N.W.A. remains one of the most influential and most controversial figures in hip-hop history. The Compton, California rap collective boasts a line-up of rappers who have become icons in their own right. The Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube are now household names in rap.
Their songs against racism and excessive policing have once again resurfaced following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. National outrage sparked protests across the country, with the hacktivist group Anonymous hacking Chicago police radios to play N.W.A's "F**k Tha Police." The gangsta rap song remains as relevant today as it was released back in 1988 and with it. Even though the group has long disbanded, their name still hovers over the subjects of police brutality and racial inequality.
Ni**az Wit Attitudes Assemble
N.W.A. was first conceptualized by Eazy-E, starting with Dr. Dre and later having Arabian Prince and Ice Cube. Cube was a rapper for C.I.A, together with K-Dee and Dre's cousin, Sir Jinx. After receiving credit for only three songs on the compilation "N.W.A. and the Posse." Technically, it was the group's first album, largely forgotten and overshadowed by their next album.
The following year, in 1988, N.W.A. released their debut album "Straight Outta Compton." The landmark hip-hop album captures the emotions of urban youth. It was famously led by the three tracks "Straight Outta Compton," "F**k tha Police," and "Gangsta Gangsta." They identified their music as "reality rap," instead of being recognized as pioneers of the rising gangsta rap subgenre.
"F**k tha Police" brought the group into conflict with law enforcement agencies. In fact, a letter now displayed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio documents NBI's response to the band. An assistant director, Milit Ahlerich, sent a letter to Ruthless Records and distributor Priority Records. Although policemen refused security details on their concerts, the letter ultimately drew more publicity to N.W.A.
The First To Go and "Efil4zaggin"
By 1989, Ice Cube left N.W.A. because of royalty disputes. He received a couple of jabs from his groupmates on the track "100 Miles and Runnin'" and "Real Ni**az," which appeared in the group's second album "Efil4zaggin" Ice Cube, after leaving the group, immediately worked on his debut solo album "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" released in 1990.
The group finally released their follow-up album "Efil4zaggin" in 1991, praised as among Dr. Dre's best production work. It also marked Dre's shift to the G-Funk sound, achieved by the use of midtempo sound.
While Ice Cube refrained from harsh attacks against his former groupmates in his debut album, N.W.A. was less forgiving of their former colleague. They likened him to Benedict Arnold, the traitor of the American Revolution. By his second album "Death Certificate," Cube pulled no punches and verbally assaulted N.W.A, the best example being "No Vaseline."
Leaving Ruthless to Death Row and The End of N.W.A.
The fans didn't know that "Efil4zaggin" will be the group's final album. Dr. Dre, together with Ruthless artists The D.O.C. and Michel'le, all left Ruthless to join Death Row Records. The reason for their departure was that Eazy-E allegedly signed away their contracts. It was then Dre's turn to take a swipe at what remains of N.W.A, starting with Eazy-E. Death Row's first release, "F**k Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')," featured a character, "Sleazy-E."
Eazy-E responded to Dr. Dre on the track "Real Muthaphuckkin G's." He also took a swipe with Death Row rapper Snoop Dogg, in addition to Dre. However, even his only ally left, MC Ren, began voicing his dislike for Eazy-E. Ren later clarified that their only connection is through his recording label Ruthless Records. The two MCs would return to good terms shortly before Eazy passed away in 1995 due to complications from AIDS.
Fellow former members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre eventually squashed their N.W.A.-nurtured beef. Ice Cube appeared on Dre's 1993 "Let Me Ride," later doing the same on MC Ren's 1998 album "Ruthless for Life."