Bone Thugs-n-Harmony were the last great act signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records (Photo Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP).
Straight Outta The N.W.A Family Tree
This week belongs to the seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A, which consisted of Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella.
With the “Straight Outta Compton” biopic in theaters today, many are talking about the group that brought gangsta rap into the pop culture.
Sure, there are more important topics to talk about this week such as police brutality, but N.W.A brought the realities of police brutality, racism, and poverty and gang violence to the mainstream.
The things they talked about in the late 1980s are still prevalent today, unfortunately.
Not only did they change the conversation in hip-hop, but also they changed the fortunes of hip-hop stars that came after them.
The five group members opened the doors of stardom to countless protégés, and in honor of “Straight Outta Compton,” RegalMag.com will rank the top 10 songs from the N.W.A family tree, listed from number 10 to number one.
With so much talent coming from the N.W.A family tree, RegalMag.com had to institute one rule.
That rule is no artist can make the list more than once. And while 2Pac collaborated several times with Dr. Dre he was already a star before he signed with Death Row Records, therefore excluding him from this list of stars and classic songs.
“Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg—There are benefits to being Dr. Dre’s stepbrother as Warren G got a front row seat during the introduction of the G-funk era of West Coast hip-hop. Although Warren G was not signed to Death Row Records, he was a part of the extended family. With help from Death Row artist and 213 band mate Nate Dogg, the G-child took a Michael McDonald sample (“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” and turned it into an anthem for the “Above the Rim” soundtrack. Although not the producer that his stepbrother was, Warren G was able to effortlessly combine melodies and harmonies with tales of life in the hood.
“Bow Down” by Westside Connection—Despite being released during the ignorant East Coast-West Coast rap beef, this song should be considered a classic no matter what coast one represents. Ice Cube and his protégés WC and Mack 10 formed the Westside Connection and had a number one hit, despite no love from East Coast radio stations during the summer of 1996. Though hip-hop started on the East Coast, Westside Connection made it clear that hip-hop heads still needed to bow down to the talent in the Golden State. Ice Cube bragged that the world belonged to his West Coast comrades and during that time in hip-hop, few could argue with him.
“The Formula” by The D.O.C.—Dr. Dre’s first successful protégé was Dallas native The D.O.C. He made one classic album (“No One Can Do it Better”) that was totally different than the material put out by fellow Ruthless Records act N.W.A, but saw his career behind the mic cut short because of a tragic car accident that changed his voice. Even in 1989, The D.O.C. knew what it took to make a hit rap record. All you needed was dope lyrics and a Dre beat and you had a hip-hop classic. The formula for a hit was as simple as that. Although never mentioned in the same breath as Rakim, The D.O.C. is one of the few rappers whose rhymes from the 1980s are still current during the modern era of hip-hop.
“The Blacker the Berry” by Kendrick Lamar—Narrowing down one song from Dr. Dre’s latest protégé from Compton, Calif. was a daunting task. That task is even harder considering K. Dot’s latest album “To Pimp a Butterfly” is an instant classic. But “The Blacker the Berry” is the perfect song to reflect the last few years in Black America. With all of the incidents of police brutality sweeping the country over the last year, the Black Lives Matter movement has sought to draw attention to police abuse. Furthermore, the killing of Trayvon Martin highlighted how prevalent racism still is in America. However, “The Blacker the Berry” emphasizes the hypocrisy in the Black community when it comes to violence. In this instant classic, Kendrick Lamar urges the Black community to put as much emphasis in ending Black-on-Black crime as they do in ending police brutality and racism.
“New York, New York” by Tha Dogg Pound—Battle records have always played an important role in hip-hop. But never has an artist attacked an entire city like Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound in “New York, New York.” Kurupt’s lyrics on this battle record are some of the most brutally lethal and intellectual disses ever-recorded in hip-hop industry. Additionally, the video with Snoop Doggy Dogg knocking down the big buildings in New York was a metaphor of how competitive the East Coast-West Coast rap beef was during the 1990s and what the mission was at Death Row Records.
“Murder was the Case” by Snoop Doggy Dogg—Snoop was never considered one of the most talented lyricists in the game, but his charisma and style was undeniable. Nevertheless, in “Murder was the Case” he proved he could really hold the mic down and paint a vivid picture like his hero Slick Rick, the best storyteller in hip-hop history. The song was prophetic in that it detailed the dangers that many rappers found themselves in because of haters who are more willing to murder them than to see them succeed in the music business. “Murder was the Case” also touched on rappers willing to sell their soul for the fame and riches of the entertainment industry.
“Dreams” by The Game—Although “Dreams” was produced by Chicago icon Kanye West, Dr. Dre had his footprints all over The Game’s debut album “The Documentary.” This song was the Compton, Calif. emcee’s most autobiographical and introspective song to date, detailing the coma he found himself in after an attempt on his life and how he turned his downtime into a passion for writing rhymes. The Game’s dream was to become one of the best rappers in the game and not even an attempt on his life could stop that from coming to fruition. Despite being dissed by The Source and Dave Mays, he was able to work with Dre and Kanye on his debut album, and have R&B singer Mya appear in the video for “Dreams.” A star was officially born.
“In Da Club” by 50 Cent—“In Da Club” has to be Dr. Dre’s dopest beat ever produced. It is hard to believe that Eminem’s protégés D12 turned down this banger. But like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 50 was already known for his exploits in the streets, but “In Da Club” showcased a more fun and commercial side to the rapper from Queens, N.Y. And after this song, people forgot about Ja Rule and all of the other top rappers at the time. The year 2003 officially belonged to the rapper also known as Curtis Jackson. The song was not the most profound song on the N.W.A family tree but it epitomized a good time for the young adult crowd in the early 2000s with plenty of women, bottles of champagne and an overflow of illegal narcotics. That was 50 Cent’s recipe for a good time back in the day.
“Stan” by Eminem—Eminem often comes across as an angry fellow. In his music, he has shown very little love to his mother, baby mother or other rappers like Ja Rule or Benzino. So it might have come as a surprise that Eminem showed his vulnerable and compassionate side with the song “Stan” about an obsessed fan that commits suicide. Throughout his career, the Detroit emcee made joking references to slitting his wrist and killing his baby mother, but when a fan takes his jokes seriously it causes him to second-guess the method to his madness. It also caused him to write the deepest song in his catalog. In it, Marshall Mathers comes face to face with the power of his celebrity and how it could give life as well as take life.
“Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony—By 1994, Eazy-E and Ruthless Records had weathered the storm posed by Dr. Dre’s departure with the signing of the Cleveland rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Their debut EP (“Creepin On Ah Come Up”) contained the hit song “Foe Tha Love of $,” which featured Eazy-E and was produced by DJ Yella of N.W.A. However, by the next year Eazy was gone due to complications of AIDS and his latest protégés and his widow were at a crossroads professionally and personally. The result was one of the most melodic and beautiful hip-hop tracks ever called “Tha Crossroads,” which was dedicated to Eazy and all of Bone’s fallen comrades. The classic song showed the tender side of cats from the hood and the pain that is caused when a loved-one is taken too soon.