N.W.A.'s "Efil4Zaggin" Turns 32

While "Efil4Zaggin" is the less well-known of the N.W.A.'s two albums, its long-standing influence is crucial.

BYCaleb Hardy
NWA Portrait

Ice Cube's sudden departure from N.W.A. shook up the hip-hop world. Everything about his stoic and hardened image represented what the group was all about. Straight Outta Compton was uncompromising and groundbreaking, an album that had all of America talking. The album only solidified how divided the working class was from the bourgeoisie. Some hailed the project as a necessary outcry, while others demeaned its violent uptakes on tracks such as "F**k Da Police." In essence, the Compton group had proved hip-hop's value as a powerful source of messaging.

How would the group's follow-up live up to the radical change that Straight Outta Compton instilled in rap? In addition, the loss of a key member was bound to tip the balance of the chemistry that the group developed. Even with the modern-day Brockhampton, it took the group years to adapt after losing Ameer Vann. Ice Cube's departure from N.W.A. was anything but smooth-going. The two sides had embarked on a public spat that ended up in the press. Also, the Los Angeles Police Department's racial profiling and officer misconduct against Rodney King erupted riots throughout Los Angeles.

Efil4Zaggin Is The Darkest Of N.W.A.'s Albums

With N.W.A. remaining on the front page in the three years since Straight Outta Compton, fans were clamoring to see how the group would artistically respond to their numerous controversies with Efil4Zaggin. The project wouldn't deliver on the charts in the same manner that their debut did. However, Efil4Zaggin was still a defining statement from N.W.A. In contrast to the more measured Straight Outta Compton, Efil4Zaggin is the darker of N.W.A.'s two albums. The project is an electric rush of death metal and hip-hop. The diminished N.W.A. is pissed off; they want you to know it.

Efil4Zaggin is purposefully painful in every sense of the word. Even if N.W.A. didn't want to admit it, they were hurt behind the bravado of their anger directed at Ice Cube. Their sophomore (and final) project aims to instill that pain into their audience. It wouldn't be out of line to say that N.W.A. had gone utterly insane at this point. This sentiment is clear before even hearing the project. All it takes is a peek at the track-listing, featuring "Kill A Hooker" and "Find 'Em, F**k 'Em, and Flee." It's also apparent in the disturbing lyricism, with Eazy-E being noticeably enraged from start to finish. "Approach to Danger" mirrors a harrowing Michael Myers Halloween film, blending sampled screaming with screeching guitar riffs and synths.

Multiple Songs Diss Ice Cube's Departure

Rappers Stacy Phillips, MC JB (Juana Burns) and Baby D. (Dania Birks) of JJ Fad poses for photos with rappers MC Ren (Lorenzo Jerald Patterson), Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Andre Romelle Young) and Eazy-E (Eric Lynn Wright) of N.W.A. backstage after their performance at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, Indiana in July 1989. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

Of course, a primary narrative of the record is attacking Ice Cube's manner of leaving N.W.A. While the group has reunited in the long term, the initial fallout was an iconic moment of hostility within hip-hop. Ice Cube felt he was being cheated out of royalties from N.W.A.'s record label at the time while also having an underlying sentiment that he could achieve more in a solo arena. "Message to BA" calls out Ice Cube explicitly for his departure. However, "Real N***az" is the most directly damning message against their past member, as they violently depict what they would do to Cube if he ever came near them. MC Ren angrily spits, "Only reason n***as pick up your record is cause they thought it was us."

Efil4Zaggin Laid The Foundation For G-Funk

While many N.W.A. fans associate Efil4Zaggin with Ice Cube's fallout and its subsequent diss tracks, its sonic departures and growth on the part of the remaining members are more than worth nothing. Ice Cube's departure left ample room for Eazy-E to expand his pen game, opening up about his darkest fantasies behind menacing beats. In addition, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella were subtly laying down the foundations for G-Funk on Efil4Zaggin. "Automobile" exists in the framework of a P-Funk sample, a sound that N.W.A.'s Dr. Dre would later expand on and trademark with future albums. Their final album departed from the Gangsta rap subgenre they popularized on Straight Outta Compton, striding into a territory of Halloween-esque grime.

If not for the tragic passing of Eazy-E, the Ice Cube-less N.W.A. were still forming the makings of a unique subgenre that they could've continued to expand on with future albums. Months before Eazy-E's death, the trio Eazy, Cube, and Dre even discussed getting back together and creating another album. Efil4Zaggin was a platform on which the group's members would leap off of, propelling hip-hop into its golden age of sound. Dr. Dre would expand on the early G-Funk experimentation of the project. Embarking on his solo career, the sound had evolved on The Chronic and Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle. Efil4Zaggin set the platform for the next decade of WestCoast sound.

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