N.W.A: “Most Dangerous Group” or Just Feared By White America?

The notorious group N.W.A first came onto the scene with the album, Straight Outta Compton. It promoted a sub-genre in the hip hop world not widely known in the mainstream media yet, gangsta rap.  For over 20 years , this sub-genre took over youth culture. However, the late 80s were also a time of controversy; the debate over the lyrical content and it’s affect on youth culture as a whole. However, I would argue that it was more so white Americans being afraid of the affect N.W.A had on white youth because it forces America to see the issues in this nation with the injustices faced in minority neighborhoods.

One prime example of this is the song, Fuck Tha Police. The controversial song gave an uncensored view of life as young black men on the streets of LA. It talks about the ruthless police brutality  for simply being a person of color. It was the crossover into mainstream white American culture that provoked concern among parent groups and especially caught the attention of law-enforcement agencies. Kot suggested, “Gangsta rap forced America to confront the issues in its ghettos, and its realities were shocking when presented so explicitly on a recording that white suburban teenagers coveted” One tactic that was enforced was to try to censor this through using a Parent Advisory Label or PAL for short. It ultimately was in place due to the cultural and political debate over songs like this. A censored version of the album even omitted the song entirely.

This song “Fuck tha Police” is arguably one of their most controversial tracks ever released

By the summer of 1989, a right-wing retaliation took place. A newsletter called Focus on the Family Citizen ran the headline: “Rap Group NWA says ‘Kill Police’”. This prompted the FBI to send a letter to NWA’s record label, which stated, “Music plays a significant role in society”, and claimed the song “encourages violence against and disrespect for the law enforcement officer.” From that point on, they were discouraged from performing the song on tour. It was banned on air, and in many stores. In one concert in Detroit, Ice Cube started the song, but the police rushed the stage. What happened to freedom of speech? Why was law enforcement so adamant about censoring them? “It was all kinds of forces against us—it didn’t crack us, break us, turn us into punks,” Ice Cube recently told Billboard. “It didn’t make us bite our tongue. It just made us stand up even more—and that’s powerful.” And it did make them a powerful influence: they went double platinum, the first album to do so without the support of mainstream radio.

The controversy over N.W.A’s music had opened the door for gangsta rap, exposing it to suburban America; I do not think they were prepared at all for that. N.W.A was in the dead center of a running debate over whether the rappers were inciting violence or merely describing the existing social conditions in urban neighborhood. I think that the issue isn’t whether or not N.W.A was taking it too far, but whether or not white America was able the handle the truth. Even today, the track remains relevant when the movie Straight Outta Compton came out. Fuck Tha Police has become the anthem of a new generation of activists fighting against police brutality and racism around the country. Like it or not, this song is around to stay for a long time. 

Mac Miller: Gone but Not Forgotten

In honor of the late Mac Miller, I’ve decided to write this first post about one of his most recent songs, Come Back to Earth. I will be honest: before he died, I knew nothing about him except that he was a rapper and that he dated Ariana Grande for a while. It was only after he died that I saw a flood of fans showing grief online, especially on Twitter. What really sparked my interest in his music is how much his death affected people. In Miller’s later pieces, I definitely get a sense that instead of it being corny trap music that is, as I like

mac millerto say, “radio friendly” or about “hoes” and getting money, I’m getting a taste of Mac Miller’s personal life/ struggles. I firmly believe that Come Back to Earth was actually a reflection of his addictive lifestyle, and was a cry out for help.

When first listening to this track, the first thing I immediately noticed was the spacey slow beat of the piano. The piano rolls a lot of notes and gives the sense as though time around Mac is slowing down. It really make me relate this to drugs as a form of escapism and that he was using the music as a way to illustrate what it’s like when he is high. He says in one verse, “In my own way just feel like living some alternate reality.” This line really spoke to me as his way of coping with depression. He doesn’t make the entire song a dark reflection. He does discuss a theme of no longer “drowning” but now “swimming.” Some may believe that this was showing a more positive outlook (Rolling Stone), but I believe it was the numbness from drugs that helped to not feel emotional pain. Swimming doesn’t necessarily mean being emotionally sound. All he is essentially doing is staying afloat. In order to feel free, he could’ve said something about getting out of the water.

Overall, Mac Miller’s music really started to take a dark turn from 2013 on. It seems like his music actually preluded to his death. On a sad, ironic note, the Vulture posted an interview with Mac Miller a day before his death. Miller talked about how he’d want his fans to honor him:

“The people that have the best chance of knowing me, that would like to” the late 26-year-old rapper said, “would just be by listening to my music.” And while his later music developed an alchemy of complicated sorrow and clear-headed descriptions of substance abuse, one does need not look too deep into his catalog to hear the sweetness that characterized the Pittsburgh rapper’s career.

-Rolling Stone

I’m sad I didn’t get to know this artist’s music before he died, but I’m grateful to be able to still have access to his albums, and get to know him through the legacy he left behind. I will be listening to more of his music in the future. In the meanwhile, rest easy Mac.