by Fred Haynes
I’m a tad bit late in completing this piece about NWA. However, with their recent induction into the 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a 2015 blockbuster movie and scores of worldwide fans, they have become a mainstay in the world of music, entertainment, movies, etc.
ICE CUBE, MC REN, EAZE E, DR DRE and DJ YELLA…(ARABIAN PRINCE, THE D.O.C.)
N.W.A….the guys that made Compton a household name. Let’s face it, the name of the group, N.W.A. (NIGGAS WIT ATTITUDES) is not politically correct and can be a conversation piece between the intellectual, the uninformed and the ignorant. Then again, I don’t believe the name was supposed to be PC in the 80’s. The name sounds edgy, brash, self-degrading, provocative, angry, abrasive, laden with thick layers of young black bravado & machismo with an “all up in your face” persona….and yet….I LIKE IT, but most of all, I think we needed it. It doesn’t mean that I want other ethnicity or even black folk to use “nigger” so freely and loudly in conversations, songs and movies. It also doesn’t mean that I would be drawn to a certain level of crude branding of image now that I’m in my 40’s. Speaking of 40’s, they may have also introduced a new wave of drinkers in the late 80’s, including myself, with lyrics about 8-Ball. Ughh, I could never go back to Olde English 800 or any malt liquor, LOL.
With regard to NWA, I believe they choose perfectly for themselves, during that time, based on their lifestyles and experiences within their cultural geosphere which craved a universal and undying need for a different voice for the young black male in the 80’s, in addition to bringing a new vibrant energy to Hip-Hop! They very well couldn’t get a solid backing with the brothers OR reinforce a quasi-grass movement support system of freedom of speech in urban America OR gain the ears of rebellious white teens OR attract national attention of police brutality issues OR make white folk scared IF they chose names like Young Gentlemen or Choir Boyz in Tha Hood. The group name had to be controversial to some degree and had to invoke some sort of “I’m not scared of you and I’ll say what the fuck I want” position….a similar stance like the legendary Public Enemy, but with an obvious difference in verbal delivery and substance.
Being in my mid-40’s and long after hearing my 1st NWA songs, Fat Girl and Dopeman, I can objectively say that most of their lyrics were misogynistic, vulgar and violent. I’m not even sure If I would listen to them if they were a new group today. Some of their words and lyrics could probably make Dolemite and Richard Pryor say “damn, dude”. However, If we were to parallel the track record and social behavior of Hollywood, police and the government compared against the history of NWA, it can be clearly seen that The Big 3 have been collectively waaaay worse with a world-wide propaganda, misogyny and racism years before members of NWA were born….and will continue to be so for many years unless a civilization reboot occurs.
Did NWA have an impact in society?
People often want to attribute the decline of the black community with violence, gangs and drugs to Hip-Hop. On this theory, I call “bullshit”. I’ll be the 1st to admit that rap could possibly be influential to some young and easily-led people, but not a whole damn community or nation. Unfortunately, these elements which have plagued the black community existed long before NWA and others rap music. I’m not a civil engineer, social worker, journalist or economist, but I have serious doubts that music alone can cause the dilapidation of communities, morals and the educational system. When initiatives such as the War on Drugs, allowing/importing the flow of drugs, the closing of manufacturing jobs in urban areas, underfunding & closing schools, rising tuition costs, the decline of livable wages, etc. are enacted, the end result is much bigger than 5 brothers who said “F-ck Tha Police”. After what I just mentioned and people still want to lay blame on the rap game, let’s also blame the Scarface movie, Schwarzenegger movies, 24 and countless others. I would rather have them create classic cd’s with explicit language than to be in the streets gang banging, selling that work or engaging in any type of criminal activity.
Speaking of FUCK THA POLICE??? It quickly became an anthem for young black males. Yes, this signature statement…it needed to be said….it needed to be rapped with anger and resentment. Don’t get caught up in the title…it’s the words an message which speaks volume. The song was not indictment on all police. However, the bad ones, who are criminals with badges, knew exactly that this song was directed towards them. This song was my generation’s “pre-cell phone” reporting of the behavior of bad cops and the local governments which protect them. I respect NWA for having the backbone to create a song like this. Now, if a person is committing a crime, I have no problem with cops doing their job according to the proper guidelines. However, judging by the large increase of innocent black men being killed by police with a free pass to “Kill at Will”, the group might have to do a updated version.
At the end of the day, these men simply wanted to make music and get paid in a legal manner. College and a 9-to-5 isn’t for everybody. It was quite ingenious of them to create a supply/demand and to create a market for a product which really didn’t exist. Who else was going to feed their families or create revenue streams/jobs for them and put their guys in position to make honest money? Their collective entrepreneurial endeavors is worth well over a billion dollars.
Think about this, without NWA, would we have:
– their individual careers
– 3 of the top 20 classic rap cd’s ever made: Straight Outta Compton, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and The Chronic
– one the the best diss songs ever (No Vaseline)
– The D.O.C.
– Death Row Records
– The emergence of Tupac
– Bone, Thugz and Harmony
– Westside Connection
– the Friday movie series
– the Barbershop movie series
– record labels, production companies
– Beats by Dre
– and many more to name
Whether you like it or not, NWA made an economic and social impact in music. Not just rap, but in the entertainment industry. Grinding when hungry yielded them great results. It ain’t where you start, it’s where you finish.by