DAR Legends: N.W.A.
Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-California. One of the most infamous states in hip hop. It's spawned a whole wave of G-Funk, gangsta rap, and gave us so many amazing artists in the game. From Snoop Dogg to Kendrick Lamar to The Game and many more, California, Los Angeles to be exact, has been responsible for many legends. When we look at the three names I just mentioned, none of them would be here if N.W.A. didn't exist. To take it even further, a direct influence from the West for a group like Bone Thugs N Harmony (Ohio natives), a Midwest white rapper named Marshall (word to Slim Shady), and others all across the land are depend on the success and growth of the NWA movement. The legendary group from LA was comprised of MCs, a DJ, and producer that brought you life from the streets of Compton. With Eazy E as the face of the group and businessman, Ice Cube as the lyricist, DJ Yella working on the boards, and Dr. Dre as the producer, with MC Ren bringing his dope brand of CPT lyricism, N.W.A. could seemingly do no wrong.
Debuting with their first group album "Straight Outta Compton", they changed the hip hop game forever. With anti-police lyrics, aggressive music, and a knack to buck censorship, N.W.A. seemed to be unstoppable during their first run. We got "Straight Outta Compton", and then followed that right up with the Eazy E solo album "Eazy Duz It", and they were on top of the world. Ice Cube would depart shortly after, but the group continued on without him. After a successful EP and album, N.W.A. ended up breaking up officially, but their legacy is immortalized even with the short window of time they ruled hip hop. Today, we reflect on the legendary group. Let's take a look at the legendary N.W.A.
I wasn’t exposed to N.W.A. until a few years after they debuted, but after my older cousin let me hear “Fuck Tha Police,” I just remember thinking how much trouble I was going to be in. As a pre-teen, I’d never heard that much cursing on a record before. What I didn’t know then was that N.W.A. was shining a very necessary light on the plight African-Americans faced in neighborhoods patrolled by corrupt police officers. Some might argue their methods, but what is undeniable is the fact they opened the dialogue on police brutality and made America sit up and take notice.
There are some hip hop groups that stand out as pioneers, but most of the ones that do emerged around the late 80’s. It was a pretty rough time not only in the United States but everywhere, and the frustrating part was there was no outlet to talk about the injustices, the prevalence of drugs and the crime and violence that would take place daily. Hip hop fans know that New York was/is the Mecca. Everything started there and it took a while before the opposing coast would catch on…but they did. 1986 in California (Compton to be exact), Eric Wright with a few others would form a group called N.W.A. They would be the first group to not only shed light on the real life issues they would see and experience daily, but they would create so much controversy with their lyrics that almost every performance would be shut down by law enforcement. It didn’t take long before NWA would hit the mainstream and gain a tremendous following. People loved the carefree, honest and controversial approach they had to just about everything. Eazy-E, MC Ren (who would join two years later), Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and Arabian Prince would not only grace hip hop with incredible albums and music, but also would impact the genre to be regarded as legends both as a collective and (some members) as solo artists.
N.W.A had an amazing “rookie run”. They were a tight knit, unstoppable force out of California who embraced their platform and made sure to be uncensored, abrasive and heavily controversial. While they were the first group to peak the interest of the FBI and gain a nationwide caution to their music with “Fuck Tha Police”, it was an instant favorite for obvious reasons. “Express Yourself” empowered self-expression and challenged censorship. The “negative” publicity worked in their favor and while we were enjoying their music and concert appearances, what we (fans) didn’t know at the time was the group would undergo tremendous tests as a collective and eventually fall apart. At the time, they were being hustled by their manager by not being paid fairly, which we would learn the magnitude of when Ice Cube left to pursue a solo career. The once untouchable group would now penetrate hip hop as solo artists. Cube would maintain the momentum in his own career with socially conscious and anti-systemic lyrics. Dr. Dre would go on to leave Ruthless and release albums which would only fuel the separation. Eazy continued to make albums on his own and the other members always stayed nearby.
What N.W.A. did on the West Coast had the same effect that Public Enemy did in the East just a little different in approach. They would become pioneers in bringing gangster rap to the West. They glorified it to some degree but made sure that their negative experiences were always shared. They truly became exemplary and a hope for others to pursue rapping as a means of expression.
IMO, the reason for NWA’s impact was because they truly went through and dealt with everything that could possibly happen. They were the essence of success because they had nothing and came from nothing, but what they did have was passion and vision. They wanted to share their story, they wanted to make money, shed light on the bullshit that was happening around them and leave a legacy for future generations. They did. They experienced everything from violence, drugs and sex to FBI involvement, disbanding and having to deal with AIDS in an era that knew very little about the disease, and their real-life sequence of events was a movie before Hollywood got a hold of it. Anyone who wants to know the history of gangster rap (before Tupac and Big), they would have to know N.W.A. These guys were the blueprint of the sub-genre and managed to give us some classic albums along the way.
Growing up, my pops played Ice T, Too $hort and N.W.A. often on full volume. At first impression, I remember thinking these guys are aggressive and they talk crazy about the cops just like I normally heard dudes talk about them around the way. Later on, I became more aware of the hatred for the infamous rap group. The cops feeling threatened, the FBI and different groups writing letters to the label, stores banning the groups merchandise, and criticism from politicians.
The group's debut album "Straight Outta Compton" was a success, but Cube felt he wasn't getting his fair share from Jerry Heller so he left the group and found success as a solo act. However, tensions grew from the remaining N.W.A members so they dissed Cube on "100 Miles & Runnin", "Message to B.A." and "Real Niggaz". Cube responded with one of the most disrespectful disses of all time on "No Vaseline". N.W.A would soon after disband, Dre would find Snoop and Eazy would find Bone Thugs N Harmony. Dre and
Eazy would then have a war of words for a while. Eventually the whole group would reconcile personally when Eazy left Jerry Heller, but we never got the full fledged reunion. N.W.A had their rise and fall, but even though they ended on bad terms, it's good they came together as men before the passing of Eazy E.
After being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame along with a hit movie made about them, they'll be forever known for taking gangster rap worldwide, shedding light on police brutality, bringing gang violence to the forefront, making middle america uncomfortable and the phrase "Fuck The Police", which is still and will forever be relevant.
Oh man, where do I start. NWA's impact is something that's felt even to this day. Being from Los Angeles, a lot of what they did had an impact on L.A. It opened a lot of eyes on what was really going on in not only the city of Compton, but Los Angeles in general. The city had its issue of gangs and drugs yet everyday there was misinformation given from the media on what really happened. N.W.A. and their style of reality rap gave people a look at how they, along with many blacks were living in Compton with gang issues, drug issues, and police brutality. One of their major hits "Fuck Tha Police" was their way of talking about police brutality, which has been something that's been an issue for a long time.
Not everyone saw it that way as many tried to get them taken out of stores and silence them because of their explicit lyrics. Their apparel, which was Raiders and Kings (Hockey) gear, was banned from schools cause it was deemed gang affiliated, which was a major strike to me because as a Raiders fan I couldn't even wear their gear to school.
The LA Riots with the beating of Rodney King and the officers getting off free was something that N.W.A. had talked about all this time and we saw it come out publicly. It finally came to light. I believe that it finally opened some eyes on what they meant in their lyrics and what could possibly happen.
In the end, N.W.A. was a legacy that is still felt in LA more than anything. It was ahead of its time and revolutionary. When Straight Outta Compton came out, it was funny timing with the issues we've had in the country with police brutality towards blacks. People were going around wearing Raiders gear and Compton hats (which majority never even set foot in Compton but that's a different story). I feel some don't give N.W.A. the credit they deserve for not only producing some classics, but the way they executed and shed light on some of L.A.'s problems, which needed to be done.
Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-For me, as a hip hop fan and artist, N.W.A. was truly groundbreaking. We had mostly always felt like "Fuck the police", but N.W.A. gave you an anthem for it. We had always felt like we hated the concept of our free speech being stripped through extreme censorship and we had an anthem from them in "Express Yourself" that really summed up those feelings. N.W.A. was the voice of a generation full of angst, aggression, and fed up with our conditions. They gave us legends like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E, and MC Ren. For that, N.W.A. is legendary together and apart. It's that simple.