With the imminent release of the N.W.A biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’, I thought it would be a fitting time to give a brief history of their story.
N.W.A (Niggaz Wit’ Attitude) is renowned as beginning the ‘Gangsta rap’ era in hip hop. Hailing from Compton, California, N.W.A was created and funded by former gangster/drug dealer turned rapper Eazy-E. The group consisted of Ice Cube, DJ Dr. Dre, DJ Yella & Mc Ren. Their first album was actually released in 1997 “N.W.A and the Posse”, which didn’t go down well. It was pretty much ignored by rap fans and critics alike, and was an unsuccessful attempt to break into the mainstream.
As with most success stories, from struggle came success. Their follow up record “Straight Outta Compton” which they released 2 years later, was a HUGE success. It sold 750,000 copies before they even toured! Their tough, gritty style was at the time a breathe of fresh air into the industry. They spoke of the violence, crime and gang lifestyle that was running errant in the late 80’s. Their new style was in stark contrast to New York’s thoughtful, politically conscious music. It’s important to recognise the social issues that were taking part at the time – the huge gang population in California. In a time of social revolution, N.W.A was the voice of the oppressed black minorities. Coming from the notorious Compton area, N.W.A celebrated and thrived on the images of violence that they portrayed in their song.
The funny thing is, their main audience was the preppy white suburban kids that had never seen or heard about any of the things they were rapping about. N.W.A definitely started a movement of cultural reform, and shedding light on widely ignored issues in America, such as their perceived racism from the LAPD. Their now classic song “Fuck The Police” even resulted in them getting a letter from the FBI warning them to cease and desist.
N.W.A’s wild success didn’t last long though. By 1992 the original posse had broken up, which was inevitable. Eazy-E was made successful from Dre and Cube, who wrote most of the songs for the group. Cube had a financial dispute with N.W.A’s manager which was settled out of court. The story goes something like Suge Knight, handed Eazy a note with his mother’s address on it. The next day, Eazy let Cube leave. Suge was also involved in helping Dre leave, with Eazy claiming in a lawsuit that Knight had “negotiated Dre’s exit with the help of baseball bats and pipes”. So yeah, Suge wasn’t one to mess with.
After leaving, there were lots of back and forth disses, including Cubes classic “no vaseline”, Eazy’s “Real Muthaphukin G’s”. This back and forth eventually died out. Dre founded Death Row with Suge Knight, and is now renowned as one of the greatest producers ever. Ice Cube also had a majorly successful solo career, and both DJ Yella & Mc Ren had success in their own solo careers.
Eazy-E passed away from AIDS in 1995, he was 31 years old.
So yeah, there’s the quick, general story of N.W.A. Hopefully the movie does some justice to their awesome story, which it looks like it will.