Gangsta Rat was released as a part of Banksy’s signature Rat series of screen prints in 2004, alongside Love Rat and Radar Rat as a limited edition of 150 signed and 350 unsigned screen prints in red. Additionally, there are 61 signed editions in blue, orange and grey, 46 signed editions in pink, 20 signed editions in green and 8 in mint green.
Since then, it has been released in varying edition sizes and colours. It portrays a stencilled rat next to a boombox, wearing a New York Mets baseball cap and street wear, with a long neck chain and an ear piercing. The character’s aesthetic evokes the urban culture of 1980s and 90s in New York, which also had significant influence on street culture and fashion in the United Kingdom. The bright red tag behind the rat reading ‘iPOW’ is a satirical reference to the popularity of Apple products, while POW stands for Banksy’s then-print publisher, Pictures on Walls.
The rat is one of Banksy’s most iconic motifs, arguably representing the ‘masses’ or common people as opposed to the authorities and the privileged few. The animal is also a nod to legendary French graffiti artist Blek Le Rat, who first started using ‘rat’ as an anagram of ‘art’ in his works. Gangsta Rat also appeared as a mural in Farringdon (2004) and Old Street (2006) in London and in New York (2013).