These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
While other rappers in the ’80s were trying to kick the door down, N.W.A. grabbed the shotty and blew it wide open. There is no underestimating the importance, impact, and influence of this album regarding not only the history of hip-hop, but today’s current rap landscape.
Now, to the album. Most groups have a weak link, but you would be hard-pressed to find one here. Eazy E’s high-pitched delivery is exciting just to hear, and his lyrics (even if they’re not from his own pen) are shock-inducing to this day. Ice Cube is a monster, from his harsh delivery to the punch-in-the-face impact of his words. MC Ren displays on this album why he is criminally underrated; he may have the best rhyme schemes and flow of anyone in N.W.A. On the production side, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella provide raw and exciting production that seldom fails to capture the listener. While the hip-hop of the eighties is sometimes thought to be more basic in production, Dre and Yella provide intricacies both glaring and subtle that are unmatched by the majority of production in today’s hip hop. For his part, D.O.C. should be credited not only for his brief but stellar appearance on “Parental Discretion iz Advised,” but also for the fact he co-wrote lyrics on five of the album’s 13 songs. Arabian Prince shows up only on the last track, which I’ll get to later.
As outstanding and hard-hitting as the lyricism and production of this album are, the real star of the show here is Straight Outta Compton’s thematic elements. Classic cuts such as “Fuck tha Police,” “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Dopeman” respectively tackle police brutality, gang violence, and drug dealing; issues which are not only relevant, but prevalent today. What’s more, N.W.A. shoves these themes down our throats like dark rum with no chaser in sight. The effect the in-your-face feel has is awesome.
There are a few hiccups, including “Something Like That,” and “Compton’s in the House.” The former packs a lyrical punch but lacks the energy of most of the songs on the album, and the latter would sound better at a live show. However, neither of those songs do much to bog down the album. The only song that bugs the crap out of me is “Something 2 Dance 2,” which Eazy E reportedly hated but the group was forced to record for commercial appeal. The song, while guiltily kind-of-dope, is bad because it just plain doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. The fact that it is at the end of the album is favorable; I get the idea that N.W.A. tacked it on as a “yeah, we have to do this, but just ignore it and eject the CD early” kind of thing.
At the end of the day, the song hardly matters. Five guys from Compton joined together into a studio and created an artistic masterpiece of a unique brand of controlled rage never before seen nor heard by most of the world. They were the first “street reporters,” telling it like it was-and is- without any attempt at a slant. With Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. made a statement that is as powerful today as it was in ’88.