Our "Classic Rotation" series revisits classic albums on the anniversary of their release. We now take a look back where it all started, N.W.A's unarguable classic, "Straight Outta Compton", which dropped 27 years ago to this day.
On this day, 27 years ago, N.W.A released their indisputable classic, Straight Outta Compton. Selling over 750,000 copies before they even gained notoriety on tour, N.W.A recieved immediate controversial attention from the media for their lyrical content, which was often violent and/or focused on dissatisfaction with police. Yet, the album apprehended its classic status from the insurmountable cultural influence and anthems it provided to a distinct period of time, which continues to be represented today.
The group embodied a new brand many were waiting for: six young black men who were pissed off as hell with zero fucks to give. The notable members, including Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube, produced a collection of tracks which epitomized a backlash against exhausted discrimination and police brutality in South Central Los Angeles and further represented the everyday realities for black communities all over the country. The nonstop sounds of sirens and chaos on the album foreshadowed the Rodney King riots of 1992 without a surprise. Every social movement has an anthem and N.W.A provided it-- both influencing West Coast hip hop and changing the rap game forever.
It may not have placed on Billboard's charts (not that N.W.A cared), but “Straight Outta Compton” is easily one of the most famous rap tracks of all time. As in theme with the rest of the album, the record opens brutally with no patience. Like the rest of the album, N.W.A created lyrics that were easy to remember yet instinctual for those tired of getting bullied and beaten by the police.
“See I don’t give a fuck, that’s the problem
I see a motherfucking cop, I don’t dodge him
But I’m a smart, lay low, creep a while
And when I see a punk pass, I smile”
Despite the group's short run, the impact they had on the early 1990s stretching to today is unparalleled. In documentaries such as “Uprising: Hip-Hop & The LA Riots,” we see countless interviews with N.W.A members such as Dre. Dre along with Snoop Dog, Public Enemy, and others describing the violence that burst in response to years of discrimination, police brutality, and ultimately the verdict of the Rodney King beating. During this time though, N.W.A. provided their voice for the people, as the kings of Compton, Los Angeles.
Although never released officially as a single, “Fuck Tha Police” is an easy favorite of the album. The lyrics not only provide an anthem, but are beyond accuracy of the same problems that continue to exist in 2015.
“But don’t let it be a black and a white one
Cause they’ll slam you down to the street top
Black police showing out for the white cop”
Who wouldn’t appreciate the basic, authoritative collection of tracks? Entirely produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, the album is not coated in over-produced tracks with signatures or auto tune. Dre and Yella deliver only what we need, creating just what they needed to ensure their satisfaction of the project. The samples match flawlessly with lyrical content and sound-- jazzy, melodic tunes from Marvin Gaye, Charles Wright, James Brown, and more. N.W.A spits in a new way with power and conviction, yet slow enough to make sure we can understand exactly what they’re saying whether we’re comfortable with it or not.
“Express Yourself” is genius for it’s pure infectiousness. The combination of groovy rhythms sampled from Charles Wright, filled with free speech content spearheading the titles anthem. The record was coined as one of their “cleaner” songs, but still hits just as hard in terms of aim and content. N.W.A’s straight forward rhymes and intelligent aesthetics despite the anger, remain appealing to all audiences, regardless if they’re a young black male or not.
As can see from this month alone, Straight Outta Compton held such influence, it’s been reproduced in so many ways. Sure, the album and fashion embodied by the N.W.A has been referenced constantly throughout pop culture on songs, music videos, and films such as CB4. Yet jumping back to today, we’re on the cusp of a feature film based on the group, their story, and the famous album. Due out in theatres August 14th, “Straight Outta Compton” describes not only the group's legacy in time but how their story and Compton’s story is applicable as ever.
This week we also caught sounds from Dr.Dre’s newest album, Compton. There are already so many facets to love about the new release. Aside from Dre promising to donate all royalties from the album for a performing arts center in Compton, Compton itself is a testament to his talent and abilities to continue fighting and speaking for the same issues that N.W.A brought up in 1988.
For every issue to be fought throughout time, music is always right there with us, providing the soundtrack to our protests and rallies, marches and riots-- and for that, no one could be more grateful to have Straight Outta Compton supplied just in the nick of time.