The World's Most Dangerous Groupnote
N.W.A (a.k.a. "Niggaz Wit Attitudes") 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, mostly through word of mouth and underground magazines and hip-hop scenes. Their first 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. Rolling Stone
ranked N.W.A 83rd on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". Although largely unknown at the group's inception, rappers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube
and MC Ren would all go on to be platinum-selling stars as solo artists.
Compton-based former 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", "8Ball", 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" introduced the group; "Fuck tha Police" protested police brutality and racial profiling, and "Gangsta Gangsta" painted the worldview of the inner-city youth. While the group was later credited with pioneering the burgeoning sub genre of Gangsta Rap
, N.W.A. in fact referred to their music as "reality rap".
Ice Cube and MC Ren's lyrics dealing with the violence and anger of the disenfranchised inner-city residents were complemented by a simple, ominous production based on heavy beats courtesy of Dr. Dre and scratched samples by co-producer DJ Yella. "Fuck tha Police", perhaps the group's most notorious song, brought them into conflict with various law enforcement agencies. Under pressure from Focus on the Family
, 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. Straight Outta Compton
was also one of the first albums to be given the new Parental Advisory label, 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.
N.W.A's next release was some five months later, the EP 100 Miles and Runnin
', but would not be equally diplomatic. Ice Cube
left in late 1989 over royalty disputes; having written 45% of Straight Outta Compton
himself, he felt he was not getting a fair share of the money and profits. He wasted little time putting together his solo debut, 1990's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
, but avoided mentioning his former label mates. 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.Niggaz4Life
would be the group's final album. After Dr. Dre, The D.O.C. and Michel'le's departure from Ruthless for Death Row Records, in which Eazy-E was allegedly coerced into signing away their contracts (while however retaining a portion of their publishing rights), a bitter rivalry ensued. Dr. Dre began the exchange with Death Row's first release, 1992's "Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')", and its accompanying video featured a character named Sleazy-E who ran around desperately trying to get money. The insults continued on The Chronic
with "Bitches Ain't Shit". Eazy-E responded in 1993 with the EP It's On
Dr. Drenote 187um Killa
and the tracks "Real Muthaphuckkin G's" and "It's On". Eazy-E accused Dr. Dre of homosexual tendencies, calling him a "she thang", and the music video for "Real Muthaphuckkin G's" shows promo pictures of him wearing make-up and a sequined jumpsuit. The photos were from Dr. Dre's World Class Wreckin' Cru days, when such fashions were the style of West Coast Electro hop prior to N.W.A's popularizing of gangsta rap.
After Eazy-E's AIDS-related death on March 26, 1995, all bad blood between the group ceased. Dr. Dre and Ice Cube would later express their re-evaluated feelings to their old friend on 1999's "What's The Difference" and "Chin Check", 2000's "Hello", and 2006's "Growin' Up".
With the success of the biopic Notorious
, New Line Cinema reps announced to Entertainment Weekly's "Hollywood Insider Blog" that N.W.A's story is in development to become a theatrical release.
Unrelated to the Sandford Neighborhood Watch Alliance
, the National Wrestling Alliance
, or Northwest Airlines.
- N.W.A. and the Posse, released November 6, 1987
- Straight Outta Compton, released August 8, 1988
- 100 Miles and Runnin, released August 14, 1990 (EP)
- Niggaz4life, released May 28, 1991
N.W.A music videos
"I still express, yo I don't smoke weed or sess, 'cause it's known to give a brother brain damage...."