February 10, 2008

N.W.A. - N.W.A. and The Posse (November 6, 1987)


N.W.A., or N----z With Attitude as their mothers called them, were a merry band of happy-go-lucky young men from the city of Compton, California, who just so happened to both change the face of hip hop and shift the audience's focus from the genre's birthplace of New York to the West Coast. Although there is still some controversy as to whether they actually invented the sub-genre 'gangsta rap' (I'm leaning toward not so much), there's no question that they packaged that material for the widest possible consumption, all while remaining uncompromising in their beliefs, and they were rewarded with massive record sales, street credibility, and a place in hip hop history; the mere fact that rap fans that were born sometime in the nineties actually know who these guys are is proof positive of that, although their roles in the game have shifted somewhat (Are We Done Yet?, anyone?).

Their first release, N.W.A and The Posse, beat the group's "true" debut, Straight Outta Compton, to the shelves by one year. The group had a distribution deal with Macola Records at the time, and while they were touring their hit singles, they discovered that their shady record label packaged together their singles, along with some other random songs that were either unfinished thoughts or older tracks recorded in the same booths but not actually from the group itself, and released the "album" without the group's authorization. The group was understandibly pissed off, but this was no JT The Bigga Figga/The Game situation, where JT released The Game's early recordings as a way to earn some extra money off of the interest Jayceon Taylor spawned from getting signed to (ironically) Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records. Oh, no, this crisis was seemingly averted as N.W.A. and The Posse sold over five hundred thousand copies, earning the group a gold plaque from the RIAA; as such, the tour started capitalizing off of the success of the disc, but N.W.A. (and their label, Ruthless Records, headed up by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller) slowly and carefully extracted themselves from their distribution contract with Macola and set themselves up with Priority Records, which would bring about its own problems, but we'll get to those later.

N.W.A. and The Posse is best known to me as the album whose cover makes it look like N.W.A. consisted of seven hundred members, including The Professor and Mary Ann. In truth, the album, which consists of only eleven tracks, only contains three actual N.W.A. songs (bumped up to four on the Priority/Ruthless re-release in 1989, which is the version I have); the rest of the disc is made up of some Eazy-E solo material and songs from the Fila Fresh Crew (a group that was also signed to Ruthless/Macola, and featured future N.W.A. songwriter The D.O.C.). (I suppose this is how Macola avoided false advertising charges, by referring to the album as being presented by N.W.A. and their posse, but I digress. I also have to say, poor Andre Young, getting fucked over on every record label he ever was signed to, before he started his own: that's some bad luck right there, but you just know that same thing is happening to the majority of the rappers signed today.) The common thread of the album is that every song, believe it or not, was produced by Dr. Dre, since he was essentially the in-house Ruthless producer for everyone they signed, not unlike what Mannie Fresh used to do for Cash Money Records before he decided that quality trumps quantity every time.

For the record, the majority of the people on the album cover are not in N.W.A. The group officially consisted of Andre Young (Dr. Dre, future famed neurosurgeon and part-time gynecologist), O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube, main songwriter and future actor, who would find success doing fucking kids movies), the late Eric Wright (Eazy-E, drug dealer-slash-money man and semi-successful record label owner, who succumbed to an illness provoked by AIDS in 1995), Lorenzo Patterson (MC Ren, songwriter and future assistant manager of Carl's Jr, and the guy that doesn't even really appear on this album), Mik Lezan (Arabian Prince...sorry, I got nothing), and Antoine Carraby (DJ Yella, the group's second DJ next to Dr. Dre, and the only one to remain loyal to Eazy-E when the shit went down later on). Everyone except for Yella appear in the group shot, which doesn't really make sense, since Ren was the last member to be added to the group, but that's how it goes.

1. BOYZ-N-THE-HOOD
The version that Eazy put on his solo album is a remix of this song. There are only minor differences between this song and its more successful remix, but this version pales in comparison, although it's still pretty decent. (Does that sound hypocritical or what?) Apparently Dr. Dre's perfectionist gene was prevalent even in the late 1980's, as he tinkered with this and two of the "true" N.W.A. songs before their official release on Eazy-Duz-It and Straight Outta Compton, respectively.

2. 8 BALL
The first N.W.A. track, which would also see itself remixed before the next disc. Maybe it's just me, but the Beastie Boys influence seems even more obvious on the original version.

3. DUNK THE FUNK
Fila Fresh Crew, not The World's Most Dangerous Group. This sounds okay, but extremely dated, and would probably be the first song you would outright skip if you were to ever actually sit down with the album.

4. A BITCH IZ A BITCH
Not bad for what it is (ostensibly a song calling out bitches, but advising listeners on the differenences between women and bitches, so as not to piss off half of the world's population), although I feel J-Zone had a better feel for the material later on. On the original Macola vinyl pressing, this track was actually Rappinstine's "Scream", which I have never actually heard, so I can't have an opinion one way or the other, but the name of the group itself is pretty amusing to me. When Priority/Ruthless re-released the album in CD format in 1989, they put "A Bitch Iz A Bitch" in its place, in an effort to trick people into buying more records. ("A Bitch Iz A Bitch" was originally the B-side for "Express Yourself", a single that was released two years from the date this album dropped, which makes this song a gift from the future!)

