Boyz-N-The Hood sound clip

(Niggaz Wit' Attitude)

N.W.A is credited with formally ushering in rap's gangsta era. The group from L.A.'s Compton district was bankrolled and fronted by former drug dealer turned solo rapper Eazy-E. N.W.A's original lineup featured future rap superstars Ice Cube and DJ Dr. Dre, alongside DJ Yella (b. Antoine Carraby, circa 1967) and MC Ren (b. Lorenzo Patterson, circa 1966). The group's 1987 debut, "N.W.A and the Posse" was largely ignored, but the group was certainly noticed after it released "Straight Outta Compton" in 1989. Serving as a shocking contradiction to the East Coast groups' emerging Afrocentric, politically conscious music: Dre's raw production sent messages of street violence, crime, and misogyny that gave the group's members almost black antihero status.

N.W.A's unapologetically violent and sexist lyrics have made the group one of the most notorious in the history of rap. Contrary to Public Enemy, which had proven that hard-core rap could be intelligent and carry a social message, the five-member Compton rap group celebrated in the violence of criminal life, capturing every aspect of such in its harsh language. The song "F*** Tha Police" even provoked the FBI and the Fraternal Order of Police to caution Ruthless Records, which only served to fulfill the fantasies of white suburbanites that had become their core audience.

Ironically, in the beginning, N.W.A. was hardly revolutionary. Eazy-E (b. Eric Wright) started Ruthless Records with money he earned by pushing and was attempting to start a rap empire by building a roster of successful rap artists. Until the emergence of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, he had been unsuccessful.

Shortly after Compton, Ice Cube exited N.W.A over a financial dispute, but the group carried on, recording the lesser "100 Miles and Runnin'" EP (1990) and the "Niggaz4life" (1991) album, which entered the charts at number one. But Ice Cube's departure and the subsequent departure of producer Dr. Dre in 1992 effectively served to finish the band.

Eazy-E died on March 26, 1995, due to complications from AIDS.