Oct 29

Is your man a thug or a bad boy?I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time but held off on it due to my not wanting to step on toes etc. I have a married friend who has not spent any time in prison, has a beautiful family and has no street gang or organized crime affiliation. Yet without hesitation I can say he is the most “gangster” individual I know. How is this? Well the term originated with organized crime, it was something that outsiders would call the wiseguys and the clubs of fellas that were doing their gang thing on the streets back in the day. As time passed and Hollywood became involved, the dangerous wiseguy of the slums became idealized into a street knight who chooses illicit ventures to profit while sticking to a harsh code of discipline. When musicians started claiming to be gangsters, they would reference street legends and movie stars, the latter being the majority of what a gangster is to them. Not only did this dilute the meaning of gangster but it actually changed it. Lots of these guys are not even in gangs – so my point is this, the term gangster is a fantasy.

Where gangsters were gentleman criminals, a thug was a negative term used for murderers, rapists and thieves. To be a thug meant you carried the stigma of being shady, ruthless and dangerously criminal. A gang of thugs are not gangsters, they are a gang. Unlike gangster, thug is not romanticized in the English language no matter how much these rappers try to tell you different. Some women have adapted the word as almost a term of endearment for the “bad boys” that they pursue. I guess being referred to as a thug feels a bit better than being called a “bad boy” but let’s be real here, it’s the exact same thing. Thugs are not gangsters, thugs are bad boys – ie: they are guys playing “dress-up” to look the part of a thug. Real thugs will shoot you, rob you, rape you and they do get locked up. Turn on the show Gangland, or Gang Nation and you will see true thugs. Most of these women claiming to “like thugs” could not handle a real thug. They like bad boys, so let’s stop with the facade.

What is the true definition of Gangster?
Gangster mentality is doing what you have to in order to earn and be comfortable. Gangsters are as macho as they come, they can pull a lady with ease but you won’t find them dressing like one (should I repeat this?) Gangsters take care of their loved ones, they scoff at wheel spinning, being in the rat race and are ambitious to a fault. Gangsters don’t get into screaming matches in confrontations, it is seen as effeminate. A Gangster says his piece and you either follow it or face the repercussions. Gangsters don’t dress up to look like thugs, they are generally clean shaven, void of tattoos and dress nicely. A Gangster can blend into any social atmosphere, as opposed to a thug who makes women clutch their purses.

So do you understand the difference now? Gangsters are rare, when I see a random dread-locked rapper claim to be gangster it makes me laugh. To me he looks more like the “thugs” I watch on the daily news shooting innocent children and old women. But the truth is I don’t know that rapper personally, maybe he is a gangster and chooses to wear the outfit of a thug… one never knows. I will now list off real Gangsters and Thugs (oft times mistaken as Gangsters due to dress and affiliation)  from some of the more popular movies as an illustration of the difference between the two. See if you can pick up on the pattern…

Fake thugs are bad boys playing dress upMovie Gangsters (mentality/actions)

  • Vito & Michael Corleone – The Godfather
  • Frank Lucas – American Gangster
  • Danny Ocean – Ocean’s Eleven
  • Frank White – The King of New York
  • Carlito – Carlito’s Way
  • Chili Palmer – Get Shorty


Movie Thugs (mentality/actions)

  • Tony Montana – Scarface
  • Arthur ‘Cody’ Jarrett – White Heat
  • The Joker – The Dark Knight
  • Tony Soprano – HBO’s The Sopranos
  • Nino Brown – New Jack City
  • Tommy DeVito – Goodfellas

So you see ladies with the “bad boy” boyfriends and husbands, there’s a huge difference so don’t get it twisted. Playing “dress up” does not one a Thug make.  I hope this helps to clear up the confusion that studio gangster rappers and skinny jean wearing “bad boys” have caused in using this terminology in their raps.

