Amid the long awaited release of the Straight Outta Compton biopic chronicling the rise and fall of the rap group N.W.A – there’s a lot of talk about fear of the movie inciting riots, glorifying violence and domestic abuse, as well as encouraging more distrust in law enforcement.
As the film will likely shine a spotlight on those situations as they are relevant to the N.W.A. era, the story is mostly important because of the racial barriers N.W.A broke and groundbreaking lyrics they introduced.
Ultimately, it’s music that made N.W.A revolutionary and music has been a key tool used to evoke emotion, unearth truths, bring people together and expose injustice even long before N.W.A. and especially after.
N.W.A. was not the first to talk about violence, sex, street life or use the n-word in music, but what separates them from other artists is that they were unapologetic for the lives they led and they didn’t just lay it out as, “here’s what’s going on in the hood,” they told us why with no shame.
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N.W.A changed the face of rap music, opening the door for other rap artists who are revered today for their bold, honest lyrics.
As Dr. Dre said in the 1999 hit Forgot About Dre in reference to N.W.A's influence, “Who you think brought you the O.G.s, Eazy-Es, Ice Cube, and The D.O.C.s, the Snoop Dogg, and the group that said 'Motherf**k the police?"
The list of artists inspired by N.W.A goes on and on and these seven high-ranking rappers are no exception.
An unapologetic artist who reached his peak after N.W.A. disbanded and was also not afraid to speak out against mistreatment of Black people living in poverty by the criminal justice system and the government in addition to explicit content about sex, violence and drugs.
Many of Biggie's lyrics reflected upon his time as a drug dealer trying to help his single mother make ends meet, in expressing his experiences he too shed a spotlight on the criminal lifestyle that many young Black men are pushed toward.
3) Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg made his way into the rap game as Dr. Dre's protégé . He grew up in Long Beach, CA in a similar environment to Compton — the hometown of N.W.A's members — and further exposed the same struggles that N.W.A highlighted in their music.
Another of Dr. Dre's protégés who reinforced the known fact that N.W.A's music didn't just resonate with a Black audience. Furthermore, Eminem made headlines for his vulgar lyrics that seemed to glorify domestic violence, rape and drug use — not unlike N.W.A. — but was really a form of expression unveiling the troubling times he faced throughout his own life.
5) The Game
The Game's NWA tattoo says it all. The rapper has always cited the group as his biggest influence to pursue a rap career, especially also being from Compton and having a personal connection to N.W.A's lyrics because he, too, lived it.
6) 50 Cent
Similar to the other artists on this list, 50 cent wrote lyrics about his life experiences involving crime and violence to propel his rap career and in the Hate it or Love it music video with him and The Game, there's a profound scene of two boys — portraying younger versions of the rappers — spray painting "N.W.A" on a wall resulting in getting arrested.
50 cent also took note of how N.W.A members like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube became businessmen and hip hop moguls to become one in his own right, as well.
7) Kendrick Lamar
Another Compton rapper of today's generation who is able to openly express himself through music and spread a conscious message while still using hard hitting beats and explicit lyrics — in a similar way that N.W.A. did — but faces less scrutiny because of the precedent set by the many artists that came before him who were also influenced by N.W.A.