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NWA is considered the pioneer group of the gangster rap game. The group’s name, which stand for N***az With Attitudes, cut to the core of African-American angst and paranoia, and anger at the police, especially in South Central Los Angeles. This August a film adaptation of their story, Straight Outta Compton, will hit theaters and is getting positive buzz based on the trailers.
Let’s look back at the beginning of the group, their rise and fall, and the way they changed the landscape of Urban music for young men in need of a voice in pop culture.
Created on the inner-city streets of Compton in South Central Los Angeles, NWA’s original members consisted of Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy E, and Ice Cube when the group formed in 1986. Two years later, MC Ren joined NWA in place of Arabian Prince, and the group seriously took off.
Eazy-E was the one who formed the group, who reached out to Dr. Dre persistently until Dre took his meeting and formed NWA. Their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, came in 1988 and took the music world by storm. With the title track, another track called “F*ck tha police,” and “Gangstas Gangsta,” NWA spoke for an angst-riddled youth culture in the inner city of LA and beyond. Their album was a voice for a generation that was angry and confused by their lot in life, and the record sales reflected the power of this silent group.
Straight Outta Compton was one of the first albums to feature the “Parental Advisory” label on the cover. While they could not get their records played on the radio for obvious reasons, the media coverage of their success and incendiary lyrics pushed their name to the forefront of the music culture in the late 80s and early 90s.
Not long after the album was released, Eazy-E released his solo album, Eazy Duz It, which was a collaboration from just about every one of the members. It, too, was a massive hit, and made Eazy-E the face of the group.
The group released a few EPs and a second studio album, but Ice Cube left the band in 1989 over contract disputes. He felt he wasn’t getting a proper cut of the group’s profits, so he decided to branch out on his own and had plenty success. The group’s 1991 album, Ni**az4 Life, would be their final album as internal strife and contract disputes would pollute the waters for good.
All of the members went their own ways after accusing Eazy-E of signing away their contracts. The in-fighting became as legendary as the group’s brief success, especially between Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. But before long, Eazy-E was diagnosed with HIV and died of an AIDS related illness in March of 1995. Dr. Dre has stated the two finally made amends while Eazy-E was lying on his death bed.
While NWA was a group who shined brightly for only a short while, their impact on the youth of America still can be felt today. Their ability to spew anger and frustration in their lyrics and speak for a generation of young men who felt they were being backed into a corner was a watershed moment for the music industry. From NWA’s success, both Dr. Dre and Ice Cube became leaders of the gangster rap movement in America.
The film Straight Outta Compton tells the story of the rise and fall of NWA< and by all indication the film does the story justice. Here is the trailer for Straight Outta Compton, hitting theaters August 14: