Niggers with Attitude

The initials stand for Niggers With Attitude, which was the perfect
embodiment 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) and
Eazy-E (b. Eric Wright, 7 September 1963, Compton, California, USA, d. 26
March 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, departed
for a solo career after financial differences with the band’s manager
(which would later be recorded in a highly provocative song that attacked
him for, amongst other things, being Jewish). However, all the band’s
members had long CVs: Dr. Dre had DJed for World Class Wreckin’ Crew, and
had produced Ice Cube’s first band, CIA. Both Eazy-E and DJ Yella had
recorded and produced several rap discs under their own names, the former
funding 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 lyrical
territory as guns, violence and “bitches’. Though N.W.A. And The Posse was
their debut album, they only performed four of the raps on it, and to all
intents and purposes, Straight Outta Compton counts as their first major
release. For those attracted to the gangsta rappers first time round, this
was 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 a
black militancy redolent of Malcolm X, albeit much less focused and
reasoned. In 1989, the FBI investigated Straight Outta Compton”s infamous
“Fuck Tha Police”, after which Ice Cube left the group. It set a precedent
for numerous actions against N.W.A., including the first time anyone in the
music industry had received a threatening letter from the FBI. Efil4zaggin
(Niggaz4life spelt backwards), which made US number 1, also surpassed the
outrage factor of its predecessor by addressing gang rape and paedophilia,
in addition to the established agenda of oral sex, cop killing and
prostitution. Musically, it contained furious blasts of raggamuffin and 70s
funk, but that was somehow secondary. It did reveal some humour in the
band, i.e., on “Don’t Drink That Wine” (which jokingly encourages drug
abuse 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 nigger
this nigger that, In the meanwhile my pockets are getting fat.’ However,
such wit was stretched paper-thin over a clutch of expletives and
obscenities. The UK government used the Obscene Publications Act to seize
copies but were forced to return them following legal action. Ultimately
the BPI withdrew their support from Island Marketing’s successful action.

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

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