RapReviews.com Feature - They Try to Be Like Me: Songs in Tribute to N.W.A (Part 1)
Author: Matt Jost
In its glory days as Music Television, MTV would broadcast, perhaps on some given occasion, a short animated segment outlining the N.W.A 'family tree'. It was far from complete, but it did visualize an impressive lineage by presenting its most famous and prosperous offspring at the time - the likes of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G, Westside Connection, etc. Many years later Priority and EMI even released a compilation called "N.W.A and Their Family Tree." But the impact the group N.W.A had on the artform of rap and popular music extends far beyond specific rappers, producers, record labels and any other direct participants and close witnesses. The oft-cited tag line 'The World's Most Dangerous Group' is a cute but irrelevant slogan compared to the cultural upheaval their album "Straight Outta Compton" ushered in in 1988. Rap wasn't the same after it. And with its newly acquired attitude it became unstoppable.
With the pending theatrical release of 'Straight Outta Compton,' the magnitude of the events will hopefully become tangible even for generations born afterwards. To acknowledge the overdue effort on Hollywood's part, RapReviews.com publishes its own little audio-visual soundtrack this and next week. Here are the first 6 of 12 tracks that ostensibly owe more than a few elements to N.W.A. And even those that might borrow just a few elements can pass as tributes to one of the greatest rap acts of all time.
1) Vakill - "Appetite to Kill" (2011)
Chicago's frighteningly talented lyricist Vakill channels the mean-period N.W.A with this relentless barrage of wordplay over the "Appetite For Destruction" beat (off their 1991 album "Efil4Zaggin"), with some choice vocal samples thrown in that retroactively reunite the disbanded Ice Cube and the rest of the crew.
2) Prisoners of Technology - "Dopeman" (1999)
The first of two drum 'n bass selections, this one drops a choice selection of shouted - and soberingly straight - "Dope Man" vocals into a dizzying whirlwind of percussion. Curious to think that original and remix are separated by just a little more than ten years.
3) MC Eiht, King T & Gangsta Dresta - "Straight Outta Compton" (1998)
The sceptics prevailed in 1998 when members of the aforementioned N.W.A family tree essentially re-recorded "Straight Outta Compton" in (almost) its entirety. But the participation of peers (i.e. non-'family' members) like MC Eiht and King T made clear just what that album meant to even people who helped build the West Coast scene. Looking back it's no surprise that this kind of honor was bestowed upon this particular album.
A landmark song not just for a specific city or coast but for rap as a whole, "Straight Outta Compton" was remade by three New York residents whose corner of the city - Queensbridge - in the meantime had become just as infamous as the CPT in its heydays.
5) Nipsey Hussle - "Hussle in the House" (2008)
Representing South Central L.A. like Ice Cube, Nipsey Hussle is one of the many artists who were and are able to exist on the foundation laid by N.W.A and their generation. This track samples the same Ohio Players tune ("Funky Worm") as the opening sequence of the "Dope Man" original. Check also the "I'm comin' straight offa Slauson" opening.
6) The Cool Kids - "Gold and a Pager" (2008)
A random excerpt of vital Ice Cube lyricism quoted totally out of context by the now separated Cool Kids makes for a cool signifier firmly anchored in the past. Influence doesn't always have to be immediate.