As I sifted through the NWA lyrics I tried to find what about it we should consider useful or literary. While sometimes I went through entire tracks shaking my head (“Ain’t tha 1”? Part hilarious, part just plain horrible) the number of discussable lines exceeded my expectations.
“From a kid to a G it's all about money”
This idea, expressed as a line in “Dope Man”, is a recurring theme in both Straight Outta’ Compton and The Wire, and if you extend it broader, to Highway 61 as well. All three works deal with the idea of people being products of their environments, and America’s material society forcing people into roles. And in Straight Outta Compton and The Wire, we also see how inner city youth are forced into crime because they have no other option.
But to get back to my original intent of focusing on Straight Outta’ Compton, one thing I recurrently noticed was N.W.A.’s rejection of the material splendor that is the subject of so many stupid, stupid, recent rap songs (Let me buy you a drank?). Even in the middle of the brutal objectification that is “Ain’t tha 1” Ice Cube offers “You shouldn't be, so damn material/And try to milk Ice Cube like cereal”. Assuming that the first line wasn’t added solely to rhyme with cereal, Ice cube reveals that he is actually arguing against the material nature of the world he finds himself in. And when Dr. Dre adds “But chu know it ain't all about wealth/As long as you make a note to, express yourself”, we see that indeed, N.W.A. seems to be the antithesis of what much of rap today is about. Sure they’re cocky and seem to have about 15 different words to rhyme with “gat”, but they’re actually trying to send an artistic message, in their own way. They argue against the way our material society puts focus on what makes money rather than what is new and original, which is in itself, a refreshingly new and original topic for rap, even 21 years later.