Sunday, October 27, 2013

What's In A Name? - Gangsta Braids, Part II

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part II of a two part series about the phrase "gangsta braids". This post features selected videos of "gangsta braids" hair styles, comments from those videos, and information about the meaning of the word "gangsta".

Click for Part I of that series. Part I presents selected comments from an October 26, 2013 Yahoo article that included a photograph & comments about White American Juliette Lewis wearing her hair in what she referred to 21 years later as "gangster braids".

The content of this post is presented for cultural and sociological purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Gangsta Braids" are one of a number of hair styles for locs (also known as "locks, "dreads", and "dreadlocks"). That style involves a particular way [or ways] of braiding "locs".

Here's information about "dreadlocks" from
"Dreadlocks, also called locks, dreads, or Jata (Hindi), are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks...

Dreadlocks are associated most closely with the Rastafari movement, but people from many ethnic groups have worn dreadlocks, including many ancient Hamitic people of North Africa and East Africa (notably the Oromo of Ethiopia, and the Maasai of northern Kenya); Semitic people of West Asia; Indo-European people of Europe and South Asia (notably the ancient Spartan warriors of Greece, and the Sadhus of India and Nepal); Turkic people of Anatolia and Central Asia; the Sufi Rafaees; and the Sufi malangs and fakirs of Pakistan...

Since the rise of the popularity of dreadlocks, Blacks in the Americas have developed a large variety of ways to wear dreadlocked hair. Specific elements of these styles include the flat-twist, in which a section of locks are rolled together flat against the scalp to create an effect similar to the cornrows, and braided dreadlocks. Examples include flat-twisted half-back styles, flat-twisted mohawk styles, braided buns and braid-outs (or lock crinkles). Social networking websites, web forums, web-logs and especially online video-logs like YouTube have become popular methods for people with dreadlocks to transmit ideas, pictures and tutorials for innovative styles."
It appears from my online reading and personal experiences that the word "locs" (spelled without the "k") is by far the most commonly used term for these hairstyles among African Americans.

My guess is that the term "gangsta braids" was relatively recently coined by African Americans or people from the Caribbean. However, the style that is known as "gangsta braids" may be much older than that name.

Here are two comments from a Yahoo forum in response to the question "Why do people associate BLACK MEN with BRAIDS as being "gangster" and "thug"?"

GeTMoNeY[M.O.B], 2008
"i wear my braids and i don't care what anyone says. they associate stereotypes they see in movies and hear in music and base their beliefs off of the media. when in all actuality, it's just a hair style. wearing braids does not mean that those who wear them are a thug, gangster, have robbed a bank, or any thing else with a negative connotation. because just as a black man with braids would supposedly rob someone, so can a BALD white man, a LONG haired indian, SPIKEY haired asian, or a LAYERED haired woman for that matter. it's just a hairstyle. those who still judge people off of their hairstyle need to grow up and need to chill out with the whole telling people what to do to their hair."...

Ms. Opinionative, 2008
..."As for braids, well, most people have shallow thinking, and when they notice thugs whom are Black, or Black people on the news being broadcast committing an offense, most of them have braids, but people, like I said, with shallow minds, would stereotype and conclude that having braids is a thuggish style. However, the truth is, those thugs, whom happened to Black, had a 'Black' hairstyle that doesn't have anything to do with being a thug at all."...
It's possible that the name "gangsta braids" came from these lyrics to the 1994 record "Players Ball" by Outkast:

All the players came.. from far and wide
Wearin afros and braids, kickin them gangsta rides
Now I'm here to tell ya.. there's a better day
When the player's ball is happenin, on Christmas Day
Italics added to highlight that line.

Of course, I might be wrong about that Outkast record being the inspiration for the name "gangsta braids". However, it's clear that that name is matter of factly used by Black people posting videos of that style on YouTube, and commenting on those videos.

[WARNING: Some music that is played in the background of these videos, and/or some comments on those videos' viewer comment threads contain profanity, the n word, and other content that I believe isn't appropriate for children.]

These videos are posted in chronological order, based on their posting date, with the oldest video given first.

Example #1: Loc Style (Gangsta Braids)

MsTrini2dbone, Uploaded on Dec 28, 2009

Another loc style quick and super easy
Here are four comments from that video's viewer comment thread:

"So Those Are Braids, not dreads?"

Reply ·
MsTrini2dbone, 2010
"they are locs the style is calles gangsta braids"

jtnluv07, 2010
"do u cornroll it the same as if his hair wasnt dreaded up?"

Reply ·
MsTrini2dbone, 2010
"yes i do in this vid"

Example #2: Hair How To: Four Gangsta Braids

KnottyDreadTV, Uploaded on Jan 15, 2011
As an aside, the name "knottydread" is almost certainly a play on title of the Bob Marley song "Natty Dread". The word "natty" which is hardly ever used in the United States means "attractive, stylish".

Example #3: Loc Tutorial: Two Gangsta Braids

I guess you can say that this is my early Christmas gift to ya'll. Merry Christmas guys. This my loc tutorial... I've been requested to do this style. And here ya go.

LeslieMoniqueTV, Uploaded on Dec 24, 2010

Note that there are multiple websites that sell "gangsta braids" wigs for Halloween. However, I'm not including links to those websites.

In spite of the fact that apparentally some Black people have no problem what so ever with the name "gangsta braids", I consider that hairstyle's name to be problematic because it reinforces negative perceptions of Black people as gangsters and of gangstas.

My hope is that another term will eventually replace the "gangsta braid" name for that hairstyle.

Click "Terms Used Among People Who Wear Their Hair In Locs (Dreadlocks)"

Thanks to the publishers of these featured video. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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