In 2013, Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They joined Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., and the Beastie Boys as part of an elite group of recording artists recognized for their exemplary contributions to music and culture. Recently, nominations for 2014 were announced. The two Hip-Hop acts nominated this go-round are LL Cool J and N.W.A.
And while both acts are unquestionably worthy of receiving such an honor, it’s worth noting that N.W.A was nominated last year too. Artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. They are elected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.
Therefore, “the world’s most dangerous site” made a list of ten reasons that “the world’s most dangerous group” shouldn’t be passed over for the second year in a row.
10). The upcoming N.W.A biopic: Considering Ice Cube is also a respected film figure now, it’s only right that the N****z Wit Attitude story be told on screen. He told the press in April 2013, “We’re trying to put this N.W.A movie together. This is the real one. That other one that you heard about was bulls**t. This is the official one. We’re taking it to the nooks and crannies, I think deeper than any other article or documentary on the group. These are the intimate conversations that helped forge N.W.A.”
9). Dr. Dre as a rapper: Dre is without a doubt one of the best Hip-Hop producers of all-time. But one thing that N.W.A allowed him to do is showcase his abilities as an emcee in addition to his production skills. And while he is not the group’s best rapper, he proved that he could spit. For proof of this claim, check out “Express Yourself.” Or better yet, give the second verse of “100 Miles and Runnin’” a spin. Even the harshest critics of Dre’s raps would be silenced after hearing his uptempo delivery.
8). The letter from the FBI: The F.B.I. wrote a letter to Priority Records (N.W.A’s distributor) accusing the group of encouraging violence against police after the release of the Straight Outta Compton album. Their letter backfired though and it just helped N.W.A sell more records. It is currently on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.
7). Ruthless Records: N.W.A not only helped popularize gangsta rap, it was also the start of Ruthless Records. The label, founded by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, would go on to launch other other successful acts as well. The roster at one time even included will.i.am (who then went by Will 1X and was part of Atban Klann). The most notable of these other signees though was Hip-Hop group, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. But all of the label’s achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the initial success of N.W.A.
6). The D.O.C.: It is well known that Ice Cube wrote rhymes for Eazy-E, but The D.O.C. served as a ghostwriter for the group too. And while a near fatal car wreck in 1989 damaged his vocal chords and cut short his promising rap career, The D.O.C. was still able to provide an unseen hand for N.W.A in the years following his accident. However, no record exemplifies the compatibility of the two better than “The Grand Finale.” It’s a standout song from The D.O.C.’s classic debut, No One Can Do It Better.
5). Efil4zaggin: Efil4zaggin, even by today’s standards, has shocking lyrics. However, that is not what makes this album memorable. It’s the production. The sounds are so diverse that they range from G-Funk (“Alwayz Into Somethin’”) to music that could score a John Carpenter film (“Approach to Danger”). In a nutshell, N.W.A’s final LP contains some of Dr. Dre’s best work behind the boards to date.
4). MC Ren: While Ice Cube is the most popular writer and rapper from N.W.A, Lorenzo Patterson’s skill set in both those areas are on par with Cube’s. Additionally, he did more writing for the group than Cube or The D.O.C. Ren’s amazing work as a part of N.W.A and as a solo artist (see “Final Frontier”) has clearly stood the test of time. It’s not surprising that Eminem name-dropped Ren in both “Berzerk” and “Rap God.” Hopefully, that exposure helps introduce one of rap’s dopest emcees to a new generation of fans.
3). The group dynamic: N.W.A, particularly Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E, had a dynamic that fit together well. One was a rapper, another was a producer, and the other was a character. And that spectrum of talent allowed the group to expand beyond their contemporaries. N.W.A’s music is violent and misogynistic, but it also incorporates storytelling, humor, and complex sounds into those things seamlessly. And that’s a hard feat to accomplish. The ability to do so is a testament to N.W.A as a group and not just the sum of its parts.
2). “Straight Outta Compton”: “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” And with those words, a turning point in Hip-Hop began. Ice T and Schoolly D’s work preceded N.W.A’s in terms of its depiction of the streets, but it had never been so explicit prior to N.W.A’s arrival. Cube, Ren, and Eazy’s verses are all incredible, while Dre and Yella’s use of the Winstons‘ Amen break provide the perfect soundscape for all three.
1). “F*** Tha Police”: Track two from Straight Outta Compton is the epitome of N.W.A at their most relevant. From the song structure to the lyrics, this 5:47 is as heartfelt as it is horrifying. The violent content of the record is understandably off-putting to some, but the commentary about police misconduct can’t be ignored either.
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