Spin #52 : N.W.A : Straight Outta Compton
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #52
Today, I find myself holding a nice hot cup of coffee and pondering life a little bit this week. We have 'come a long way yet have so much left to achieve' is the feeling I can't shake this week. Whilst sipping on my cuppa and burning my mouth, I have decided to sit here listening to "The World's Most Dangerous Group". That being N.W.A and their debut album 'Straight Outta Compton'. Has there been a more explosive and short lived band, yet have so much hype and following to even this day? You be the judge. It's an album that I found later in my teens and before that had only heard of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, because of their solo works. Once I realised that they all started out in Niggaz wit Attitudes (N.W.A), I was hooked and even found myself sourcing the other members solo albums too.
This one will be a good test of the Sennheiser headphones that I have and be able to turn up the bass and volume loud (as it was intended to be heard). The setup that I have decided to spin 'Straight Outta Compton' on is our Sherwood Turntable (PM-9805) and Sherwood Receiver (RX-4508) in our loungeroom. I find that dance, rap & hip hop and metal are the best to test out the headphones.
Image : Ice Cube, Dr Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren. Arabian Prince left before release of album (not pictured)
If you have no idea who N.W.A were then you will need to watch the 2015 movie that came out showcasing their rise in the world of Gangster Rap on the West Coast of America. It isn't entirely accurate according to members of the group but it is a good insight into their lives. The actor that plays Ice Cube is actually his son who looks exactly like his dad. Check out the trailer here. So when this album came out in the late '80s, there were a lot of tension going on in the world and especially with Law Enforcement in the USA. There were a lot of angry people, emotionally charged and having little in the way of money and possessions. Throw that all in the mix with hatred and desperation and you have the catalyst for N.W.A.
The stylus is moving along the groove now of 'STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON' and the first sound heard is the voice of Andre Romell Young, known as Dr. Dre - "You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge". We next have the opening verse from the aggressively poetic O'shea Jackson Snr, also know as Ice Cube. It's a pretty iconic piece of music and Cube has been one of my favourite rappers since I first heard rap in my early teens. 'STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON' showcases the group throughout from DJ Yella (real name Antoine Carraby) and Dre working behind the decks whilst Cube, MC Ren (real name Lorenzo Jerald Patterson) and Eazy-E (real name is Eric Lynn Wright) get behind the mic. I remember making my sister a memento book for her 30th birthday which had a reference to N.W.A. I had a photo of our mum when she was pregnant with my sister and labelled it 'Straight Outta Mumma'. (Also, a big shout out for my sisters birthday midweek). Our son is happily colouring in a picture of a fire truck (called a motor) and also the garbage truck. He yelled with so much excitement when the actual garbage truck went by this morning that he almost woke up his little sister.
The next song is the highly energetic and controversial sounds of 'FUCK THA POLICE', which was used as an anthem in the 1992 Los Angeles riots that engulfed the West Coast of America for the better part of a week. On the track is has N.W.A pretending to be in court with Dr. Dre as the judge and they speak about the other members of the group being prosecutors against the Police Department. It was such a popular song and the fact that it wasn't played on radio stations made it all the more popular. Everyone was hearing about it via word of mouth and buying records and CD's because of it's notoriety. I think the most underrated member of N.W.A would have to be DJ Yella with his ability to mix/sample and scratch. The distinct sound of the group became the building blocks for so many artists today. I remember this came on the truck radio one night on a long shift around 3:00AM and the energy was just too good to not turn it up and sing along to Cube and Rens verses. The co-worker I was with loved the song too and it woke us up enough to complete the rest of our shift. Obviously, I don't agree with violence to anyone, no matter what background, upbringing or career you are. If you treat anyone badly with physical or mental abuse, then you deserve all the karma coming your way.
Next track begins with the sounds of sirens and Dre and Yella bringing in the backing music on 'GANGSTA GANGSTA'. N.W.A tended to write songs from their experiences and unfortunately they only had bad experiences with authority and upbringing. I like the part where Cube sings his verse whilst Dre responds with the scratching and samples - "This is a gang, and I'm in it. My man Dre will fuck you up in a minute with a right, left, right, left you're toothless and then you say goddamn they ruthless!". They only lasted as a full group for this album before Cube sadly left the group to start up his solo career, but for this moment they were untouchable. It's a shame that they had a manager that wanted to exploit their earnings and some members of the group felt they were worth more. I like how halfway through this track it completely changes with some perfectly timed use of samples - "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Cut this shit. Man whatcha gonna do now? What we're gonna do right here is go way back. How far are you going back? Way back. As we go a lil' something like this". Eazy-E makes an appearance towards the end and wasn't really the rapper of the band but he has some memorable hooks throughout N.W.A's catalogue. He was the gangster of the band who had the most run ins with law enforcement and sometimes couldn't shake that part of his past from the group.
