N.W.A. – the original N**as With Attitude – has been responsible for some recent nostalgia. “Straight Outta Compton” is poised to be the biopic of the year, as it documents the early rise of the rap group N.W.A. The group has cemented their place in history as one of the earliest and most influential mainstream Rap groups, comprised of Arabian Prince, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube. MC Ren joined the group after Arabian Prince left in 1988. Thinking back to those early days of Rap music, that feeling returns. The feeling of holding the Straight Outta Compton cassette in your hands for the first time. Trying to figure out how you would buy it with the Parental Advisory sticker on the front. How would you get to hear this record? It was like, a secret. A secret rap record, wrapped in revolution, anger and potential.
Back then, it really was about word of mouth. You “heard” about the record. Your cousin, your brother, your friends; they talked about THAT record. They talked about it’s punk rock, don’t give a f**k attitude. Today, we see how far word of mouth and YO! MTV RAPS took N.W.A. There was no Twitter, Instagram, blogs, no internet; yet five young men from a little known city in Southern California changed the world of music; and our society as a whole. They were and continue to be America’s mirror. They force us to look at ourselves, our violence, our neglect, our struggle to be heard, to be valued.
Today, we are seeing the difference digital marketing can have on a art project with N.W.A.’s Hollywood biopic. The Dre record release streaming on Apple’s new streaming service, the “Straight Outta (where you from?)” pictures, the planes flying over LA this weekend cloud painting the word Compton in the sky, the billboards, buses. The movie is everywhere, on everyone’s lips. It’s been shared and shared, and shared again; all over the social media tapestry. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic LA riots in Watts, CA, it’s symbolic that Compton has taken the place of Watts as the city’s hippest urban neighborhood. Gone are the days of only being known for the violence of the 80’s and early 90’s. With this film, N.W.A.’s respected place in music history (and cultural history for that matter) is solidified. We’re glad to see Compton’s continued to rise.
As the debut of the film is upon us, reflect on where you were the first time you heard N.W.A. What road brought you to experiencing Straight Outta Compton? That record was something tangible; it threatened those around you who were being too polite to just come out and say it: the world needed changing. That’s the true power of Straight Outta Compton; that despite not having the tools of today’s marketing, they changed music, culture and expression as we know it. Their mirror continues to show us who we were and who we hope to one day become.
Check out one of N.W.A’s most iconic songs, which changed the game for young hip hop heads in the ’80s and ’90s: