Well, it's come to my attention that my good friend Super Cool was absent the day we all learned about NWA in junior high, so I needed to put a little sumthin sumthin up here for him...a cliff note sampler on probably the most important group in hip-hop history.
N.W.A, also known as Niggaz With Attitude, was a Compton, California based hip-hop group widely considered one of the seminal acts of the gangsta-rap sub-genre. Active from 1986 to 1991, the group endured controversy due to the explicit nature of their lyrics. They were subsequently banned from many mainstream U.S. radio stations and even at times prevented from touring - yet the group has still sold over 9 million units in the U.S. alone. Their second album, Straight Outta Compton, marked the beginning of the new gangsta rap era as the production and the social commentary in their lyrics were revolutionary within the genre. Although largely unknown at the group's inception, rappers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren would all go on to be platinum-selling stars as solo artists.
Compton-based drug dealer Eazy-E began Ruthless Records with Jerry Heller. Ruthless released N.W.A. and the Posse in 1987 with Macola Records. N.W.A was still in its developing stages, and only credited on four of the eleven tracks, notably the uncharacteristic electro hop record "Panic Zone", "8 Ball", and "Dopeman", which first brought together (on wax) Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. Also included was Eazy-E's solo record "Boyz-n-the Hood". In 1988, rapper MC Ren
joined the group.
N.W.A released Straight Outta Compton in 1988. With its famous opening salvo of three songs, the group reflected the rising anger of the urban youth ("Straight Outta Compton"), violently protested police brutality and racial profiling ("Fuck tha Police"), and painted the worldview of the inner-city youth ("Gangsta Gangsta"). While the group was later credited with pioneering the burgeoning subgenre of gangsta rap, N.W.A. in fact referred to their music as "reality rap".
Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, as High Powered Productions, composed the beats for each song, with Dre making occasional rapping appearances. Ice Cube and, to a lesser extent, MC Ren, wrote the lyrics. "Fuck tha Police", perhaps the group's most notorious song, brought them into conflict with various law enforcement agencies. Milt Ahlerich, an assistant director of the FBI, sent a letter to Ruthless and its parent company Priority Records advising the rappers that "advocating violence and assault is wrong and we in the law enforcement community take exception to such action". This letter can still be seen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Policemen refused to provide security for the group's concerts, hurting their plans to tour. Nonetheless, the FBI's letter only served to draw more publicity to the group. Straight Outta Compton was also one of the first albums to adhere to the new Parental Advisory label scheme, then in its early stages: the now-iconic label then only consisted of "WARNING: Moderate impact coarse language and/or themes". However, the taboo nature of N.W.A.'s music was the greatest part of its mass appeal. The media coverage compensated for N.W.A.'s virtual lack of airplay and their album eventually went double platinum.One month after Straight Outta Compton, Eazy-E's solo debut was released. Eazy-Duz-It was dominated by Eazy's persona - MC Ren, appearing on two songs, was the only guest rapper - but behind the scenes it was a group effort. Music was handled by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, and the lyrics were largely written by Ren, with contributions from Ice Cube and The D.O.C.
Ice Cube left in late-1989 over royalty disputes, having written 40% of the "Compton" album himself but not getting fair share. He wasted little time putting together his solo debut, 1990's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, but avoided mentioning his former labelmates.
N.W.A's next release was some five months later, the EP 100 Miles and Runnin', but would not be equally diplomatic. They alluded to Ice Cube's departure in its eponymous single, stating the group "we started out with too much cargo/so I'm glad we got ridda Benedict Arnold". Also heard on the EP (which also found its way on Efil4zaggin) was "Real Niggaz", a full-blown diss on Cube where the remaining members accuse him of cowardice, and question his authenticity, longevity and originality: "How the fuck you think a rapper lasts/With your ass sayin shit, that was said in the past/Yo, be original, your shit is sloppy/Get off the dick, you motherfucking carbon-copy." The song "100 Miles and Runnin'" is also notable for being Dr. Dre's final uptempo record, which had been a common feature of late-80s hip hop.
The group's second full-length release, 1991's Efil4zaggin ("Niggaz4Life" spelled backwards), re-established the group in the face of Ice Cube's continued solo success. The album is considered by many Dr. Dre's finest production work, and heralded the beginning of the "G-Funk era". It also showed a clear animosity towards their former member, and derogatory references to Ice Cube are found in several songs.
from "Straight Outta Compton"
NWA - Straight Outta Compton
NWA - Fuck Tha Police
NWA - Gangsta Gangsta
from "100 Miles and Runnin"
NWA - 100 Miles and Runnin
NWA - Real Niggaz
Eazy-E - Still Talkin
Eazy-E - Eazy Duz It
Eazy-E - We Want Eazy
Eminem - Never Enough