The Impact of N.W.A. on Culture, History, and People!

The O.G.'s: N.W.A. members (L to R): Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren.

So everyone is talking about one of summer’s final movies which is called “Straight Outta Compton” which is based on the legendary rap group N.W.A. The movie grossed over $4.7 million when it was released on Thursday for preview screenings. There has been talks about creating this movie for years but I never thought it would ever become a reality because the members of the group couldn’t seem to agree with each other for the direction of the movie plus the founder of the group, Eazy E died in March 1995 from Aids related symptoms. The movie started getting real buzz in summer of 2014 when there was a casting call for certain type of woman to even try-out for any part within the movie. They created categories for African-American women and wanted them to be light-skinned,must have a big butt, have wavy or so-called “good hair” which is another way of saying no natural looking black hair, have a body with certain measurements, and you must be beautiful! This really made me upset as a woman and especially as an African-American woman reading this type of foolishness in 2014 (the time I heard about this casting call). However, I tried to see it in a different way…going back to N.W.A. era which was 1987 and that casting call was a real reality at that time in the Black community, we did define beauty by skin tone, hair, and body!

Now about the members of this legendary rap group, this group could not have happen without founder Mr. Eazy E AKA Eric Wright which is my opinion! Eazy E was a sharp business man because he wanted to get out of Compton and bring together some brothers to make history. Just think Eazy E would be 52 years-old this year if he was alive today! He was a high school drop out who sold drugs and started doing rap music underground. Eazy E started Ruthless records with his cousin in 1986. Eazy E wasn’t the best rapper but he had that thug image and swag that caught people’s attention. In 1987, Eazy E formed N.W.A. which included members; Ice Cube AKA O’Shea Jackson, Dr. Dre AKA Andre Young, DJ Yella AkA Antoine Carraby, and MC Ren AKA Lorenzo Patterson. The first album, Eazy -Duz-It was released in 1988 when I was in the 8th grade! I remember getting that album at the Venice swapmeet in Los Angeles and sitting back saying to myself,  “My mom is going to kill me if she hears this song!” It was the first I heard so much profanity in a song that sounds like children’s storytelling song! It really introduces Eazy E and the group and really laid out what to expect from N.W.A. and it put the West Coast on the map!

N.W.A. introduce the West Coast AKA California to the world, gangbanging, drug dealing, and the issues between Black people and the police. Eazy-Duz-It sold over 2 million records within the USA and additional records sales in the United Kingdom. The album made it on Billboard records and even made MTV recognize this new music phenomenal. Rap music wasn’t new by any means but gangsta rap was new and different plus with the added gangbanging mentality, it also introduced gang life to suburbia! The album that really took the group to mainstream was “Straight Outta Compton”. Ice Cube shortly left the group after the album dropped due to disagreements with Eazy E over management and money. Soon after Ice Cube left, Dr. Dre left due to the same concerns of bad management and money, it has been rumored for years that Suge Knight had to threaten Eazy E to help get Dr. Dre out his contract with Ruthless Records which is why Eazy E retaliated with his song in 1993 called, “It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187 Killa which was Eazy E diss album about Dr. Dre being an undercover bi-sexual man and wearing lace and lipstick when he was in a group prior to N.W.A. called “World-Class Wreckin Cru”.

N.W.A. ended in 1994, and Eazy E was investigated by the FBI and IRS for money laundering and not paying taxes. In February 1995, Eazy E went into the hospital which was reported all over the news for possible asthma symptoms, later it was released that he tested positive for Aids. Eazy E released a statement saying he barely used condoms and he knew he should have been tested years before his death due to his sexual activity. He got the disease from one of the many women he fooled around with over the years. A month after Eazy E was diagnosed with Aids he died of complications of the disease. He married Tomeka Wright just before his death who would later go on to manage his record company and his second group he founded, “Bones-Thugs-N-Harmony” in late 1993. Eazy E did make up with Dr. Dre just before his death. 

Say what you want about N.W.A. However, they did put Los Angeles especially Compton on the map when it came to rap music. Prior to N.W.A. majority of rappers were coming out of New York and back East.  There are some issues I have with the group like the cruel physical beating that Dr. Dre did to TV host Dee Barnes, the color hang ups of certain members o the group, the rude words used toward women especially women of color, and the glorifying of gangbanging! Truth be told, drugs, gangbanging, police brutality, disrespect of Black women, and teen pregnancy and teen sex was heavy during this era around the nation especially in South Central Los Angeles, Watts, and Compton which was over 70% African-American during these times.

N.W.A. had white suburbia kids singing their songs, dressing like them, and it gave them an insight into the inner-city which scared white middles-class parents and white upper-class parents. There videos created a new wave of rap videos showing barely dressed young women shaking their butts and created a stereotype Black woman! Yet N.W.A. at the same time open the door for many rappers to go mainstream, make money, and become known. It also gave South Central an identity to the world and introduced police brutality that happens everyday in the Black communities and it introduce the cruel impact of what cocaine was doing to the Black communities which created a lot of attention, and anti-drug programs like D.A.R.E were able to get more funds to fight the inner-city drug issues and teach kids to stay away from drugs. N.W.A. has made a huge impact in music and they open the door for other West Coast rappers which will never be forgotten. The are true legends and it’s just too bad that Eazy E isn’t around to see his legacy! Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are both successful artists and businessmen, MC Ren did try to continue rapping but not much success over the years, and after Eazy E passing DJ Yella went on to produce and direct porno movies until 2011 when he return to making music. DJ Yella was the only member of the group that attended Eazy E’s funeral which says a lot! 

I look forward to seeing this movie and remembering this era that was fun and deadly at the time. In some ways, I wish I could stay in that era where there no cell phones and we all had to interact with each other face-to-face, music was really good, we actually wrote on paper in school versus laptops and we had to learn to spell; not abbreviate everything, we actually went to the mall;not Amazon or E-Bay, and we knew our neighbors! Times have changed dramatically since this era and I am happy that this generation will be able to get a history lesson because I think they need it while my generation get to sit back and go down memory lane for two hours!

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