December 17, 2008

N.W.A. - Efil4zaggin (May 28, 1991)


Even though founding father Ice Cube left N.W.A. after the release of their true debut album, Straight Outta Compton (a disc that O'Shea wrote the majority of, although he was never properly compensated for his work), the remaining members (Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella) didn't seem to be altogether shaken up by the loss. Other than the fact that Dre started taking to the mic more often after Cube's departure, N.W.A. chugged along for an EP release (100 Miles and Runnin') and one more album, Efil4zaggin (it's really called N----z4Life, but the letters were reversed in most publications, mostly as a way to mask the racial epithet for mainstream audiences, but also because it's really fucking hard to type backwards letters, which is how they appear on the actual album cover).

With Efil4zaggin, The World's Most Dangerous Group take their aggression to unheard-of levels, abandoning the mere concept of a somewhat socially conscious N.W.A. track (and yes, there were a few on Straight Outta Compton) in favor of ultraviolence, nightmares about life (and death) in the hood, ridiculously hardcore misogyny, the word "n---a" (which is used no less that four thousand nine hundred and thirty-two times), and a dark sense of humor thrown in for good measure. Musically, Efil4zaggin sounds nothing like its predecessor, with Dr. Dre directing his group onto a newer path, one littered with funk and soul samples and guitars, leaving behind the old-school styling of Straight Outta Compton and upgrading for the new decade. Also, I'm sure Yella helped a little, as well.

After the release of Efil4zaggin, N.W.A. fell the fuck apart, as Dr. Dre (and his main man slash co-writer The D.O.C.) defected to help create Death Row Records after Andre discovered that, alas, Cube was right about being fucked over for royalties. Eazy would grow to relish his executive role, although this didn't stop him from continuing to record music right up until his passing in 1995. MC Ren and DJ Yella would stick with Eazy's label, Ruthless Records, but the damage had already been done, as N.W.A. was no more: the four artists wouldn't record together again in Eazy's lifetime.

However, Efil4zaggin sold a ton of copies, so none of them were hurting for money, at least. Except for maybe Ren, Dre, and Yella, since they weren't actually getting paid, but I believe you get my point. (If you don't, never fear, as I make the same point in a joking fashion elsewhere in this write-up.)

1. PRELUDE (FEAT ABOVE THE LAW)
Given the title, you're probably expecting your average rap album intro. Thanks to the beat (swiped from "Kamurshol", off of 100 Miles and Runnin'), this track is elevated to the level of "good". Oh, and after Above the Law decide to shut the hell up and let Ren spit some serious shit, the song is upgraded to "great", as Lorenzo cements his place as one of the most underrated emcees in hip hop history.

2. REAL N----Z DON'T DIE
This shit fucking rocks. The same melody from Masta Ace Incorporated's "Born To Roll" plays in the background, and the guitars are a fantastic addition. Dre, Ren, and even Eazy also manage to sound threatening, which is a plus. Toss in the chorus from Rare Earth's "I Just Want To Celebrate", and you have a bona fide gangsta rap classic. Yeah, I said it. Up until this point, you hadn't heard Dr. Dre produce anything that sounded like this. The fucker was holding out on us!

3. N----Z 4 LIFE
Probably would have been the album's title track had people been less inclined to censor the disc's name. Anyway, don't look to this song for any sort of social commentary regarding the n-word, because you'll be searching for a needle in the hay, Elliott Smith-style: Ren, Dre, and Eric all fail to come up with any sort of compelling argument for the use of the word. Ren's line "I call myself a n---a because my skin won't lighten" is probably some of the deepest shit he's ever written, though.

4. PROTEST
This skit is pretty dumb for two reasons. One, it sounds to me as if someone is spinning the dial on their radio trying to find their station (with an outdated sound effect that will probably be completely lost on younger readers), so how in the hell is it possible that the unknown hand would change the radio dial to a television newscast? (The jig is up when the newscaster at the N.W.A. concert yells "Turn off the fucking camera!") Two, who in the fuck would take their fucking seed to a N.W.A. concert? That's just terrible parenting.

5. APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION
Dre's beat brings the same type of adrenaline rush that "100 Miles and Runnin'" provided. Even though Dre doesn't write his own lyrics either (see: The D.O.C.), Ren and Dre sound much more natural as rappers than Ruthless Records CEO Eazy-E does, so I was kind of happy to hear Eric's verse interrupted in order to bring listeners to the next skit.

6. DON'T DRINK THAT WINE
A mildly amusing skit. For my two readers who keep track of this sort of thing, this sketch served as inspiration for one of the more bizarre interludes on Redman's Muddy Waters, and album that I would certainly hope my two readers have purchased by now. (Come on, it's Christmas! Buy two for your friends!)

7. ALWAYZ INTO SOMETHIN' (FEAT ADMIRAL DANCEHALL)
I had forgotten about this song's existence until I tooled around San Andreas in a stolen police car. Never one for subtlety, Dr. Dre slips in a potshot at Ice Cube, but otherwise, it's interesting that he actually sounds exactly the same on here as he does now (which I know isn't saying much). MC Ren is the MVP of this shit, though, and his contribution (and the lack of Eazy-E) makes an already good song pretty fucking essential. The bullshit outro (contributed by the guest star) threatens to fuck everything up, though.

8. MESSAGE TO B.A.
A skit dissing the shit out of O'Shea Jackson. Later in the year, Tim Dog would steal this idea for the intro to his Penicillin On Wax, although he would make it a point to disrespect everybody in N.W.A. except for Cube.

9. REAL N----Z
This subtle (as a slegdehammer in a hall of mirrors) Ice Cube diss track is the same one which appeared on 100 Miles and Runnin', except minus the long-ass intro. The sound is a bit cleaned up, but if you've followed me to this point, you've already heard this song, so let's move on.

10. TO KILL A HOOKER
Wow. I definitely cannot understand why N.W.A. failed to garner much of a female following. Naah, I'm just fucking with you. The crew's blatant hatred of the opposite sex makes me wonder why women even bothered to get near the group in the first place. It certainly couldn't have been the money: besides Eazy, none of them had any.

11. ONE LESS BITCH
It's all fictional, of course: most of these rappers out in the world do less dirt than some of your favorite bloggers. However, Dre's nonchalant statement that he had to kill a bitch, and then his insistence on telling the listener how he did it, isn't any less fucked up just because we all know Dre's a happily married recluse of a family man. The music on here is really damn good, though, almost cancelling out the lyrics, which have zero redeeming value.

12. FINDUM, FUCKUM, & FLEE
Eric's reference to "Lesson 3" doesn't make any sense in this context, since "Lesson 2" (in a series about chicks giving blowjobs, a course that actually stops at lesson 2, anyway) doesn't even appear until two songs from now. Also, hearing Dre brag about smacking a bitch sounds really fucking stupid, especially considering the Dee Barnes incident. All of these rappers are adequate enough, but the song itself is only barely passable.

13. AUTOMOBILE
This is simply goofy as fuck, but I always enjoy hearing musicians not taking their craft too seriously. (*cough* Lupe Fiasco *cough*) You'll probably listen to this once and never play it again, but at least you'll chuckle while it spins.

14. SHE SWALLOWED IT
This sequel to "Just Don't Bite It" (from 100 Miles and Runnin') actually sounds really good musically (the bass gutiar licks especially), and the chick in the beginning sounds kind of hot, but ultimately, it's not the best song in the world. It's just ignorant enough to warrant a spot on many playlists, I'm sure. Thankfully, this time we don't have to hear Eazy-E (allegedly) getting blown in the booth.

15. I'D RATHER FUCK YOU (FEAT CPO)
If this hadn't been comprised of three Eazy-E verses, I would have thought this was a mildly amusing skit. Since this is an actual song, though, the joke grows old very quickly.

16. APPROACH TO DANGER
This song doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album. (The title also doesn't really fit into the English language, as well.) It sounds alright, though, save for Eazy's creepy narration, which is scarier than those commercials that were played in Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.

17. 1-900-2-COMPTON
A silly skit that becomes less and less funny with each listen.

