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N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (1989)

December 30, 2013

[Album 271/1001]

One day I’ll see the entire film Anaconda; until then, this Ice Cube gem is right up there with Sean Connery’s exclamation of “I am the last one!” as one of the best lines from a mid-90s adventure movie (admittedly, a niche category):

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Ice Cube also had plenty of memorable lines on Straight Outta Compton.  Now the band name should be clue #1, the album cover should be clue #2, a quick glance at 220px-N.W.A.StraightOuttaComptonalbumcoverthe tracklist should remove any element of surprise.  If somehow those were overlooked, for those expecting family friendly fun such as his more recent roles in movies like Are We There Yet?, be prepared for a very different version of O’Shea Jackson!

In the late 80s, Ice Cube was an angry young man.  Straight Outta Compton is one of those records that defines a time & place and as it hits the quarter century mark, it is still a powerful statement.  It is an hour of relentless rhymes, the rage is palpable, and it was appropriately released on the Ruthless record label.

Did it glorify violence or merely describe what life was like in South Central Los Angeles?  Is it unforgivably sexist or were the members of N.W.A. only describing particular women in their lives?  Compelling arguments could be made for all of the above; the lasting, major influence on future hip hop is unquestionable.

Of course, there were other members of N.W.A. and Dr. Dre was involved in the production.  For me, Ice Cube was the star here.

Two of Cube’s (many) expletive-laden statements from the song that defined a sub-genre, Gangsta, Gangsta, stood out to me.
One for its continued accuracy, one now seems off the mark.

1. “Cause I’m …built to last”
Can’t argue with that.  After surviving his rough teenage lifestyle (hard to believe he was still in his teens when this album was recorded), he went on to thrive in the entertainment business.

2. “Do I look like a…role model?”
At the time, not so much.
Since then?
Let’s see:
– married since 1992, four children
– continued success in music, with two solo albums also included on the 1001 list
– Critically acclaimed acting performances, including Boyz n the Hood, with plenty of commercially successful films as well
– throw in the titles of writer/director/producer & a clothing line, he’s been busy over the last 25 years

All with his credibility intact no less.

So to answer his role model question, I think my original answer would have to change.

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From → 1980s

6 Comments
  1. Anaconda was one of my favourite films when I was about 12.

    • Nice – I saw Ace Ventura is hitting its 20th anniversary in 2014, that would probably have been my favourite as a 12-year old!

  2. I like rap/hip hop. But 80s rap.. I just never got into. NWA was one of those groups. I knew who they were.. but didn’t really know their songs.

    • This was the kind of group that wouldn’t have been anywhere near the radio – unless half the song was bleeped out but even then I think to hear the songs, at the time you had to have the album.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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