At the height of their fame in the late 1980s, N.W.A., or Niggaz With Attitudes, were also referred to as “The World’s Most Dangerous Group.” Their influence over a young generation was unparalleled. The young hip hop group –which launched the careers of artists like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, both original members–used gangsta rap music and hardcore beats to voice their frustration with police brutality and protest the violent and harsh reality of living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America: Compton, California. Their lyrics were the most powerful weapon they had.
F*** the police comin straight from the underground
A young n**** got it bad cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
they have the authority to kill a minority
(lyrics from F*** Tha Police)
“If you wear a hat and a T-shirt they automatically think you’re a gang member,” N.W.A. member M.C. Ren told the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1989. “And if you wear a pager they automatically think you’re a drug dealer,” added Eazy-E, a former drug dealer turned rapper who later died of AIDS years after the group broke up.
N.W.A’s music remains relevant today, and the group is now the subject of a new film that borrows its title from their 1988 debut album, Straight Outta Compton.
“The more things change the more they stay the same,” musician and actor Ice Cube told Fusion, referring to the recent headlines on police shootings and police misconduct.
Ice Cube was one of the producers behind the biopic, which takes viewers back to where it all started for N.W.A. and includes the stories of other artists like Snoop Dog and Tupac who also played a large role in hip hop’s founding years.
“We just felt like this was the right timing,” Ice Cube says about the film, in theaters on August 14.
“It’s American history,” said director F. Gary Gray, the director behind films like Friday and The Italian Job. “They changed the world with their music and they were just young guys. And so their influence still impacts entertainment today. We don’t want people to think it’s just this serious documentary about the police or however it works out. It’s not just about hip hop. It transcends race. It transcends hip hop.”