Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ethnicity in Straight Outta Compton

You know that any group that identifies themselves as "Niggas With Attitude" is strongly influenced by race. The group is a collaboration of some of the biggest names in Compton's (1990's) Gangsta rap scene. (EAZY-E, MC REN, DR. DRE, YELLA, ICE CUBE)

Each verse starts with a seemingly more braggadocio and race-centered line than the one before. For example, the following lines are Ice Cube, MC Ren, & Eazy-E openers:

Ice Cube: Straight outta Compton crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes

MC Ren: Straight outta Compton, another crazy ass nigga
More punks I smoke, yo, my rep gets bigger

Eazy-E: straight outta Compton
is a brotha that'll smother yo' mother
and make ya sister think I love her

These intense openers may be to establish dominance, and I think they are successful in doing so. It almost makes one intimidated to venture through the African-American communities in Compton. The rappers are showing that they're black, strong, and afraid of nothing before they even start their verse. Race is at the forefront of each rappers agenda. They may do so because in their environment, the one trait that is essential to have is respect. Each verse is essentially the rappers saying, "We're here stay out of way, or there is gonna be a problem." N.W.A. earned the respect of the West Coast rap community, because of this hard-core gangster rap style. They were instrumental in creating this culture in the West. Their race-centered music helped sparked a revolution of Gangster rap.

Do you think that the rappers are merely employing personas in this lyric, or they truly are products of their environment and striving to earn respect in the music community?

NWA - Straight Outta Compton


  1. Hi Alec, I think the fact that the group is called NWA, shows that the group has a strong racial influence, but i don't believe the lines chosen in your article depicts the same thing. They are identifying their selves as black by using words like 'Nigga' and 'Brotha' but they are not making them being black a big point, at least not in those lines. They are just making a point of them being tough and ruthless. I think it is safe to say that if they took out the words Nigga and Brotha, any race of people could have sung this song, which is why i don't agree with you when you say these are race-centered lines.

  2. I agree that N.W.A. uses intense lyrics in this song to try to establish dominance and command respect in the rap community. Although I do think that there is probably some truth to the tough-guy image portrayed in the lyrics, I definitely also believe that the rappers are employing personas to strengthen this image in the song. For example, Ice Cube describes how he’ll “squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off” and how he has “a crime record like Charles Manson.” In these lines, it is clear that Ice Cube is using a persona to solidify a position of power and respect and to show that he is not somebody to mess with. MC Ren and Eazy-E use similar violent imagery and take on dark personas to make themselves seem more powerful as well. Therefore, to answer your question, I think that the rappers use personas in this lyric in order to earn respect and put themselves in an exaggerated position of control and dominance.

  3. The rappers are rapping under a persona, as identified by their rapper names--it is not necessarily the individual's personal beliefs or thoughts. However, "reppin' your 'hood" is a common theme that rappers employ to gain the respect of their surroundings.

    Race does play a strong role in hip-hop, as it came uniquely from "all" black Harlem. Associating rap with race identifies the music as something that has history and meaning in the indivuidual's life based on hip-hop's roots. This is associated more with the rap of the previous decade, and race plays less of a role in hip-hop today, in my opinion.

  4. I think that rappers create a persona of how violent and tough they are in order to sell records. As much as I believe that some of the lines may be a true reflection on some rappers, I would argue that many of the rappers have never performed the actions they rap about in their songs. They are just creating personas that portray a certain image. Obviously, race has a major influence on the rap industry and the way people rap, but at the same time, you have to consider the fact that many artists will write raps just to sell a lot of records.

  5. Imagine this: you're a 16-year-old boy living in South Central L.A. who has to sell crack in order to take care of your child. On top of that, your best friend was just arrested for illegal activities he committed with his gang. Now, imagine the pride that you would feel driving through the streets of L.A. with your windows down blasting "Fuck Tha Police." This is N.W.A.'s most devoted fan.

    There is no doubt in my mind that all of N.W.A.'s members use murderous personas in order to appeal to gangsters around the country as well as earn respect in an industry that is dominated by people who grew up in the dangerous streets of Compton and other ghettos similar to it.

    Dr. Dre, one of the members of N.W.A., actually switched high schools as a child in order to escape gang violence. Nonetheless, his lyrics would have someone thinking the opposite. He wrote a song called "Natural Born Killaz" in which he starts off saying "Journey with me into the mind of a maniac doomed to be a killer."

    If these rappers were talking about things that they would actually do, they would all be in jail. It is clearly their personas speaking.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.