Straight Outta Compton
Coming hard on the heels of 1987’s excoriating “Dopeman” 12-inch, and Eazy-E’s career defining hustler narrative “Boyz-n-the Hood,” Straight Outta Compton was the album that would turn N.W.A. from a local phenomenon into a nationally feared public menace. Dre’s simple, but impeccably equalized production, Ice Cube’s powerhouse flow and incipient Black radicalism, Eazy’s sneering nihilism, and MC Ren’s stolid ice grill turned the hip-hop world on its ear, swiftly shifting the focus of the hip-hop universe 3000 miles west and leaving old-school West Coast heads wondering where they went wrong. The adrenaline surge of the title track, the blaring sirens of “Fuck tha Police,” and the roughshod drums of “Gangsta Gangsta” comprise one of the most bracing opening sequences in music history, and if what follows fails to live up to the impossibly high standards set by these tracks, it is only a testament to their lasting power. Relentlessly violent and willfully outrageous, Straight Outta Compton arose from Los Angeles’ sprawling swap meets and dilapidated suburbs like a biblical plague, serving warning to all that hip-hop could no longer be ignored by the musical mainstream. Straight Outta Compton still retains its power to shock, delight, and enlighten. Ignore it at your peril.