As the forefathers of gangsta rap who came together in 1986, N.W.A now celebrates twenty years of remembrance to influential music in “The Best of N.W.A: The Strength of Street Knowledge.” A tribute to two decades worth of significant music envelopes this seventeen track album with the Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition featuring a CD/DVD collection full of 35 minutes of previously unreleased interviews and videos.
Known for the beginnings of hardcore rap with their controversial lyrics and demeanor, N.W.A (“Niggaz With Attitude”) embarked on a journey to spread their music without the necessary means of mainstream radio play. In the span of twenty years, the group has changed members frequently, first beginning with Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E, Krazy Dee, and Arabian Prince. In addition to the initial members, N.W.A also includes The D.O.C., MC Ren and DJ Yella.
Although their first album “N.W.A and the Posse” was released in 1987, it was their 1988 second platinum release “Straight Outta Compton” that transformed and revolutionized the hip hop era as it reached this status without any radio support. Defying politics and law enforcement through their contentious, yet unforgettable lyricism, N.W.A exposed the reality of life and problems in the West Coast, especially that of South Central Los Angeles.
The first three tracks on “Straight Outta Compton,” all featured on “The Best of N.W.A,” were the most significant and central to the movement as they discussed the dishonesty and corruption of law enforcement, as well as circulating their own depiction of prejudice at that time. The track “Straight Outta Compton” revealed the rage and fury throughout the city while “Gangsta Gangsta” exposed gang life.
N.W.A’s most unsettled and infamous track “Fuck Tha Police” created a storm of attack from law enforcement with its vulgar lyricism and eventually sparked the rise of warning labels of subsequent albums. Stressing the hostility and opposition between blacks and the police and the allowance of forcefulness upon law enforcement, the track generated negative opposition from governmental organizations such as the F.B.I., as they saw the advocacy of violent behavior and brutality N.W.A was portraying. Set up as a court trial with the police on trial, “Fuck Tha Police” features Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren, as the prosecutors, while Dre presides as the judge. Presenting the supposed testimonies, N.W.A emphasizes the dishonorable conduct of the police and their fraudulence:
Ice Cube: “Fuck tha police, comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown
And not the other color, so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority:
MC Ren: “Lights start flashin’ behind me
But they’re scared of a nigga so they mace me to blind me
But that shit don’t work, I just laugh
Because it gives ’em a hint not to step in my path”
Eazy-E: “Without a gun and a badge, what do you got?
A sucker in a uniform waiting to get shot
By me, or another nigga
And with a gat it don’t matter if he’s smaller or bigger”
In the end, “Judge Dre” gives the verdict and ends with “the jury has found you guilty of being a redneck white bread cowardly chickenshit motherfucker.”
Like many “best of albums” and “greatest hit” albums, there are no new or unreleased tracks, just good ol’ back-in-the-day sounds from N.W.A. Incorporating multi layered effects with synthesizers, hard hitting drums, and downtempo funk beats, Dre’s early production which soon developed into G-Funk, is clearly remembered in tracks such as “Always Into Something” and “Dopeman.” Unchanging, it is still as good as it once was.
Tracks such as “Express Yourself” sampled from “Express Yourself” by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. and “Boyz-N-The-Hood” originally written for Ice Cube himself, but later given to Eazy, are nothing but timeless. Who can forget “Cruisin’ down the street in my ’64â€¦”? It is the reason why N.W.A tracks are still continuously sampled in many hip hop tracks heard today.
Although N.W.A has their “Greatest Hits” album, this anniversary edition with the accompanying DVD of hard-to-find videos and raw, uncut interviews that show N.W.A’s influences and views on hip hop are definitely ageless. Influential to say the least, N.W.A has characterized themselves as icons in the gangsta rap era. Through all the changes and turmoil faced by the group during the span of twenty solid years, they still maintain their distinguished solidarity and ranking and have defined the groundwork for gangsta rap for the past, present, and future.