The funky beat of next track makes it the favourite for me off this album. That track is called 'IF IT AIN'T RUFF' and showcases MC Ren at his best. If you sing along with the lyrics it is actually quite difficult to get through this one perfectly. It reminds me a lot of the Dr Seuss book called 'Fox in Socks'. Have you tried to read through that book without making a mistake? It is difficult. Have a look at this guy read it with style and flawlessly here to the beat of Dr Dre songs. This is so much funnier for me because when our son was in SCU for almost 6 weeks, I would read a lot of books to him. The nurses thought it was funny when I started reading Fox in Socks and trying to not make mistakes. I think it is just something about the repeating lines and beat that make this catchy as hell.
Last track on Side A starts playing and is probably the least known song called, 'PARENTAL DISCRETION IZ ADVISED'. This one has Dre rapping for the first time other than some sampling or spoken words. Every member of the group has a go on the mic except for DJ Yella but he gets his time to shine with the outro music and on other tracks he showcases that he was a pretty good drummer. There are a couple of other tracks included on the Spotify track listing that weren't on the original release. The stylus comes to an end and the dead wax sound coming through the headphones tells me that it's time to flip the LP.
Our daughter is currently asleep and has been pointing towards everything saying, "Whats dat?". It is extremely cute and I remember when our son was doing that too. First track on Side B is called 'EXPRESS YOURSELF' and is another track where Dre gets a chance behind the mic. This one has a catchy chorus sample that really makes it favourable for radio release and probably the best track on Side B. Next track is called 'COMPTON'S N THE HOUSE' and it was such a thing for the group to show just how patriotic they were to where they grew up. A lot of rappers have overcome hardships and once they make something of themselves, tend to head back home and help out financially. It is nice to see that no matter how big they get, they will help. Now Dre is a billionaire now because of his Beats by Dre headphones that were purchased by Apple. I've heard the live version of this one on their greatest hits album and would have very fun to have seen them live in the height of the '80s. Not everyone was happy by N.W.A's success though because they believed they made money off the gangster lifestyle, yet were not true gangsters. The members from the Bloods and the Crips actually formed a band in 1992 and released a pretty decent album called 'Bangin' on Wax'. Check it out if you can find a copy from Warlock Records.
A chance on the album for a softer and slower track is next with 'I AIN'T THA 1'. Cube is having a moment with a woman and has some back and forth banter. Basically telling here that if she wants husband material, that he is not the one she is looking for. It's funny if you follow along with the lyrics and sadly, this release doesn't include a lyrics sheet. At the same time, the girls only wanted them when they had money and would leave them as soon as they ran out. One line that was funny is when Cube sings, "Cause you'll take it for granted, no doubt and after the date, I'ma want to do the wild thing. You want lobster, huh? I'm thinkin' Burger King".
'DOPEMAN' was a very big song for the band but I can hear that the production isn't as good as the tracks on Side A. It showcases Cube at his most stretched vocally and sounds very distant from the mic. One to follow along with the lyrics and has some catchy beats. There is a nice changeup around the 3 minute mark by Dre and Cube but probably one of the weaker tracks on the album. Last track is called 'QUIET ON THAT SET' and brings the funky beat back to close this one out. MC Ren brings the fire on this opening verse and the track uses samples from previous songs on the album to great effect.
Before you know it the debut album from N.W.A is over and leaves you wanting to spin some more Rap and Hip Hop records. Thanks for getting involved each week and sending through your guesses and comments. It has been a bit harder to write this week and I need to choose something for next week to get me outta this funk. I have a lot of work to do like I was saying before and starting to feel like I am in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for the next chapter.
Until our next Spin, be Kind to ALL and be Kind to your Wax!
DR. DRE, DJ YELLA, EAZY-E
SPEED PLAYED AT
33 1/3 RPM
AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED - ICE CUBE (1990)
IF IT AIN'T RUFF
RYLO RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
1 X BLACK LP AND WHITE PAPER/POLY SLEEVE
" Ren is the villain and you're just a hostage. So whenever I'm steppin' cover your head like an ostrich" ~ If It Ain't Ruff - Side A
LP / SIDE
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
FUCK THA POLICE
IF IT AINT RUFF
PARENTAL DISCRETION IZ ADVISED
LP / SIDE
COMPTON'S N THE HOUSE (REMIX)
I AIN'T THA 1
QUIET ON THA SET
MC REN, DR. DRE, ICE CUBE AND DJ YELLA (EAZY-E NOT PICTURED)