The World’s Most Dangerous Group(s)
It’d be almost impossible to explain to someone under the age of 25 the impact NWA had on not just hip hop but on popular culture as a whole. There’s an analogy i heard long ago that says in regards to Gangsta Rap, “Schooly D started it, Ice T took it and NWA perfected it”, I see this as largely true. You could split hairs between Schooly’s P.S.K. and possibly Boogie Down Production’s 9mm Goes Bang as to where it all began but for the most part what we’ve come to know as Gangsta Rap can be traced back to Eazy E’s drug money and foresight, Ice Cube’s penmanship and Dr. Dre’s production. That combination of characters and talents altered the course of popular music and in turn culture, the left coast’s dominance of rap started here. Raiders caps, Menace 2 Society, The Chronic, Death Row Records, Friday were all born out of NWA’s initial energy. They were the ripple that created the cultural wave of “gangsta” be it music, movie, magazine or fashion.
My mum hated NWA and i mean HATED, which made me want to listen to them all the more! First you have to understand the era. It was the begining of the 90’s and i was discovering the plethora of hip hop music that was available to me, but not THAT available to me. I was 9 or 10 and blessed with older cousins that i spent a lot of time around, these cousins of mine were into graffiti, crime and rap music – not in that order. Flicking through their records, cassettes and handful of cd’s (which were still quite expensive at the time in comparison to cassettes), I’d discover EPMD, BDP, Public Enemy, Run DMC, 2 Live Crew, Jungle Brothers, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J… You get where i’m going here.
Every other week when it was time to go to Aunty Catherine’s i’d sticky tape over my mum’s Air Supply or Billy Joel tapes – dad’s Gerry & The Pacemakers tape too from memory – so i could fill them with this crazy noise that was just beginning to catch a lot of fire in the media and popular press. This was a time when my very working class parents’ entire understanding of African American culture was drawn from a few Motown tracks and The Cosby Show, they knew not of this burgeoning phenomena that was entering their home. A year or two later when i cut pictures of the LA Riots out of the newspaper and stuck them on my walls they were mortified. The same year i was almost kicked out of my primary school for reciting the chorus to Fuck The Police in front of the police. Well, maybe not exactly in front of them but it was loud enough and within the earshot of my principle who was standing next to the blokes in blue who were there for an assembly.
Ma dukes wasn’t happy with me that day and her first course of disciplinary action was to take all my tapes off me, she hit me where it hurt. Of course i found out where she’d stashed them pretty quickly and in no time i was grabbing them out one at a time, exiting the house and bumping them in my walkman. I was a fiend before i became a teen. There was an inexplicable danger to rap music at the time, i can’t explain or pinpoint what it was but it was exciting and every release seemed different and dynamic to my young mind. It was a rare day you’d find me in the school library doing school work but you could find me trying to look up whatever it was Chuck D was talking about in that song i’d been listening to earlier. This was before internet, this was the dewie decimal system so you know i never found those answers and all that did was make me so much hungrier to find them.
I credit NWA and Public Enemy as being more than music, they were a cultural phenomena that became a movement for young impressionable urban males of the period. They gave kids my age from all social advantages and backgrounds an aggressive and welcome alternative to Guns N Roses and whatever else was clogging up the pop charts. The message wasn’t anti-white but it was definitely pro-black and against the white power structure, which still very much exists today. They were a glimpse into the inherent state of urban decay existing in their respective communities, they were strong and commanding voices speaking out against “the man” and biased oppressor be it law, government or school… Thats probably why i laugh when i see teenagers wearing PE shirts these days and not on some arrogant older dude shit either, i understand that it’s fashion, it’s chic or kitchy to be a teen in a Public Enemy or Run DMC shirt purchased from Kmart, which is fine i suppose, kinda.
Still, when i see them, i wanna run up on them and quiz them about Rebel Without A Pause or Bring The Noise or what they thought of the Bomb Squad’s production on Cube’s first album, did they go peep a Spike Lee joint after hearing Burn Hollywood Burn?!?! I want them to know that the logos emblazoned across thier young frames were once synonymous with danger and were an outright FUCK YOU to mainstream society. I’m sure that if quizzed the answer would inevitably be, “meh, whatever.. lol”.
Maybe this is just what getting old is. That’s word to John Connor, he knew what was up.