See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.
  • CuddlyKitty

    Yo you got it all wrong a thug is some body who has been through a lot doesn’t tolerate some body disrespecting them and only follows rules they believe in so most of the time thugs are actually good gangstas on the other hand are pretty much like both the things you described they can be either one so for example 2pac was a thug he didn’t do anything wrong other then shoot a cop for being racist to a black dude he never did anything else (unless you’re one of those retards who say he raped that girl) so he broke rules he didn’t believe in that’s it but gangstas are like the antagonists from 8 mile soo you got it all wrong oh yeah thugs and gamgstas both dress like that i mean look at snoop and he’s mafia

    • so wrong there is NO rationality to thug OR savage…..no justification,…a word based in actions not excuses.

    • Kelli Cartrette

      Since when is Snoop Dogg a fk’n Mafioso? For one to truly be a “Goodfella” & be “Made” You have to be 100% Italian. He may have Mafia ties, which I doubt…

      • Suva Cirema

        I am 100% Italian. My famliy tree extends to Castallamare (di Stabia) and Sorrento, which is essentially Naples. Both my mother’s and father’s are Napolitan. The Gamorra is the primary organized crime syndicate within Naples, Italy. The Mafia which is Sicilian dialect or slang meaning “my family”. Mafia refers to specifically to Sicily which has now been adopted by other criminal enterprises, similar to the way these words (gangster and thug) that is the topic of this discussion. Similarly, like the word ‘racism’ is now meant to describe bigotry. The word racism was invented in the 1930s to describe the Nazis perception (not necessarily treatment…yet) of the Jews. The Mafia is an embarrassment to my heritage. Almost every single time I meet someone who asks my nationality they ask me if I am in any way ‘connected’ in some way to Mafia. I have known some of them and even members of family have had dealings with them (gambling), but the truth is that most Mafiosi (plural of Mafioso) are just low life scum and glamorized thugs. In the early 1900s there was a reason to be affiliated with them (The Black Hand), now they’re just corner cutting losers who screw anybody and everybody over to make a buck. If you want to know what a typical (modern day) mafioso is really like watch the movie Donnie Brasco. Al Pacino’s character Lefty (for the most part) portrays the true nature of what they’re like…scum. I love the fact that I’m an Italian American, but the Jersey Shore show just made us look so stupid, just like modern day mafiosi do; at least to those of who know what they’re really like.

  • TriFlo

    CuddlyKitty, Thugs are those who have decided to take that road and say forget laws and rules that go to all people. I love tupac’s music and he can call himself a thug but to me he was more of a Gangster he shot a cop standing up for the black community, his family, and friends.

  • Geek

    What is a true Gangster? A true gangster is some one who puts in work for their hood. some one who does not have to dress gangster to be gangster. some one who keeps their s— to their self. Someone with a “Kill now- Talk Later attitude”. Does not mean put in work to rob people it means protecting your place of stay by all means keeping enemies out. just fyi. Whoever wrote this article I believe is correct. good article.

  • truth telling [banned]

    This article is wack. Full of contradictions and incomplete, unexplained notions. Blah.

  • Suva Cirema

    Today’s ‘gangsters’ and ‘thugs’ are posers masquerading around like tough guys most of the time because they’re weak, likely can’t fight and want to portray this image so they don’t have to throw down. They think people will assume they could be armed so they will avoid a confrontation with them. The actual definition of a gangster is an individual involved with organized crime. Mainly used for referring to Italian Americans affiliated with or members of La Cosa Nostra (This Thing of Ours/Our Thing). Bloods and crips are not gangsters, they are thugs. Frank Lucas was a gangster. Al Capone was a gangster (actual original gangster from 1930s Chicago where the term ‘gangster’ originated) Gangsters usually cannot be identified by sight. They tend to dress like businessmen. Tupac was a thug by his own alternate definition saying “Yes I’m gonna say that I’m a thug, that’s because I came from the gutter and I’m still here” – thug by actual definition is not Pac’s definition. Today, a thug is defined as a “glamorized criminal” who dresses in a hip-hop style fashion. It is difficult to differentiate between real and fake thugs. In my experience, the toughest one’s are the polite ones who will confidently use words to avoid a confrontation getting physical in order to save the life of the person that’s trying to pick a fight with them (most likely because they know how badly they could hurt the loud mouth and do not need to prove it to anyone)