*** N.W.A. "100 Miles and Runnin' " Ruthless/Priority mini-album : Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic). :

One thing about the controversy surrounding rock 'n' roll--it's lent a certain verisimilitude to the paranoia that's been a feature of the music from the earliest Delta blues masters up through Axl Rose and beyond.

So when Chuck D rapped just two years ago about being imprisoned for draft evasion, it was pure fantasy. When N.W.A. rap about running from the FBI on the title track here, it's also fantasy--but an action-movie fantasy tinged with truth, and the song stings like a slap. An FBI official actually condemned some of the group's music last year.

This four-song mini-album is the first music from N.W.A. since '89, and many people were predicting the group would founder without its best lyricist, Ice Cube, who left to record a solo album this year.

Both new Ice Cube and N.W.A.'s records seem to lack the loose, merry banter that made last year's "Straight Outta Compton" so infectious. (An unfunny ode to oral sex and an answer song about the controversy around the notorious "---- Tha Police" could be sharper.)

But N.W.A.'s Dr. Dre is still the best producer in rap, Eazy-E and MC Ren are fine rappers, and if you sometimes cringe at the dumbness of the words--and you will--chances are you'll be voting with your feet.

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