Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hip Hop Nostalgia, Session 16: N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Session 16 takes us to the West Coast for this landmark album. Now, what most may still not know is that "Straight Outta Compton" was technically N.W.A.'s sophomore album. Their official debut was 1987's "N.W.A. and the Posse". To this day, I honestly haven't checked that out, but for historical purposes, I may get to it. Although Ice-T got the ball rolling for West Coast hip hop with his debut "Rhyme Pays", also released in 1987, N.W.A. effectively put the West Coast on the map in a MAJOR way, and that'll definitely be highlighted in today's session, and with so many talents across the board (Dr. Dre on the mic and on the production end, along with DJ Yella, Ice Cube and MC Ren being the lyrical muscle and the late Eazy-E being the mastermind), all of the elements were there for the creation of a game changing album.


Release date- August 8, 1988



All songs produced by Dr. Dre & DJ Yella


1. Straight Outta Compton
Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy-E

"You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge"

The above opening words from Dr. Dre as well as the opening verse from Ice Cube sets off this classic opener in a memorable way. In addition to Cube's verse, Ren and Eazy's were just as hard over an equally hard beat. If there ever was an opening statement about where a crew comes from, this is it. Dre was right at the end when he yelled "damn that shit was dope!"
Grade- A+

2. Fuck tha Police
Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy-E

Oh man, one of the most controversial songs in all the history of music. To this day, I still like the message of this song, simply because the group presented their frustrations with the actions of the police, specifically their actions towards Blacks. And as such, it was unfairly interpreted as "an attack" on the police force in general, and it was anything but. I also can't forget that for the first time ever, hip hop, directly or indirectly, got the attention of the FBI, who sent a letter to Priority Records to, uh, "caution" them about their lyrics. Dre said it best, when you got the FBI talking, you've done something.
Grade- A+

3. Gangsta, Gangsta
Ice Cube, Eazy-E

This is another classic song on an album full of them, and it goes without saying that Cube and Eazy are "lyrically gangstafied" throughout with a DOPE beat to match.
Grade- A+

4. If It Ain't Ruff
MC Ren


Sample check


The underrated MC Ren comes through with a dope, appropriately titled offering.
Grade- A




5. Parental Discretion Iz Advised (featuring The D.O.C.)


Sample check

 
 This apply titled song showcases The D.O.C. in a good way (leading towards his 1989 debut "No One Can Do It Better"), plus the other members of the group deliver dope verses. Parental discretion iz advised indeed!
Grade- A+




6. 8-Ball (Remix)
Eazy-E

Eazy brings it solo style on this one. You knew how Eazy would get with the 8-Ball rollin, lol! And yes, Eazy's rhymes on this song and the others on this album were penned by Ice Cube.
Grade- A

7. Something Like That
Dr. Dre, MC Ren


Sample check

After revisiting this, I can tell Dre and Ren probably had no idea what they would title this song (and they even hint at that towards the end, lol), so "Something Like That" was the winner. This was more or less another dope track from Dre and Ren to shine over, nothing more.
Grade- A




8. Express Yourself
Dr. Dre

Sample check


Although the more familiar "extended mix" of this song is superior, Dre did a great job on the original version, highlighting the importance of the freedom of expression.
Grade- A+




9. Compton's In The House (Remix)
Dr. Dre, MC Ren

It's all about the love for Compton on this one, which could also be considered a "reprise" of "Something Like That".
Grade- A

10. I Ain't The 1
Ice Cube

Sample check


This was true message to the females of the time period in 88, Ice Cube wasn't "the 1" and he gives those details in vintage Cube fashion.
Grade- A+




11. Dopeman (Remix)
Ice Cube, Eazy-E

Cube hilariously tells the story of a local drug dealer and his daily activities. Although there's a sense of humor here, Cube is still serious with it and over a BANGIN Dre & Yella produced beat, it works.
Grade- A+

12. Quiet on tha Set 
MC Ren

The same gangsta mentality that Ren brought on "If It Ain't Ruff" is present on this one.
Grade- A+

13. Somethin 2 Dance 2
 Arabian Prince, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E

Wow, this was quite the odd choice for a closer considering EVERYTHING that came before it. It's not bad, it's not great, it's just ok.
Grade- C


Wow, what more can I say about this incredible album that hasn't been said already?

As mentioned during the intro, this album put the West Coast on the map in a major way and made the hip hop world stand up and take notice, influencing many artists and groups to this day. N.W.A. brought a sense of realism and aggression to hip hop that wasn't there at a time when it was largely dominated by the East Coast scene, and trust me that's NO knock AT ALL on the East Coast, and anyone who knows me is aware of my admittedly strong East Coast bias. Without any major radio or video play, this album was still successful, becoming certified double platinum in March 1992. The success can be attributed to local word of mouth, as well as the albums being sold out of trunk of their cars at the time.  This is one of my favorite albums of all time, it has aged very well and like most hip hop albums that were released in 1988, this will remain timeless.

Final Grade- A+


The actual original pressing of this album is likely no longer available, definitely hard to find. If you happen to luck up and find it, I guarantee you it'll be on Ebay, half.com or Amazon, and the prices will not be cheap. The following 2 versions are available:


The 2002 Re-issued version
Included on this version is the extended mix of "Express Yourself", "Bonus Beats", a "Straight Outta Compton" extended mix and "A Bitch Iz A Bitch".



The 20th Anniversary Edition
Included on this version are tribute mixes of "Fuck tha Police" (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony), "Gangsta Gangsta" (Snoop Dogg & C-Murder), "Dopeman" (Mack 10), "If It Ain't Ruff" (WC) and a live version of "Compton's in the House"

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