Rappers had flirted with hardcore themes and street violence before — Schooly-D’s “PSK (What Does it Mean?),” “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions — but Straight Outta Compton was the hip-hop shot heard ’round the world. Almost twenty years later, virtually all gangsta rap remains a response to or an elaboration of this one album. N.W.A’s name — that’s short for “Niggaz with Attitude,” in case you forgot — was the first sign that this was no ordinary group. From “F— tha Police” (which earned them a warning letter from the FBI) to “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Dopeman,” Dr. Dre’s jittery, cinematic production was matched by Ice Cube’s unflinching ghetto reportage. Add in group founder Eazy-E’s oddly menacing high-pitched snarl, and support from MC Ren and DJ Yella and it made for a true gang-bangin’ all-star team. One of the most controversial albums ever released, and one of the most influential.
Next Stop Making Sense