5. DRINK IT UP
Even though this is Fila Fresh Crew and not N.W.A., this song is still a questionable inclusion. It both samples and imitates the pattern of the Top Notes's "Twist and Shout", although since it is heavily influenced by the Isley Brothers's version of the song, I suppose we should all appreciate Dre's vision. (Perhaps you can do that, but I'll pass.) The only thing that amuses me about this song is picturing Ferris Bueller rapping this song on the float instead of The Beatles's version of "Twist and Shout": now that brings a smile to my face.

6. PANIC ZONE
I actually love this song. This is the only appearance by Arabian Prince, the sometime member of N.W.A. that was essentially forced out after their focus shifted from ripping off Afrika Bambaataa to straight-up gangsta rap music, motherfuckers! Since I happen to like some electro-tinged hip hop, this song has earned a spot on my playlist, although the mere fact that this is a true song by N.W.A. (there was a single released and everything) and not by some no-name group like Rappinstine blows my mind.

7. L.A. IS THE PLACE
Eazy-E and beatboxer Ron-De-Vu present the first of their two collaborations, on which the music overshadows the sparse rapping (mixing problems in the studio, Andre?). While this song doesn't make me want to avoid Los Angeles, it doesn't act as an appealing travelogue, either.

8. DOPEMAN
The final N.W.A. song, of which every single fan of the group has heard its remix. While this is a pretty decent song, it's representative of the identity crisis the group was facing during its inception: make songs to dance to, or make songs intended to point out the real problems of their society? Eventually, they would make their choice, but if you plan on skipping around to only hear N.W.A.'s tracks, you'll be thrown for a loop if this is sequenced right after "Panic Zone". This song also features the first recorded vocal collaboration between Cube, Dre, and Eazy.

9. TUFFEST MAN ALIVE
This is actually the title track of Fila Fresh Crew's debut album, which was to see its release one year later. It's not bad, but there is no way this type of rap music would sell in a world dominated by ringtone rappers.

10. FAT GIRL
Eazy-E and Ron-De-Vu contribute this lame-ass song that is too juvenile to ever be taken seriously. Some of Eazy's storytelling on other songs is pretty good (it helps that he never wrote his own material), but this song can only be considered a practical joke on everyone that bought this album, or, if I'm feeling less harsh, a studio outtake that Eazy recorded as a goof but never intended for release, which is probably closer to the truth.

11. 3 THE HARD WAY
Not an N.W.A. song. This abomination can only be attributed to the Fila Fresh Crew, and it sounds as dull as an eighty-six year old butter knife.

FINAL THOUGHTS: N.W.A. and The Posse is for completists only, which is to say, for people that have made it their life's mission to track down every single song that Andre Young has ever recorded and produced. It's unfair to call it disjointed and unfocused, since it's just a compilation of singles, but any of the five hundred thousand people that bought this crap should be pissed off at the false advertising. It's also unfair to call it "crap", since the actual N.W.A. songs are pretty good, but I feel that you get my point. Luckily for us, N.W.A. soon ended their tour and quickly recorded their official debut, which was controversial for completely different reasons that have nothing to do with distribution; we'll get into that as my schedule permits.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this shit, but only if you absolutely positively have to. Anything that is marketed as an "album" (not an "EP") but only features four songs by the artists the disc is attributed to automatically doesn't deserve your money. Other than "Panic Zone", the other N.W.A. songs can be found (in the case of two of the three songs, in superior remixed versions) elsewhere pretty easily. As I wrote above, this disc is for completists only.

BEST TRACKS: "Panic Zone"

-Max

8 comments:

  1. I'm from the West Coast, and even I'll admit that Schoolly D and possibly Kool G Rap should be accredited with gangsta rap's Godfather status. Throw Ice-T in there as well, of course.

    Great review; definitely a "completist" album.

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  2. This "album" was at one point the bane of my existence during my young 5 Percenter days.

    One.

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  3. I loved Fat Girl and hated Panic Zone back in the day. Then again, I was about 14 when I first head those songs.

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  4. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessFebruary 20, 2008

    Remember when you said that you were going to be reviewing The Chronic soon? That would be pretty cool. I think 2001 holds up much better but the first album changed everything for me and my fellow 15 year olds when it dropped.

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  5. Who is the white dude?

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  6. "DJ Yella, the group's second DJ next to Dr. Dre, and the only one to remain loyal to Eazy-E when the shit went down later on"

    What about Ren?

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  7. thank u! what about ren? this guy that wrote this is a dumb ass.

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  8. The "white guy," Krazy Dee, was actually an original Latino (Mexican) NWA member that hailed from Huntington Park, California. He was a close friend of Eazy E, as they both dealt drugs together. He is actually credited with writing NWA's first official single "Panic Zone," which was originally named "Hispanic Zone" until Dr. Dre convinced him to change the name to a more marketable title. Krazy Dee is also shouted out by NWA in the track "8 Ball." Conclusion, here we have another exemplary exhibition of Latinos & Blacks getting along (vibing) - which was very prevalent in Los Angeles's many ghettos since they bother inhabited the same poor areas.

    Sources: http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/2010/03/krazy_d_what_happened_after_nw.php
    http://www.askmen.com/daily/austin_150/182d_fashion_style.html
    http://www.laweekly.com/2010-05-06/music/whatever-happened-to-n-w-a-s-posse/

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