Artist and Musician Biographies


Nere is NWA performing "Straight Outta Compton."

NWA was a short lived (1986-1991) rap band from the Compton district in Los Angeles who are credited by many with inventing gangsta rap. Taking advantage of Public Enemy's innovative sounds, while tossing the revolutionary messages, NWA captured the self-indulgent criminal life of gangs, drugs and violence in the Southern California slums with all of its profanity. In doing so, they became one of the most notorious groups in the history of rap, with work that advocated not only violence but also a particularly nasty brand of sexism. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, they set the stage for gangsta rap and their influence has been lasting.

NWA was formed by Eazy-E (Eric Wright) who used his profits from drug dealing to build his own record company, Ruthless Records. Easy-E was born in 1964 and died in 1995. He developed his rap empire by securing successful rap artists such as Dr. Dre (born Andre Young in 1965) and Ice Cube (born O'Shea Jackson in 1969). With Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, Eazy-E formed NWA, an acronym for Niggaz with Attitude in 1986. To this line up he added DJ Yella (born Antoine Carraby in 1967), Arabian Prince, and the D.O.C. The group released their first album, NWA and the Posse in 1987, which was a mostly ignored party-oriented jam.

The following year, the group reorganized with MC-Ren (born Lorenzo Patterson in 1966) being added to the team. Now the group consisting of Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC-Ren developed a new sound, which brought in many of the loud, extreme sonic innovations of Public Enemy while adopting a self consciously violent and dangerous lyrical stance.

In 1988, NWA released their album, Straight Outta Compton, a brutally intense record that became an underground hit without any support from the radio, or MTV. This album made NWA known for their hardcore lyrics, especially those of "Fuck Tha Police", which was condemned by the Fraternal Order of Police and FBI. This negative attention worked in their favor as it brought the album to multi-platinum status.

Although NWA tasted success, Ice Cube left the group in 1989 over financial disagreements. A nasty feud between NWA and Ice Cube began that would culminate with Ice Cube's "No Vaseline," an attack on the group's management released on his 1991, Death Certificate album.

Over the next two years, NWA was dominated by Eazy-E's near satirical lyrics and Dr. Dre's increasingly subtle and complex productions. NWA released the EP, 100 Miles and Runnin in 1990 along with the album, Efil4zaggin (Niggaz4life) spelled backwards. The album upset many critics and conservative watchdogs with its absurdly violent lyrics. However the criticism led to an increase in the groups predominantly male, white suburban audience.

Dr. Dre then left the group due to conflicting egos and what he perceived as an unfair record deal. He went to form Death Row Records with Suge Knight in early 1992 and has become one of the most influential rapper/producers of the last decade.

Over the next few years, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E engaged in a highly publicized quarrel, which included both rappers attacking each other on their respective solo albums. While this was going on, DJ Yella and MC-Ren fell into obscurity. Eazy-E continued to record albums until his tragic death from AIDS in March 1995.

Although the group was short lived, the influence from their funky, bass driven beats to their overstated, blunt lyrics was powerfully evident throughout the 1990s. For the long term, Gangsta Rap established itself as the most popular form of hip-hop during the mid 1990s, triumphing over the socially conscious hip-hop of groups like Public Enemy.

Both Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have gone to successful and influential solo careers.

Page author: L.C. & C.F.