N.W.A.

Look out it's mother fluffin NWA!!!
Gangsta rap has had a bad name and perhaps rightfully so. Harsh language and extremely mature themes are the norm in a gangsta tune. The thing that has given gangsta rap it’s harshest criticism is it’s tendency to often be found in the hands of kids. Such potentially negative music surely can’t have a positive influence on a child can it? Well, having grown up listening to gangsta rap I can say without a doubt that it’s impact is truly in the ear of the listener. Even as a kid I could tell when something was theatrics, even if something was presented in a realistic manner in most cases I was still a skeptic. So is it bad for some kids? Yes, as a whole I wouldn’t take the risk, for kids with no imagination it may be taken as gospel and that could hurt a their development. Many of the topics discussed are mature in nature and wholly inappropriate for kids, even if they still talk about this stuff on their own as a parent I would have to condone my kids listening to gangsta rap but I’m not writing this as a parent so lets move on. At it’s core gangsta rap is just like any other form of rap music a good MC and a good DJ are what it’s all about, actual lyrical content often takes a back seat to how the words are delivered, you find this often the case in rock music as well. I felt the need to write this precursor paragraph due to the controversy around the group at hand, NWA.

NWA or “Niggas With Attitudes” virtually set the stage for all gangsta rap to follow. Founded in 1986 in Compton California when they took the stage for the first time it was like the shot heard around the world for the rap community. For some gangsta rap was a good thing, a new creative outlet for venting gang related conflicts in a peaceful manner. For others it was a horrible thing, nothing more then thugs making music for other thugs to listen to prior to and during committing crimes, glorifying something that needed condemnation rather then praise. Whatever their intentions I take the music at face value, music. While they do talk about killing people and mischief much of it is clearly tongue in cheek and shouldn’t be taken seriously. And let’s face it, these guys were good rappers, the beats were fresh and new, lyrical content and gunshot samples aside, these are some great tunes.

The core of NWA was Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella. That makes four MCs and one DJ. NWA was one of the first groups to successfully pull off a record with so many MCs at the helm. It makes the albums all the better with so many talented MCs contributing not just their voices but to the lyric writing as well. It also helped with their gang image. Just a single MC and DJ wouldn’t have looked quite as menacing as five guys on posters, album covers and at appearances. Their first album “N.W.A. and the Posse” had an awkward release and as a result didn’t see much airplay but their second album “Straight Outta Compton” was a mega hit and perhaps one of the most controversial albums of all time with topics portraying their views on police, other gang members, women and drug dealing. Due to it’s adult nature many radio stations wouldn’t play the album and police refused to do security at NWA’s shows which meant they could hardly tour to promote the album. It was also one of the first albums to be awarded a Parental Advisory sticker. Yet despite all the negative publicity about the album it’s biggest hit off was “Express Yourself”, a tune clearly written for the radio it was absent of vulgarity and contained a positive message about avoiding drugs and focusing on achieving your goals. It’s this song that is the lynch pin for me and that second album. It shows how NWA could write songs that match any image they choose, while it’s members grew up in hard areas they certainly weren’t in daily shotgun fights and high on crack all the time like the media was portraying them.

In the wake of the second album’s success some turmoil came along with it as well Ice Cube took issue with the amount of his royalty payments in relation to the scale of his contributions to the album. It is estimated that he wrote 40% of the lyrics for all of the songs on the album, more then any of the other members. More importantly Ice Cube offered a serious edge to the group that helped it push through a message. He felt that since he was such a driving force within the group that he should have been compensated better, the other members disagreed and Ice Cube left NWA to start a solo career. This would be the start of one of the great MC battles of the nineties. In Ice Cube’s first solo album he payed respect to NWA by simply not mentioning them. But in NWA’s first album without him they trash talked him in almost every song. After that things would go back and forth until 1995. In 1995 Easy-E died of a AIDS related illness. After his death Ice Cube and the other members of NWA buried the hatchet.

While NWA was around for five years, from 1986 to 1991 they managed to put out Three full length albums and a EP. Not a bad offering really. I’ve never heard the first album but the three later releases are great. My fave has got to be the one that started the hubbub, “Straight Outta Compton”, but the others are great too. So run out today and pick up a 40oz of Crazy Horse and a NWA album, you won’t regret it.

1) N.W.A. and the Posse [1987]
2) Straight Outta Compton [1988]
3) 100 Miles and Runnin’ [1990]
4) Niggaz4life [1991]

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