N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton | Lyrics Review and Song Meaning
In this article, we take you back to what is called the ‘Golden Age’ of Hip Hop. This era of Hip Hop is unpassable without mentioning the likes of the rap collective N.W.A. The group single-handedly paved the way for ‘gangsta rap’ genre in the late ’80s and “Straight Outta Compton” is one of their most prominent works. Let us take you through the history, lyrics and meaning behind this song.
N.W.A. made a massive impact on hip hop and rap genre with their debut studio album also titled ‘Straight Outta Compton.’ The album, released in August 1988, set the backstory for the group consisting of members Ice Cube, MC Ren, Eazy E, Dr. Dre, and DJ Yella. The album became a hallmark of gangsta rap and hip hop in general, being considered one of the most influential albums of all time. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album at #114 on their ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ list. In 2017, it was decided to be preserved at the National Recording Registry for being recognized as “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
“Straight Outta Compton” single was released as the lead single off the album titled the same. Although the initial rankings of the song were poor on charts, after the N.W.A. biopic ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was released in September 2015, the song reached #38 on Billboard Hot 100. This is N.W.A.’s first entry to US top 40 chart.
Cultural Impact of the Song
The song addresses the issues of police violence against African Americans back in the day and tries to emphasize that these rappers will not succumb to the police’ brutality and injustice. The crude lyrics made the song to be both wildly accepted and rejected by the masses. In an interview with Sunday Correspondent Magazine in 1989, Ice Cube addressed the controversies behind the song; “The parents, the police and the people of the local community are scared of what we say. We use the same kind of language as the kids use every day. In the black community, the ministers and teachers don’t deny that the problems we rap about exist, but they’d rather sweep it under the rug. Maybe that’s why we sell so many records because the people in the community all tell the kids what to do, the police are watching them 24-7, so when they party, they don’t want to hear, ‘Don’t do this and don’t do that.’ Our raps are documentary. We don’t take sides.”
Due to the controversies at the time, the song was banned from many media channels thus limiting its airplay to a minimum.
Watch “Straight Outta Compton” Music Video by N.W.A.
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Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Straight Outta Compton”
Before we get into any lyrics analysis, watch the below video of Ice Cube himself explaining the lyrics to his verse on the song.
Although this genre and the song is categorized ‘gangsta rap,’ Dr. Dre once said they never intended it to be that. The opening line to the song sets N.W.A.’s labelling of the song type as ‘street knowledge.’
In the first three lines, Ice Cubes sums up everything about himself, the song and the group N.W.A. He calls himself crazy, shoutouts their hometown Compton and introduces the group as one of the notorious cliques.
In the next few lines, Ice Cube goes on to emphasize that he is not a force to be reckoned with. If ‘punks’ stand against him, he is ready to drop them down with a shotgun. In the above interpretation by Ice Cube, he also mentions that ‘shotgun’ here also stands for knowledge.
Ice Cube introduces the phrase ‘murder rap’ as something we fans can dance to and sing to. But it is also to be noted that the lyrics on these murder raps are quite literal. For comparison’s sake, Ice Cube namedrops Charles Manson, a notorious murderer and cult leader of Manson Family.
In the latter part of the verse, Ice Cube announces his musical supremacy in the industry. He does this by saying that he keeps on knocking off his competition off the charts (the boxes) throughout the year.
The second verse by MC Ren caught a lot of media attention due to its sexual profanity and the nature in which it addresses women. However, Eazy E clarified in an interview that the song does not generalize all women but rather about “someone who does scandalous things to you.”
MC Ren continues to drop bars about being strapped with AK47’s and other automatic weapons that he thinks are needed to survive in this community. Ren explains that to ‘jack’ someone is to rob them. He throws hints at the police who are legally allowed to carry guns and use them for their personal and racial goals.
Eazy E joins the infamous track “Straight Outta Compton” to drop his ‘street knowledge’ on society. He calls himself a ‘dangerous MF’ who raises hell. He continues to rap about his prowess in the streets and the injustice they face on a daily basis due to their skin colour. But he is smart enough to lay low when necessary, but also not afraid to face them head-on if needed. Eazy says that the police have been after him for so long but they never ‘seize’ him.
Eazy E faced a lot of hot water for his remarks on “b*tches” on this song. NBC went on to interview him about the controversial lyrics of the song and the other tracks.
Easy E, too, sums up his life in this verse. Basically, he is ‘ruthless’ that paved the way to his record label named the same. He calls this verse an ‘autobiography’ of the E. Eazy E passed away due to AIDS in 1995. RIP!
The formation of the hip hop group N.W.A., their music, struggles with the law and public image, and the final days of Eazy E are portrayed perfectly in the box office hit movie ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (IMDb) released in 2015.
What do you think about “Straight Outta Compton” track by N.W.A.? Is gangsta rap your cup of tea? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out the complete lyrics and further meaning analysis on Genius.