“You’re about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”
And with that, popular music changed forever.
Without a doubt, N.W.A. was a revolutionary group. They established the West Coast as a rap powerhouse, created the wonderful rap sub-genre known as ‘gangsta rap,’ pushed the envelope for controversy further than any music act before them, and, in their own hedonistic, ultraviolent way, raised awareness about the issues plaguing the ghettos of South Central Los Angeles. The crew, composed of members Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and… the Arabian Prince, whom people really just don’t remember at all, assembled in Los Angeles in 1986. The members had all come from different local L.A. rap acts, brought in by the part-time gangster, full-time shrewd businessman, Eazy-E. The goal of the group was simple: To completely fuck up the program. And they were pretty good at it, too! (Well, before they broke up, but that’s a story for another time.)
From the jump N.W.A. asserted their dominance, establishing themselves as the premier crew that you simply could not fuck with. Their name was short for ‘Niggaz With Attitude,’ the title a response to the anticipated outcry from (white) critics who were sure to be foaming at the mouth over their content. They presented themselves as threatening dudes, concerned with gangbangin’, getting money, fucking parades of women, and taking out anyone who gets in their way. They were young, wild, and unstoppable, taking to heart the fact that young black males were a target for racism, police brutality, violence, and disenfranchisement, and striking back at pretty much everyone.
The police were a particularly big target, as the LAPD in the late 1980s were notorious for their practices, gaining immense criticism over accusations of racial profiling, brutality, extremely aggressive surveillance techniques, and cold treatment towards the poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles. The group’s seminal hit, “Fuck The Police,” from their debut, 1988’s Straight Outta Compton brought unparalleled controversy and visibility to hip-hop, and hell, the group even received a cease-and-desist order from the F.B.I.
So it’s safe to say, they struck quite a chord.
Anyway, tonight’s track is “Gangsta Gangsta,” one of my faves from Straight Outta Compton. Everyone knows “Fuck The Police” and “Straight Outta Compton,” but “Gangsta”-squared is a powerhouse listen too. Blame it on Ice Cube, one of my all-time favorite rappers (I can’t wait to cover some of his solo work…stay tuned to the ‘Beest!), who handles most of this track (along with a quick verse from Eazy). Jeez, the dude was not even 20 years old when he recorded this (and had just left architecture school!) and listening to him on this one you’re pretty much scared of him. Not to forget the solid production from Dr. Dre (Detox in 2018, baby!), and you have a badass track right here.
Originally posted on my old blog, Emaciated Wildebeest, on December 13, 2010.
But wait, it’s 2016 and I’ve got more to say! It still amazes me how crisp and precise Dre’s production on this record is. Guitar licks and synthesizer hits…it sounds gleefully late ’80s but oddly modern as well. Also amazing is how the album’s legacy hinges on just about 4 songs out of a 13-song record: “Straight Outta Compton,” Fuck Tha Police,” “If It Ain’t Ruff” and this track. (Maybe “Express Yourself” too). The rest of the tracks on Straight Outta Compton range from decent to middling, and some of it is pretty forgettable, too. Also dope is the group and record’s resurgence with the “Straight Outta Compton” biopic from last year, which was awesome except it massively downplayed MC Ren and became a sappy VH-1 flick toward the end. But still, it had its moments.
Oh, and I wasn’t THAT far off with the Dre record guess…