N.W.A didn't invent gangsta rap; Ice-T did. But it was N.W.A that, with a cold hard shock, slammed it in America's face. We know now that the group was hollow at its core-- Eazy-E, who bankrolled it and promoted himself as its major star, couldn't even write his own raps. Still, he was colorful, and the others in the group, which included Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (along with rapper MC Ren and Dre's co-producer, Yella) ranged from solid to brilliant. During its brief glory reign in 1989, N.W.A (whose name, as surely everybody knows, means "Niggaz With Attitude") put Los Angeles hip hop firmly on the national map. To re-create those days, you can start with Straight Outta Compton, by now a classic, on which you'll hear one straight-out masterpiece: "F--- Tha Police" the song the F.B.I. tried to ban, co-written by Ice Cube, and produced by Dre and Yella in a kind of musical technicolor never heard in hip hop before. That vivid new sound--almost a Hollywood answer to Public Enemy's denser New York art-rap-- became an N.W.A (and later a Dre) trademark. "Gangsta Gangsta" (which Ice Cube dominates) is an unforgettably exuberant boast about what it means to be tough on the street; "Dopeman" (also pretty much an Ice Cube track) is an attack on drugs, especially grim because it draws its lessons from reality without wasting one word on morals.


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