It’s 2015, and N.W.A.‘s “Straight Outta Compton” still sounds like a hundred barrels of fuel igniting simultaneously.
“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge,” Dr. Dre says—essentially stating the iconic group’s raison d’êtré—before Ice Cube launches into the first verse of one of the most famous hip-hop songs ever recorded. Even if you heard this song as a non-english speaker, I imagine the militant, truculent tone of this song is crystal clear.
As Cube, MC Ren, and Eazy-E take turns delivering barbed versus about hard living in South Central LA, the group is arrested one-by-one for exercising the First and Second Amendments. The group’s signature monochromatic black and white outfits indicate their grave seriousness—they were not trying to detract from their lyrical jabs with flash (a stark difference in modus operandi for Dr. Dre lol). They wanted you to see how life was, which is why there is exclusively unflashy b-roll of the neighborhood and depictions of police brutality.
This song was a mission statement as it set the tone for all the hardships they would endure as a band, friends, and nemeses. Sure, they were speaking for themselves, but it wasn’t hard to tell they were a mouthpiece for a disenfranchised community.
I hope you guys enjoyed our N.W.A.-themed tracks of the day this week, and be sure to catch Straight Outta Compton, which is now in theaters. Also, check out our conversation with the film’s own Marlon Yates Jr., who talked about his favorite music inspired by the legendary group:
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