Because N.W.A. is as popular again as ever before thanks to Straight Outta Compton, I thought it’s a good time to go back to my own feelings about their music. I was somewhat surprised to see I had written about their first album already (which I had forgotten, I guess that happens after 250+ posts), so today I look at the far more problematic 2nd (or 3rd, depending on what you consider 100 Miles and Runnin’ to be) album Niggaz4Life (or technically Efil4zaggin), released in 1991. It is also their last album and, as more or less shown in the movie, was not as much of a team effort as their debut.
What I Remember: This is the first album I knew by N.W.A., probably because it was released when I was listening to hip-hop and rap already. I liked it, I guess, but was also amused and fascinated by its contents of violence and sexism. It seemed really outrageous to me at the time and even the cover where the (remaining) members floated around like ghosts seemed intriguing and weird. It also seemed to have some of the political aspects I knew from other music but there always was this other side, like this sex song (I can’t think of the name right now) that was extremely silly in its content and its music. Weren’t there also jokes about shooting prostitutes? I really haven’t listened to it in a long time. But I think I remember that I liked the first half of the album more than the second half.
What I say now: The Prelude has a nice enough beat but lyrically is pretty forgettable, just saying they are the best, they are “real” and others just make stupid love songs.
Real Niggaz is a good song to listen to, the music is strong and aggressive. The lyrics are mostly great too, they show real anger about racism and the police, especially in the first verse. Eazy-E’s verse is heavier on the violence and revenge part, but all in all this is a strong song, especially considering its release two months after the Rodney King incident. I like it more than the whole Straight Outta Compton album. With a song like that I find the use of violence as an expression of frustration and harassment totally acceptable.
Niggaz4Life, the titular track deals with the use of the word “nigga” as they have been criticized for using it. Their arguments aren’t always the strongest (because of their dicks), but still this is politically strong enough and important, because it shows them claiming the word for themselves so it can’t be used against them. It deals with racism and police harassment again and while it’s musically not exciting, it still works well enough. And I guess you just have to accept that Eazy-E is harder to take seriously than the others.
Appetite for Destruction continues the strong musical streak of the album but is weaker lyrically because it’s mostly more anger and violence bragging. It’s not too excessive and even Eazy-E has a nice line saying “Fuck any brainwashing man-made law”.
Alwayz Into Somethin’ is a slower track where the music is very similar to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic in later years. The lyrics are neither here nor there, not too problematic but also not very substantial. It’s a laidback track that toys with reggae and G-Funk and is somewhat soothing after all the anger.
The next song is called Real Niggaz so you can’t credit them for being inventive when it comes to song titles. It’s mostly a diss track to everyone and especially to Ice Cube, so the lyrics are kind of boring while the music is okay. I can’t help but feel that they’re slowly losing steam.
Well, and then we get to the ugly part. It starts with an interlude called To Kill a Hooker, followed by One Less Bitch a song that details killing women. There is a “story” behind each of them but it’s all equally awful. Eazy-E, who doesn’t provide a verse here, sums up the song by saying
In reality, a fool is one who believes that all women are ladies
A nigga is one who believes that all ladies are bitches
And all bitches are created equal
To me, all bitches are the same
Money-hungry, scandalous groupie hoes
That's always ridin' on a nigga's dick, always in a nigga's pocket
And when the nigga runs out of money the bitch is gone in the wind
To me, all bitches ain’t shit
There is no sugarcoating here, this is simply terrible. It is made worse by making it sound like they have some profound truths and wisdom about women to share. But it’s just dumb, sexist, inexcusable bullshit. And it's just the start.
The next song is called Findum, Fuckum and Flee. That’s the sex song I remember because for an 11-year-old boy this was really outrageous. I didn’t really buy into their treatment of women and again, I know that I found all of this ridiculous but it was also fascinating. You didn’t hear anyone talk about sex this way, even if it was extremely demeaning. It’s hard to listen to now because they really celebrate their misogyny. It’s just… ugh.
And then comes Automobile, which I really didn’t get because it has the silliest music and strange singing, telling more stories about “bitches and hos”. We laughed about it and we didn’t get it. And there isn’t much to get. It’s the third song in a row that shows them making fun of women and bragging about their dicks. Why? Frustration and anger now channeled into misogyny? I don’t really care anymore.
But it’s not over yet. The next song is called She Swallowed It. Do I even have to talk about it? No, I don’t want to. More of the same. The next song is called I’d Rather Fuck You and it starts out with smoking weed which is exactly what it sounds like. The more the sexism continues the slower the album gets. It’s terrible, really.
Next Approach to Danger moves back to the violence and gangsta rap but this sounds like a weaker version of Appetite for Destruction and doesn’t fit after all the sexist crap. The album closes with The Dayz of Wayback, another weed-inspired slow song that will barely keep you awake.
After listening to it, I remember the letdown I always felt after getting through the whole album. The first half charges you with energy and anger at the state of things while the second half wears you down with relentless childish sex lyrics and G-Funk weed sounds. The first half stands up really well, I think, and is something I wouldn’t feel ashamed still listening to. The second half is some of the worst rap music I had to re-listen to. It is a reminder of the misogyny problem still plaguing hip-hop today and of the way sexism wants to be forgotten in the Straight Outta Compton movie.