Whether you are a rap fan or not, you can’t argue that N.W.A. wasn’t a complete game-changer in the music industry. They are credited with popularizing gangsta rap, which is still one of the most successful genres of music today, 26 years after their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, was released.
Straight Outta Compton caused a whirlwind of controversy at the time of its debut. Copious amounts of profane language banned it from airplay and many critics condemned its lyrics for glamorizing black-on-black violence. Not only that, but lyrics depicting and encouraging violence against law enforcement resulted in the F.B.I. sending a letter to N.W.A.’s record company concerned about the usage of these lyrics and stated their position against further releases with such language and themes. On the flip-side, many made the argument that the album only showcased the realities of living in an underprivileged, hostile west coast environment. Despite mixed critical reception and the fact that N.W.A. never went on any major tours in support of the album, sales still reached double platinum status.
One of the standout facets of Straight Outta Compton is the production quality. Dr. Dre and DJ Yella contrasted the coarse lyrics with catchy sample loops inspired by the soul and funk music from previous generations coupled with some impressive scratching for the time. The album is a mix of comedy and drama, lyrics jumping from humorous narrative to violent social commentary. The album taken as whole is really where the social commentary comes in the strongest, though. N.W.A. was young, reckless, and they really didn’t care if they offended people or not. And that attitude is really what gave Straight Outta Compton the edge that has me writing about it 26 years later.
Without the groundwork laid out by N.W.A. the music industry would probably look very different than it does now. They opened the doors for gangsta rap and west coast music. Artists like Eminem, 50 Cent, and Game have all been directly influenced by N.W.A. and Straight Outta Compton.