespect

The Notorious B.I.G - Hold Ya Head (feat. Bob Marley)

All original music is written by Benbrick and recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Thank you to:

Benbrick, my Groomsmen and my nephews. My team: Sandra, Vidhu and Birungi. Dylan Haskins and the team at BBC Sounds, Alex Entwistle, Adam Eland. BBC Concert Orchestra.


The first four clips document scenes of street violence and are taken from various YouTube channels. The channel names are Toyin Made (used at 01:14), axolotol (used at 01:18), Eyez-wide-Videos (used at 01:41), and The Scuttlebutt Report (used at 02:01).

The clip of Sam Cooke used at 03:27 is taken from his interview with Dick Clark on American Bandstand.

The clip about Rastafari used at 03:51 is taken from the BBC documentary “Roots, Reggae, Rebellion”.

The clip about Black people expressing their true selves used at 04:21 is taken from the BBC documentary “Soul Deep: The Story of Black Popular Music”

The two clips used at 05:06 and 05:22 are taken from the BBC documentary Jamaica 40: Blood and Fire.

The clips used at 07:55, 08:03 and 08:08 are taken from the ABC News 20/20 Hip Hop special report from 1981.

The clips used at 19:40, 20:36 and 21:01 about Bounty Killer are taken from the 1994 classic feature with Jamaica TVJ ER host Anthony Miller.

The clips used at 19:51, 20:21 and 20:58 is taken from the Yendi Phillipps Untold Journeys interview with Bounty Killer.

The clip used at 20:46 is taken from the BBC documentary “Reggae: The Story of Jamaican Music”

Have You Heard George’s Podcast? is a George the Poet production for BBC Sounds.

Commissioning Assistant Producer: Adam Eland

Commissioning Senior Producer: Alex Entwistle

Commissioning Executive for BBC: Dylan Haskins

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