August 8, 1988 – Hip Hop changed forever when N.W.A unleashed their debut album Straight Outta Compton on August 8, 1988 — exactly 31 years ago today.
At the time, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Eazy-E, Arabian Prince and MC Ren couldn’t have predicted the immense impact the 13-track project would have over three decades later. The pioneering gangsta rap record ushered in a whole new era, permanently etching N.W.A in the Hip Hop history books.
Produced by Dre and Yella, the album was released on Eazy’s Ruthless Records imprint and painted an often gruesome portrait of gang life in South Central Los Angeles and Compton, California. But due to its explicit, politically-charged lyrics that often revolved around misogyny, drug use and violence, N.W.A’s music was banned from several mainstream radio stations in the United States.
The song “Fuck Tha Police” in particular sparked outrage, earning N.W.A its “World’s Most Dangerous Group” title. The song was written shortly after the group was allegedly harassed by the Torrance Police Department and calls out police brutality and racial profiling, which still resonates today.
In a 2016 interview with Thrasher Skateboarding Magazine, Cube said they were fairly confident N.W.A’s debut album was something extraordinary.
“By the time we got to the album, we definitely knew what we had,” he told me. “But before, when we were doing singles like ‘Dope Man,’ ‘8 Ball’ and ‘Boyz-n-the-Hood,’ we wasn’t really sure, but by the time we dropped the album, we knew.”
Cube also talked about the initial struggles they encountered trying to get the album airplay.
“We were putting them out ourselves,” he said. “Ruthless was putting it out independently and we were getting a lot of traction, so we felt like it was a record company that believed in us. We wasn’t really worried about fans being a part of it then, but we were worried about radio, exposure and making sure we did our videos in a way that could get played.
“It’s Compton and a lot of people didn’t want to play us. We were trying to make sure we were visible enough. We knew once people knew it was out it was going to be successful.”
Since it’s release, Straight Outta Compton has sold over 3 million copies. It was certified triple platinum by the RIAA in 2015.
Straight Outta Compton is the only N.W.A album Cube contributed to before his 1989 departure. The group released one more album, Niggaz 4 Life, in 1991 before Dre and The D.O.C. took their songwriting prowess elsewhere.
The album was selected for the Library Of Congress in 2017.