N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton: 20th Anniversary Edition
Has it really been 20 years since N.W.A. released Straight Outta Compton?
We’re often told about the album’s impact, but, really… what was it? Gangsta rap, as a genre, has been relegated to the fringes of the industry. You can count the number of currently established West Coast acts on one hand. And, most telling, the supposed societal influence of the group was unquestionably overstated.
Now, that’s not to say that every rap fan shouldn’t have a copy of this album in their library. It most certainly remains an important album and that’s more than most music can ever hope to be.
The recognizable bombast from “Straight Outta Compton” has maintained most of its original explosiveness—even if, lyrically, it’s as rudimentary as it gets. Say what you will about “F*ck Tha Police” and its incendiary message, but I remember the uproar it caused when it first dropped and its deserved place in the country’s dialogue then and now.
“Gangsta Gangsta” and “Dopeman” are still fun takes on material that has since become well-trod territory for every act’s attempt to appear “hard”. While, I’ll grant you that “Something 2 Dance 2” and “Quiet on the Set” are as out of place now as they were in 1988, at least you can just skip past them. Back in my day, we had to fast forward the tape and flip it over.
This 20th Anniversary Edition also includes five bonus tracks. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s spin on “F*ck Tha Police” (from 1997’s In The Beginning…There Was Rap cover album) is actually pretty good—the group slows down most of their usually frenetic flow and humbly pays tribute to their late mentor.
Snoop Dogg and C-Murder redo “Gangsta Gangsta” (from Snoop’s otherwise execrable No Limit Records debut) and it ain’t bad, either. Former Westside Connection co-conspirators Mack 10 and WC offer up equally acceptable attempts on “Dopeman” and “If It Ain’t Ruff”.
20 years later, N.W.A. is still one of the most recognizable names in music history. Their material doesn’t always seem worthy of such adulation, though. If you’ve never heard the whole album this might be worth picking up, but be forewarned—it isn’t nearly as timeless as you’ve been told.