OF THE MANY BIG BANGS that have transformed rap over the decades, N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton” is one of the loudest.
It was a sonic Molotov cocktail that ignited a firestorm when it debuted in the summer of 1988. Steered by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s dark production and Ice Cube and MC Ren’s striking rhymes, then brought to life by Eazy-E’s wicked charm, the record fused the bombastic sonics of Public Enemy’s production with vicious lyrics that were revolutionary or perverse, depending on whom you asked.
The world hadn’t heard anything like it before. Radio stations and MTV refused to add the title song to their playlists. Critics didn’t get it, couldn’t see past the language, or, worse, refused to acknowledge it as music. Politicians even launched attacks, going to great lengths to condemn the music and its creators.