Controversial lyrics, explicit language, police brutality, and racial discrimination are just a few of the topics that could be examined when discussing N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) one of the most revolutionary rap groups in the history of hip hop music.
While all of the negative commentary about the group and their music may be true, they made a significant impact on the entire culture of that time and still today, particularly after the release of the 2015 drama depicting the journey of the N.W.A members. Which brought in over double of what producers expected, grossing over $75 million dollars.
A brief history of the group, based out of Compton, California, began to make music in the late 1980’s. Members consisted of Eazy-E and Dr. Dre who later included rappers Ice Cube, DJ Yella and MC Ren to join shortly after. Their debut album Straight Outta Compton went double platinum with singles including mega hits like “Straight Outta Compton” and “F--- tha Police” which painted a vivid picture of the lives of these inner-city youth.
Although the group is credited with pioneering the music genre of gangsta rap, they prefer to refer to their music as “reality rap”. Making N.W.A’s story and legacy even more pungent was the film being released during a time of current cultural protest of police discrimination and violence. Campaigns such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I Cant Breathe” were fueled by their legacy.
***WARNING - video clip includes harsh language
“They are one of the most influential groups of any genre of the last 25 or 30 years,” said Timothy Welbeck, an African-American studies professor at Temple University, in Philadelphia. “Not only did they further usher hip-hop into the mainstream culture, they also shined a light on urban neglect that many people felt was being ignored.”
Straight Outta Compton was also one of the first albums to receive the Parental Advisory label which warned listeners of “course language and themes” within the music. N.W.A wore the badge with honor as its taboo nature fueled its mass appeal to audiences.
“The No. 1 thing that stands out to me is the impact that (they've) had on people being able to say what they want, especially in rap," says Billboard senior editor Alex Gale. "They were really purposefully pushing the boundaries, even down to the curse words."
- Why do you think the obscene nature of N.W.A’s lyrics and music was so appealing to such a wide variety of listeners?
- Do you think that N.W.A changed the culture of our society for better or for worse?