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N.W.A. may not have invented gangsta rap, but their brash, unapologetic approach to hip-hop made them innovators and one of the industry's most controversial groups ever. They formed in 1987 when Compton drug dealer-turned-rap mogul Eazy-E recruited Dr. Dre, a producer and DJ from World Class Wreckin' Cru, and rapper Ice Cube to write songs like "Boyz-n-the-Hood" for Eazy's label, Ruthless Records. The trio formed N.W.A.—Ni**az With Attitude––with Arabian Prince, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. They got their feet wet with their debut, N.W.A. and the Posse, but their 1988 follow-up, Straight Outta Compton, changed the game. They lived up to their billing as the World's Most Dangerous Group: Their lyrics (written by Cube, Ren, and Ruthless signee The D.O.C.) on songs like "Dopeman" and "Gangsta Gangsta" were misogynistic, violent, and lewd, while the battle cry "F*ck tha Police" still rings out for its fearless rebellion against racial profiling and police brutality. They dealt with warning letters from the FBI and countless protests, but their skills and star power were undeniable. Eazy's nasal voice, Cube's brawny baritone, and Dre and Yella's funky production fascinated, offended, and inspired—a template that future gangsta rappers would follow for decades after them. But the group's founding roster was short-lived. Contract issues led to the group's end in 1991, and Eazy-E died of complications from AIDS in 1995. Despite a relatively short run as a group, N.W.A.'s legacy lives on through 2015's Straight Outta Compton biopic and their 2016 induction into the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame.
- Los Angeles, CA, United States