Friday, August 23, 2013

"N.W.A. and the Posee" (HHES Review)

Most people's introduction to N.W.A. was "Straight Outta Compton," but for me and my friends, that was the third N.W.A album, after Eazy-E's solo album and "N.W.A. and the Posee." We were Southern white boys, but this one of a few albums that really shook us to the core and made us see the world in a different way. There is no album I've purchased more times than this one, with it being played so many times that the cassette broke more than once. Or people stole it. Either way, none of us could have a car that didn't have a copy of this in it. We didn't differentiate, either, between the N.W.A. tracks and the songs by others, it was all one big shot of lightning to us. We played this nonstop, getting dirty looks, racist comments and getting ignored by the girls who couldn't believe what we were listening to.

Eazy-E - "Boyz-n-the-Hood": One of several perfect songs on the album, I still know every word to this song today. The album starts off with tremendous production from Dr. Dre and never lets up. Even if the words and messages on some of these songs are terrible in retrospect, it was hard to care about that when they sounded so good. This one was my introduction to gangsta rap and what street life was like in places like Compton. The lyrics are just plain genius, so good that even Easy-E's subpar rhyme skills can't mess them up. His signature voice, though, remains one of the most original sounds to ever hit my ears.

N.W.A. - "8 Ball": Another perfect song, sonically, from the evil gremlin voice of Eazy-E to Dre's amazing beat that showed already that he was one of the best and that he was willing to use good sounds to make his songs, even if they seemed inappropriate, such as the Beastie Boys samples here. This is one of the few songs in history that specifically made me buy a product. We drank a LOT of 8 Ball because of this song.

Fila Fresh Crew - "Dunk the Funk": The first misstep on the album isn't Dre's fault, his beat is still dope. And it's not D.O.C.'s fault, he's tight. The rest of the Crew, though, just can't hang and they really seem out of place on an album with Ice Cube. This song is a throwaway and we used to hit fast forward here a lot.

Rappinstine - "Scream": This one was always a bit better than "Dunk the Funk," but we usually fast forwarded through it as well (until they took it off the album for the reissue). It's not terrible, but lyrically and delivery-wise, it just doesn't belong on this album.

Fila Fresh Crew - "Drink It Up": This one is the highlight of the Fila Fresh Crew tracks. It's a silly song, but damn if we didn't laugh our asses off and sing along with it over and over and over again.

N.W.A. - "Panic Zone": One of the flaws of this album was that there wasn't enough Arabian Prince. His voice is amazing and this is a perfect vehicle for him and another great slice of the gangsta life.

Eazy-E and Ron-De-Vu - "L.A. Is the Place": While Ron-De-Vu isn't on Eazy's level, this song is kind of the early gangsta rulebook. It's not in the top five songs on the album, but is just below them.

N.W.A. - "Dope Man": Perfection. This ridiculously awesome introduction to Ice Cube made me a hip hop fan for life. No matter how many crappy family movies he makes, Cube gets a lifetime pass from me because of this song, which still remains the best explanation of drug dealers and their lifestyle ever written.

Fila Fresh Crew - "Tuffest Man Alive": The biggest problem with Fila is that anyone who isn't D.O.C. sounds like they are rapping in 1981, as if they never learned the smoothness of flow that later rappers have. Stilted and awkward and less rhythmically valid. Another throwaway song.

Eazy-E and Ron-De-Vu - "Fat Girl": Even then I knew this song was horrible, but it hit hard and as teenage boys we thought it was funny and we hadn't figured out women yet, so we had a lot of that virginal anti-woman stuff running through our heads.

Fila Fresh Crew - "3 the Hard Way": The best of Fila's straight ahead songs is propelled by an amazing beat and hardcore rhymes from D.O.C. It's a little light lyrically speaking, and the jokes in it are kinda stale and weren't that funny then, but it definitely belonged on the album. The inclusion of the band members doing the dozens at the end is also an important document and was really funny at the time (even if it's less funny to me as an adult).

N.W.A. - "A Bitch Iz a Bitch": This replacement song was added to get more Cube out there and it improved the album. It was this song that helped make it clear to me that rappers are fictional characters and their words shouldn't always be taken literally. Cube makes it clear that he's not calling all women bitches, he's describing a particular type of woman that is materialistic and out to exploit a musician. N.W.A. even gave women the chance to jump on the track and argue back, which was quite entertaining.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 8. Cube, Arabian Prince and D.O.C. are amazing, Eazy's solid, Ron-De-Vu is passable and the rest are kinda weak.

Lyrics: 9. While a lot of the non-N.W.A. tracks are weak lyrically, the N.W.A. stuff is so important and powerful that it makes things better.

Message: 7. A lot of misogyny, fat hatred, and homophobia run through the album, which are obviously problems, but the album is a great opening document for what became known as the "CNN of the streets." As a description of a lifestyle and historical document, it's important.

Technical: 7. The same guys I mentioned who were good on flow are good here, but the rest are subpar.

Production: 10. Near perfect. Dre already knew what he was doing and his use of samples and beats to compliment the raps is unparalleled even 25 years later.

Versatility: 10. Again, look at the list of performers that came out of this album and see how different they are. The topics aren't super varied, but the voices and delivery styles are.

Collaborators: 9. A couple of rappers probably didn't belong on this album, but this is damned near a supergroup album.

History: 8. Music history is very well mined here and this is an important historical document about L.A. street life in the 80s.

References: 9. Many of them are musical or samples, but there are a lot of them and they are well-chosen and well-placed.

Originality: 10. This album didn't just change my life, it changed popular music. Cube and Dre alone are responsible for the majority of what hits the charts these days. There was some gangsta stuff before this, but everything became more gangsta after this, to the point where Miley Cyrus is giving shout-outs to Jay-Z.

Total Score: 87. It's far from perfect, particularly the Fila Fresh Crew songs, but this album changed my life. And much of it still stands the test of time and it set the table for so much that it's hard to ignore the importance of this one.

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