Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.

Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A.

1988

Ruthless/Priority/EMI Records

Confidence is important, especially when you’re playing into the Rap game.  You’ve got to have the ability to push for the truth, the tenacity to say it in plain-speak, and the nerve to not back down from it.  I doubt anyone understands that as much as Gangsta-rap pioneers N.W.A.  I’m pretty sure that if your name is an acronym for “Niggaz Wit Attitudes,” you’re probably going to understand the importance of attitude.

Hailing from Compton (obviously) in Southern L.A., N.W.A. popularized Gangsta-rap with Straight Outta Compton, the group’s first studio album.  Consisting of producers DJ Yella and Dr. Dre and performers Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and Arabian Prince (the latter barely appears on the album), the West Coast crew came into controversy with this record.  This release was one of the first with a Parental Advisory warning, proudly due to profane lyrics of a sexual and violent nature.  Not to mention that “Fuck tha Police” even warranted a letter from the F.B.I. addressing the negative views expressed in the song.  However, all the controversy stirred up interest in the album, which received high critical accolades and double platinum status (with almost no radio play).  If you listen to the album, you can hear why it’s a classic, too — N.W.A. chooses to put forth the reality of living in the CPT with their lyrical content, style, and humor.

In defense of their vulgarities on this record — and there are plenty to choose from –the emcees stated that their lyrics were showing realities.  And believe what you will, whether or not they were dramatizing gang-influenced life or sentimentalizing it, but the realities are there on the album, in the group’s bragging way.  Everything from sex (see Ice Cube’s solo song “I Ain’t tha 1” for hysterical relationship advice) to drugs (“Dopeman (Remix)”) to police brutality (“A young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown/And not the other color so police think/they have the authority to kill a minority”) is represented here.  Granted, much of the ill rhymes apparent come from the rappers’ boasts — “Niggaz start to mumble, they wanna rumble / Mix ’em and cook ’em in a pot like gumbo” — but even these hint at the gang-infused life.

One crazy motherfucker

Sure, violence and sexism standout in positive lights on Straight Outta Compton, and that, I assume, is because of the way of life N.W.A. came from.  It’s Ice Cube that states early on in “Gangsta Gangsta,” “Do I look like a mother fucking role model?/To a kid looking up to me/Life ain’t nothing but bitches and money.”  That may be an ironic lyric coming from the now Tyler Perry-esque family show producer, but it doesn’t lessen the point made on the album.  The cock-sure group are letting the listeners know what’s happening, and they’re not apologizing for it.  However, N.W.A. do come out almost looking like role models anyway on parts of the album.  “Dopeman” is vehemently against hard drugs, and “Compton’s in the House” has the group confidently talking about how their city has made them the best rappers.  But, the standout track is “Express Yourself,” a rare example of the legendary Dr. Dre soloing on the record.  With a Soul sample of Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, the track features an infectious groove.  Over this, Dre’s message is simple and clear — express yourself.  With completely clean vocals, Dre outlines what it is that makes N.W.A. great.  He comes out against drugs (“I don’t smoke weed or cess/’Cause it’s known to give a brother brain damage”), states why they use profanity (“Yeah, they want reality”), and comes out sounding like an intelligent, well-spoken individual (“When you got a subject and a predicate/Add it on a dope beat/And it’ll make you think”).  It’s the centerpiece of the album, satisfyingly unconventional.

How else would you like to hear the truth stated?  The classic N.W.A. discusses the realities of gang-life and do so in a style that represents it accurately.  Their obscenities and their fearlessness embody the typical in Compton-existence, while the humor found on the album (Seriously, they’ve got a reference to the Marshal in Gunsmoke) gives the emcees personalities.  The public agitation after the release of Straight Outta Compton only strengthened the arguments made by the group, because as Dr. Dre says, they “don’t rap for the pop charts.”  Now, I may not be as experienced with Rap as I am with any other kind of Rock music, but I do know artistic merit when I hear it, and damn, that shit was dope.

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2 Responses to “Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.”

  1. The only gangsta rap i ever need to hear is Vanilla Ice, these posers are so lame.

  2. You should make a rap album Ryan.

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