18. THE DAYZ OF WAYBACK (FEAT ADMIRAL DANCEHALL)
This is actually a pretty good way to end the album. It's not as sweet and nostalgic as you were probably expecting, given the title, but I still found it entertaining.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Efil4zaggin sounds completely different that Straight Outta Compton: at times it seems that the only two constants from the last project to this one are MC Ren and Eazy-E. Dr. Dre utilizes his time on the album to inadvertently create the blueprint for his G-Funk reinvention on his own solo debut, The Chronic, and also recites his ass off with his prewritten rhymes. MC Ren sounds like the motherfucking man, so much so that it almost breaks your heart when you recall that he's the guy that failed to see any success after the breakup of the group. Eazy-E takes the class clown route on the songs he does appear on, although he spends a lot of time in the office this go round. (I also assume DJ Yella contributed in some fashion.) Fans of The Chronic will fucking love this shit, as it takes the anger from their debut and turns it on its ear, actually creating the better album. Yeah, I fucking said it: Efil4zaggin works much better than Straight Outta Compton.

BUY OR BURN? Musically, this album is the balls. Reward Dr. Dre for a job well done by picking up a copy, preferably the remastered edition that also contains the full 100 Miles and Runnin' EP. If you ignore the lyrics, you'll enjoy this shit even more.

BEST TRACKS: "Real N----z Don't Die"; "Prelude"; "Appetite For Destruction"; "Alwayz Into Somethin'"; "She Swallowed It"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Other N.W.A. stuff can be seen by clicking here.

7 comments:

  1. This is an amazing album. Back from the time when I cared about the music enough that I would actually remember some of the lyrics. I'm glad there is someone else out there that thinks Ren is decent on the mic as well. I even went as far to pick up Shock of the Hour.

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  2. Well that's a nice album, Max, and you do agree, right?

    OK now... It looks that you got something left for gangster style / hardcore albums. This one is one of the best in 1991 (hot as hell) and NWA's most colourful effort. It certenly deserves a buy.

    P.S. 1: Where (exactly) does Adina Howard appear? (you get my point?)

    P.S. 2: MC Ren is one of the Top 3 Mc's ever.

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  3. Wow! What A Statement to end the review. I head a few songs hear and there from this album and, muscically, it has the hint of what Dre would look to do on his debut and plus it is light years ahead of production from "Straight Outta". Lyrically, you can only imagine if Cube had been cool with these cats what would have been.. but the remaining cats still held down fort, so I cannot really argue to the fullest against the statement, but I can try... Aw f-it, I'm tired and Saturday wants to come before Friday, so let's just call it day and keep it moving.

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  4. shabba and cobra and supacat was jumping off and hedz was effing with yaad shit..admiral dancehall sell off: "dih gyal quick fih lika mih dick shi have a dirty habit"...
    although ice cube was my mc from the jump, he was not missed at all ,Ren was repping like a mother, and the skits, i laffed when i was a youth and i'm still laffing, "Don't Drink that Wine" still funny as hell, Willy Johnson soun' like the dude from the "$20 Sack Pyramid"...shit ended effed up but such is such...Ren shoulda been bigger (top 3 is a big stretch tho')

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  5. I always thought of this album as a crossover of political rap and gangsta rap. This album definetely showed alot of artistic growth in the fact that they werent just talking about killings and things of that nature. despite the fact that ice cube doesnt appear on the album it was good. and dre does a decent job at rhyming on this album.

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  6. marlo.... Willy Johnson is the same guy from $20 Sack Pyramid - It is the DOC. He damaged his vocal cords in an accident.

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  7. I think this is the album that rocket launched (if you will) the whole west-coast to full domination in the hip-hop world lol. Prolly until the East-Coast renaissance during the mid-90's which then led to an MSM war between two oceans :). Anyway, Max it seems as if Dr. Dre always starts off the decade and leaves and comes back 10 years later lol. Is there consistency in that? Anyway back to Efil4zaggin.. good album, very well crafted to no surprise by the Dr. and MC Ren's staple showing if you will :(. Definitely 4/5.

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