Niggers with Attitude

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The initials stand for Niggers With Attitude, which was the perfectembodiment of this Los Angeles crew’s outlook. They comprised Dr. Dre (b.

Andre Young, 18 February 1965, South Central, Los Angeles, California,USA), DJ Yella (b. Antoine Carraby, Compton, Los Angeles, California, USA),MC Ren (b. Lorenzo Patterson, Compton, Los Angeles, California, USA) andEazy-E (b. Eric Wright, 7 September 1963, Compton, California, USA, d. 26March 1995, Los Angeles, California, USA). Founder-member Ice Cube (b.

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O’Shea Jackson, 15 June 1969, Crenshaw, South Central Los Angeles,California, USA), arguably the most inspiring of the rapping crew, departedfor a solo career after financial differences with the band’s manager(which would later be recorded in a highly provocative song that attackedhim for, amongst other things, being Jewish). However, all the band’smembers had long CVs: Dr. Dre had DJed for World Class Wreckin’ Crew, andhad produced Ice Cube’s first band, CIA. Both Eazy-E and DJ Yella hadrecorded and produced several rap discs under their own names, the formerfunding his Ruthless Records label, allegedly, through illegal activities.

Other early members of the posse included Arabian Prince and D.O.C..

N.W.A.’s first single was “Boyz ‘N The Hood”, marking out their lyricalterritory as guns, violence and “bitches’. Though N.W.A. And The Posse wastheir debut album, they only performed four of the raps on it, and to allintents and purposes, Straight Outta Compton counts as their first majorrelease. For those attracted to the gangsta rappers first time round, thiswas more of the same, only sharper and more succinct. A landmark release,in its aftermath rap became polarized into two distinct factions;traditional liberal (reflecting the ideas of Martin Luther King) and ablack militancy redolent of Malcolm X, albeit much less focused andreasoned. In 1989, the FBI investigated Straight Outta Compton”s infamous”Fuck Tha Police”, after which Ice Cube left the group. It set a precedentfor numerous actions against N.W.A., including the first time anyone in themusic industry had received a threatening letter from the FBI. Efil4zaggin(Niggaz4life spelt backwards), which made US number 1, also surpassed theoutrage factor of its predecessor by addressing gang rape and paedophilia,in addition to the established agenda of oral sex, cop killing andprostitution. Musically, it contained furious blasts of raggamuffin and 70sfunk, but that was somehow secondary. It did reveal some humour in theband, i.e., on “Don’t Drink That Wine” (which jokingly encourages drugabuse instead), or lines like, “Why do I call meself a nigger, you ask me?Because my mouth is so muthafuckin’ nasty, Bitch this bitch that niggerthis nigger that, In the meanwhile my pockets are getting fat.’ However,such wit was stretched paper-thin over a clutch of expletives andobscenities. The UK government used the Obscene Publications Act to seizecopies but were forced to return them following legal action. Ultimatelythe BPI withdrew their support from Island Marketing’s successful action.

Counsel for the defence was Geoffrey Robertson QC, who had played a similarrole in the infamous Oz trial of 1971. Expert testimony from Wendy K ofTalkin’ Loud Records, rap author David Toop and psychologist GuyCumberbatch of Aston University swung the case. This prompted a variety ofstatements from British MPs outlining their intention to toughen up thelaw. However, even the anti-censorship lobby had to concede that N.W.A.”sby turns ludicrous (“Find ‘Em Fuck ‘Em And Flee”) and dangerous (“To Kill AHooker”) songs blurred the generally positive influence of the rapmovement.

As the decade progressed it became obvious that the remaining members ofN.W.A. were spending more time on their solo projects, Dr. Dre, inparticular, going on to enjoy huge success both as an influential artistand producer with Death Row Records, the phenomenally successful label heco-founded with Marion “Suge” Knight. His acrimonious parting from Eazy-Eover monies owed through Ruthless Records was celebrated in records by bothartists. The latter succumbed to AIDS and died in 1995 throughcomplications following a collapsed lung after having been hospitalized forsome time. Yella has been quiet, co-production credits on Ruthless andpromoting his pornographic website aside, while Ren has released a numberof disappointing solo albums.

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