Friday, August 17, 2007

[088] Straight Outta Compton

Album: Straight Outta Compton
Artist: N.W.A.
Release Date: August 1988
Label: Ruthless/Priority
Producers: Dr. Dre & DJ Yella

"Fuck the police, comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad cause I'm brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
Fuck that shit, cause I ain't the one
For a punk muthafucker with a badge and a gun
To be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail
We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
Fuckin with me cause I'm a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searching my car, looking for the product
Thinking every nigga is selling narcotics
You'd rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rolling in the Benzo
Beat the police outta shape
And when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
Still can't swallow bread and water
I don't know if they're fags or what
Search a nigga down and grabbing his nuts
And on the other hand, without a gun they can't get none
But don't let it be a black and a white one
'Cause they slam ya down to the street top
Black police showing out for the white cop
Ice Cube will swarm
On any muthafucker in a blue uniform
Just cause I'm from the CPT
Punk police are afraid of me
A young nigga on a war path
And when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dying in LA
Yo Dre, I got something to say"
- Ice Cube's opening verse from "Fuck Tha Police"

One thing that was necessary when compiling this list was to listen to each of these albums again to get a fresh perspective on them. The last time I listened to N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton, about a year ago, I was struck by how dated it is, and how much filler there is on the second side. But after listening to it the other day, and considering it within its era, it’s positively mindblowing. Sure, a track like “Something 2 Dance 2” is a complete throw away, but Dr. Dre’s production was still ahead of the pack as far as sample selection. On “Dance 2”, he jacks Sly & The Family Stone, while he cuts up Steve Miller Band on the spectacular MC Ren solo joint “Quiet On Tha Set” (Hearing Ren tear up the mic on “Set”, “Fuck Tha Police” and “If It Ain’t Ruff” makes you wonder how Ice Cube left him so far in the rearview). Since the coastal wars hadn’t yet broken out, Dre and his production partner DJ Yella had no problem sampling Boogie Down Productions on “Gangsta Gangsta”, or chopping up the Beastie Boys on “8 Ball”; in fact a lot of the album rides the East’s jock as far as the post-Criminal Minded/Raising Hell/Licensed To Ill formula of boom bap and power chords. And though he had started digging in the crates for 70’s funk and soul (see the groove of “Ruff” and the radio-friendly “Express Yourself”), Dre hadn’t yet gone whole-hog into P-Funk worship; his taste in squealing Moog keyboards just starts to rear its head as Ice Cube relinquishes the spotlight to Eazy-E in the third verse of “Gangsta Gangsta”.

Beyond Dre's production, Straight Outta Compton is really all about the debut of Ice Cube, surely one of the ten greatest MC’s to ever bless a mic. There are two things you need to know about Ice Cube on this album: (1) He was only 19 when he composed some of the hardest, most revolutionary verses in Hip-Hop's entire history, and (2) No one has used the word "muthafucker" better than Ice Cube did here, as in the history of the Earth, EVER. He is the irrepressible engine behind the opening onslaught of the title track, “Fuck Tha Police” and “Gangsta Gangsta”, not to mention “I Ain’t The 1”, an early predecessor to Kanye’s “Gold Digger”. Even twenty years on, he still sounds vicious, roaring out of the gates with “Straight outta Compton, crazy muthafucker named Ice Cube, from the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes!” You can pick any former street corner hustler posing as a rapper today, and they’d all get slaughtered by vintage Cube. Oh yeah, and Ice Cube wrote pretty much all of Dr. Dre & Eazy-E’s rhymes, especially Eazy's wasted anthem “8 Ball” and frightening “Compton” intro, “Straight outta Compton is a brother that’ll smother your mother, and make your sister think I love her!” Cube’s storytelling is effortlessly detailed, and laid over a completely identifiable flow; you can hear Cube a mile away because no one else sounds like him. If you go back and listen the first couple 2Pac albums, Pac was totally on Cube's dick, trying to jack his flow. On the posse cut “Parental Discretion Iz Advised”, Cube proves why he’s the one who climbed to Hip-Hop’s upper echelon; his lyrics and flow are so far ahead of even the rest of his group, they can’t hope to catch up. As for the controversy N.W.A. courted, they never cared if you don’t want to hear words like the verse at the top. They’re gonna speak their peace so the world knows what’s going on in Compton, CA - Word to the muthafucker.

01. "Straight Outta Compton"
02. "Fuck Tha Police"
03. "Gangsta Gangsta"
04. "If It Ain't Ruff"
05. "Parental Discretion Iz Advised" [feat. The D.O.C.]
06. "8 Ball [Remix]"
07. "Something Like That"
08. "Express Yourself"
09. "Compton's N The House [Remix]"
10. "I Ain't The 1"
11. "Dopeman [Remix]"
12. "Quiet On Tha Set"
13. "Something 2 Dance 2" [feat. Arabian Prince]

"Straight Outta Compton" [video]

- BONUS: Despite the kids movies, Ice Cube can still rip into the oldies

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