100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #60 NWA – Straight Outta Compton

Released : 1988

Dr Dre’s ‘You are about to witness the power of street knowledge’ was the most ominous first line of any rap song put down on tape at this point: NWA were telling an unsuspecting world how it was, however all it got them was trouble of a different kind.

The urban war in LA raged, but the words it keyed into were actually written by a Texan in The D.O.C. – although that hardly mattered. What made Compton standout was it’s ferocity and tempo, each player overwhelming the listener with their unrelenting flow, the delivery tunnel vision. The images it evoked were intoxicating, most of all to suburban teenagers who found a way to connect with an underground lifestyle they could fantasise about from the safety of their bedrooms. It also pissed off all the right people.

The world’s most dangerous group tag doubtless helped to build their profile like a million dollars of marketing, courtesy of for free by the US Government. The controversy did throw up plenty of major problems though, such as an MTV ban for the accompanying video and a refusal by local police to provide on tour security for them. Unable to get insurance unless they omitted this and F*Ck Tha Police from their live set, they played both anyway every night, until finally on the last date the FBI joined them on stage, no doubt  anxious to share the success they’d partially created.



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