Today’s album dropped in 1988, and is a “gamechanger” by most listeners and critics standards. (#83 on the Rolling Stone’s top 100 artists, #144 on their top 500 albums) How successful were they, well I bet if I only give you their home town you’ll recognize this group from Compton, California.
NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/N+W+A+Straight+Outta+Compton/69663419
Read about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_Outta_Compton
One year Ago: We listened to Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane over the Sea”. I was not a fan.
Fun Facts: The lyrics on the album were mainly written by Ice Cube and MC Ren. Critics of the album expressed their view that the record glamorized Black-on-Black crime, but the emcees stated that the group was simply showing the reality of living in the areas of Compton, California, and South Central Los Angeles. Allmusic’s Steve Huey states that the lyrics are all about “raising hell” and also noted the album for its humor, which he says has been lost in modern lyricism.
|Things to note here, and remind yourself.
Ice Cube was 19 years old when he wrote the lyrics to this album. Go talk to a 19 year old boy, if you’re a dude he’ll probably want to talk to you about sex. If you’re a girl, he’ll talk about anything in the world, but he’ll be thinking of sex the whole time.
When this album was released the top albums that year included Faith by George Michael and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. So while we’ve heard rap basically our whole lives, in 1988 this was a sledgehammer to your eardrums and your psyche. People in Iowa had never heard of Compton, they have now.
|N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Preconceptions: I heard this 3-4 times a week while working at Darkside. I had a lot of time to think about it and didn’t care for it. Over the years, I have been convinced I should respect this album more.
After Listening: You know, my first impression was right.
Favorites: Express Yourself is as close to literate as we’re getting here. It’s also weird to hear an anti-drug line in this album. Quiet On Tha Set
Overall: These songs are extremely immature and cartoonish, but then so was License To Ill. My biggest problem with this record was the tone it set for it’s spin-off acts and many imitators. Also, it’s dumb as hell. Compared to the same year’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, this album is amateur hour in every way. Gamechanger? Sure, it is. Ask Bill Buckner about his 80s gamechanger.
Fuck Tha Police: I’m calling bullsht on this much revered song. You can’t boast about committing dozens of felonies, then say you were racially profiled. Were you pulled over for being black? No, man, everybody in your damn neighborhood is black. That’s not what made you stand out, doofus. You were pulled over for being indiscrete in your criminal activities.
|NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Aww sh!t, hypothetical son! Back in the 90s, I used to play this like crazy mainly because I had to wait to buy it at a used store due to the fact that my parents wouldn’t buy a 5 year old an explicit rap album… and they also didn’t understand rap. I was the gangsta of Suburbia…
… Just kidding. I think in the 90s I spent a lot of my time with NKOTB and SWV. But I HAVE heard the album.
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 4.5
|N.W.A-Straight Outta Compton
Preconceived Notions: Oh great, it’s one of the albums I was least looking forward to, on the 10th dreary day in a row, and all I can think about is how moody I am and listen to the woman behind me yap about outsourcing and oral surgery. This will probably go swimmingly. I honestly am not sure that I could be less interested in listening to an album than I am right now.
After Listening-Well since that last track left me feeling like this it’s hard for me to be as critical as I thought I was going to be at the beginning of this record I liked all of the samples and the production on the album. On all of the tracks it was easy to settle into the subtle head nod or foot tap that is almost a requirement of anything with a distinctly West Coast feel where it’s a fact that time moves slower because of the nearly-constant sunshine. In terms of emcees, I have to say that normally I don’t recognize these kinds of things, but I really liked MC Ren’s contribution to If It Ain’t Ruff, and all of the others with the exception of Eazy-E acquit themselves nicely. Eazy-E comes off as a petulant and less mature than the others. If I didn’t have the Wikipedia page opened up right now and saw that Ice Cube was responsible for most of the tracks I would have blamed Eazy-E for the profuse sexualization of 80% of the tracks, but maybe he didn’t have any input there so it wouldn’t be fair. The first three tracks are so over-the-top, in-your-face offensive that it comes as a surprise when track 4 kicks in. I can’t help but wonder how much of this album is a stunt, just to see how far they could push things. It turned out well for them, I mean all of the attention and the accolades are testaments to the fact that this album must be taken seriously. But there is something that just feels almost a bit theatrical to me. Being a white girl from the suburbs who only watched Rodney King on the nightly news and witnessed the OJ verdict from the third floor of my Catholic middle school, I’d feel uninformed about speculating on the life that may or may not have been led by these guys, but there just seems to be so much bravado that I’m not sure how much to take seriously. It also doesn’t help that there’s a constant insistence that women are bitches who only care about blowing dudes with money. But before I start sounding too much like my mother (who would never use the term “blow” by the way…at least not in my presence…ever..I hope) suffice it to say that there’s enough on the album to make it interesting and a depth of rhyming that I can understand the love that this album received from many, but there’s another part of me that kind of feels like it’s the Scarface of the album world.
|Preconceived Notions: I didn’t hear the full album until I got to college, which was almost a decade after this album made NWA legendary. I just grew up in the metal rebellion phase – Pantera, Sepultra, Slayer etc – and that dominated my youthful music landscape. Those that were into NWA as their outlet I didn’t really associate it, they were mainly the white jocks – and of course that seemed laughably out of place to me at the time – as it still does. In college it was a party album, usually placed in a cd player and set to random – and through this exposure –without any cultural implications other than what was actually on the disc, it became an enjoyable experience.
After Listening: Again, maybe it was because I spent a large part of my teenage years listening to songs about genocide, ritualistic murder, political corruption, Satan and the apocalypse, and other niceties…and maybe in larger part b/c I never had the misfortune of living in a neighborhood as sh*tty as Compton – but I can’t see this record today as anything other than fun – and even a bit silly. Easy E in particular has some of the more uneven and therefore funny deliveries….”is a brother that’ll smother your mother, and make your sister think I love her…” or “shining the light in my face and for what, maybe it’s because I kick so much I butt…I kick ass”.
Favorite Tracks: Straight Outta Compton – Has to be on that list of greatest opening album tracks. The driving rhythm that set the tone for the album was more like an avalanche with Ice Cube straight out dominating – I’m knocking n*ggas out the box daily.
Overall 4.534 It’s an album I see as incredibly smooth and well thought out- able to harness a certain aggressive demeanor – but simultaneously willing to let you peak behind the curtain and see that it was fun to create. Amazing lines abound all over this one…Ren is the villain and you’re just a hostage, so whenever I’m stepping cover your head like an ostrich. This record wasn’t a part of my musical development, and I never lived through anything like what’s represented on here – so I don’t have to join in the “how real” this album actually is, or what its effects it had on society. I’ll always see it as a bunch of talented guys telling stories that have embellishment, but you can also catch a glimpse of some of the superstars of their field…right as they’re on the verge of taking off. An album worth the hype, even if some of the original bluntness and shock value has worn off.