N.W.A or N Wit Attitudes was a hip-hop group that originated from Compton, California. They were one of the first and most significant and controversial artists of the gangsta rap genre. N.W.A was also considered as one of the most influential groups in the hip-hop industry. The group was hailed by the Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In this article, we are going to talk about how N.W.A changed ‘80s hip-hop and the music industry in general.
Formation and Early Days
The group N.W.A was created by Eazy E or Eric Wright, an American rapper and producer who co-founded Ruthless Records together with Jerry Heller. Eazy E was not having enough success until Dr. Dre and Ice Cube began writing songs for his record label, Ruthless Records. After several artists refused to perform the song that Dr. Drea and Ice Cube wrote, Eazy E thought that he should just form his own hip-hop group. That’s when he had the idea for N.W.A which was an acronym for N_____ With Attitudes. Originally, N.W.A was composed of Ice Cube, Dr. Drea, The Arabian Prince, DY Yella, and the D.O.C. in 1987, the group released their debut album called “N.W.A and the Posse” which was mostly a party-oriented album. However, it largely went unnoticed during its release.
After a year, N.W.A decided to add MC Ren to their group and reconstruct their sound which included bringing in those noisy and extreme sonic innovations and adopting a dangerous and violent lyrics into their song. During late 1988, the group released their album “Straight Outta Compton” which was a hardcore album that became an underground hit because it didn’t receive any support from the press, the radio, or MTV. Since then N.W.A became famous for their hardcore lyrics more particularly from their song called” F*ck tha Police” which led to the FBI sending a warning letter to Ruthless Records along with its parent company, Priority. The letter said that N.W.A should watch their moves when it comes to writing their songs.
In 1989, most of N.W.A’s political threat left with Ice Cube when he decided to depart the band while there were ongoing financial agreements within the group. A feud sparked among N.W.A members and Ice Cube which inspired the latter to include a diss track in his “Death Certificate” album called “No Vaseline” in 1991 which was a clear attack on the hip-hop group’s management. However, by the time the song was released, N.W.A had already disbanded.
It turns out that in the two years between Ice Cube’s departure, the group was dominated by Dr. Dre’s subtle and complex production and Eazy’s parodic lyrics. N.W.A released their EP called “100 Miles and Runnin’” in 1990 before following it up with their final studio album called “Efil4zaggin”. The album still featured songs that had aggressive lyrics that was not taken lightly by critics and it provoked outrage from them and conservative watchdogs. However, the album increased the hip-hop group’s predominately male, white suburban listeners. Even if the group is at its peak of popularity, Dr. Dre started to make efforts to leave N.W.A because of conflicting egos and an unfair recording deal according to him.
In early 1992, Dr. Dre left N.W.A to establish Death Row Records along with The D.O.C and Suge Knight. According to some reports, Suge Knight threatened to kill Jerry Heller, N.W.A’s manager, if he doesn’t release Dr. Dre out of his contract. During the following year, Eazy E. and Dr. Dre had a very publicized feud which led to both the rappers producing diss tracks against each other and putting it on their respective solo albums. Eazy E. continued to release albums to which he became the ultimate parody of himself. He continued making music until his tragic death from AIDS happened in 1995. Thankfully, before Eazy E. died, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre made amends with Eazy E.
On the other hand, Dr. Dre managed to make a name for himself as a premier hip-hop producer during the 90s. Gangsta rap, to which N.W.A was one of the pioneer artists, was able to establish itself and became the most popular subgenre of hip-hop during the ‘90s.
Fast forward to 2015, a critically acclaimed biopic entitled “Straight Outta Compton” was released and it became an Academy Award nominee and made over 200 million dollars worldwide. This biopic also inspired Dr. Dre to create and release his third solo album called “Compton” that same year.
In 2016, N.W.A’s cultural rebirth and the renewed mainstream recognition of their past works and how it made an impact in the history of hip-hop and rap enabled the group to be inaugurated into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.