NWA – Straight Outta Compton – Lyrics analysis

Gangsta-rap songwriting

NWA – Straight Outta Compton – Lyrics

Intro – Dr. Dre

You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge

Verse 1 – Ice Cube

Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called Niggas Wit Attitudes
When I’m called off, I got a sawed-off
Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off
You too, boy, if you fuck with me
The police are gonna have to come and get me
Off your ass, that’s how I’m going out
For the punk motherfuckers that’s showing out
Niggas start to mumble, they wanna rumble
Mix ‘em and cook ‘em in a pot, like gumbo
Going off on the motherfucker like that
With a gat that’s pointed at your ass
So give it up smooth
Ain’t no telling when I’m down for a jack move
Here’s a murder rap to keep y’all dancin’
With a crime record like Charles Manson
AK-47 is the tool
Don’t make me act a motherfucking fool
Me you can go toe to toe, no maybe
I’m knocking niggas out the box, daily
Yo, weekly, monthly and yearly
Until them dumb motherfuckers see clearly
That I’m down with the capital C-P-T
Boy, you can’t fuck with me
So when I’m in your neighborhood, you better duck
‘Cause Ice Cube is crazy as fuck
As I leave, believe I’m stompin’
But when I come back boy, I’m coming
Straight outta Compton
(Compton Compton Compton)

Interlude – Eazy E (MC Ren)

Eazy E: Yo, Ren!
MC Ren: (Whassup?)
Eazy E: Tell ‘em where you from!

Verse 2 – MC Ren

Straight outta Compton, another crazy ass nigga
More punks I smoke, yo, my rep gets bigger
I’m a bad motherfucker, and you know this
But the pussy-ass niggas won’t show this
But I don’t give a fuck, I’ma make my snaps
If not from the records, from jacking or craps
Just like burglary, the definition is jacking
And when I’m legally armed it’s called packing
Shoot a motherfucker in a minute
I find a good piece of pussy and go up in it
So if you’re at a show in the front row
I’ma call you a bitch or dirty-ass ho
You’ll probably get mad like a bitch is supposed to
But that shows me, slut, you’re composed to
A crazy motherfucker from the street
Attitude legit, ‘cause I’m tearing up shit
MC Ren controls the automatic
For any dumb motherfucker that starts static
Not the right hand, ‘cause I’m the hand itself
Every time I pull an AK off the shelf
The security is maximum, and that’s a law
R-E-N spells Ren, but I’m raw
See, ‘cause I’m the motherfucking villain
The definition is clear, you’re the witness of a killin’
That’s taking place without a clue
And once you’re on the scope, your ass is through
Look, you might take it as a trip
But a nigga like Ren is on a gangsta tip
Straight outta Compton
(Compton Compton Compton)
(Straight outta Compton)

Interlude – Dr. Dre

Eazy is his name, and the boy is coming…

Verse 3 – Eazy E

…Straight outta Compton
Is a brother that’ll smother your mother
And make your sister think I love her
Dangerous motherfucker raising hell
And if I ever get caught, I make bail
See, I don’t give a fuck, that’s the problem
I see a motherfucking cop, I don’t dodge him
But I’m smart, lay low, creep a while
And when I see a punk pass, I smile
To me it’s kinda funny, the attitude showing a nigga driving
But don’t know where the fuck he’s going, just rolling
Looking for the one they call Eazy
But here’s a flash, they’ll never seize me
Ruthless, never seen, like a shadow in the dark
Except when I unload
You see a spark and jump over hesitation
And hear the scream of the one who got the lead penetration
Feel a little gust of wind and I’m jetting
But leave a memory no one’ll be forgetting
So what about the bitch who got shot? Fuck her!
You think I give a damn about a bitch? I ain’t a sucker
This is an autobiography of the E
And if you ever fuck with me
You’ll get taken by a stupid dope brother who will smother
Word to the motherfucker, straight outta Compton
(Compton Compton Compton)
(Straight outta Compton)

Outro

Damn, that shit was dope!

 

NWA – Straight Outta Compton – Lyrics analysis

We will now take the song back verse by verse, and try to explain everything!

Intro – Dr. Dre

You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge

Who would’ve believed that ? This intro phrase by Dr. Dre became mythical, opening the iconic title of an iconic album, one of the first rap tracks to come out of the ghetto.

This phrase plays a well-known role: as in the traditional arts, both in America (show presenter) and in Africa (griot), an artist presents the work to the public. And by the way, this presenter-mode artist provides us with a surprising indication of genre, when he tells us that our role as an audience will be that of a witness – not just a listener, the term witness suggests a judicial context and life or death issues – and that the content of the testimony will be the “street knowledge“. In fact, it clearly tells us that the song we are going to hear is not just a song, it is also a speech, a presentation, something serious, pragmatic, useful in everyday life.

It can also be noted that Dr Dre’s position as a presenter of the work of others in this sentence will remain symbolically his own throughout his career: while Dr Dre was part of and produced the first emerging stars of rap, such as NWA, he also accompanied rap for 30 years, discovering Eminem, 50 Cent or Kendrick Lamar, just releasing a tube from time to time, and an album every 10 years. In terms of street knowledge, his work as presenter and producer ended up resembling an encyclopedia of rap!

 

Couplet 1 – Ice Cube

Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube

Ice Cube: As we will see, this song is sung by 4 voices, those of Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and Dr. Dre. The 4 of them will make careers at the top of their art. Of course, in this polyphonic choice, there is an opposition to the individualism of the world of the white music, often embodied by solo singers, accompanied by musicians. On the contrary, rap stands out as a vocalpolyphonic, collective and supportive music. All 5 members of NWA except Yella are singers, and none except Dre and Yella are musician – Dre being a DJ and composing instrumentation based on samples and machines. Casually, we find there the basic elements of a choir, whether gospel or pygmy.

Straight outta Compton: this element will be repeated at each beginning of verse, so it functions as a sort of rendezvous point and reference point, both rhythmic and thematic.

Straight outta Compton: this beginning of verse at the beginning of a song at the beginning of the album marks its entire imprint. This is a claim to geographical and social belonging – which will become a classic in rap world, each rapper aiming at “representing” his city.

crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube: from there we understand that the verse will describe this character who introduces himself, this rapper who gives us his nickname. One wonders why the singer gives us his name from the very first verse: did Elvis Presley need to do that? He didn’t. The difference is that these rappers know they are obscure, unknown, anonymous, because they’re from Compton, a city of social exclusion, a ghetto for blacks, a small miserable town in the vicinity of the huge and rich L.A., and yet they have a a strong need for identity recognition, so their song, and their album, consists in showing themselves as part of an invisible world, because it is invisible. These black, criminal populations, which the dominant white society wanted to hide and keep in the shadows, are displayed loud and clear, in full light, hence the shock of the public at their appearance.

Ice Cube describes himself as “crazy“: we will see that madness is one of the major themes of rap, which will be found often, for example in GANGSTER’S PARADISE where Coolio says that his mother believes that he has lost his mind, or female rappers like Missy Elliott or Azealia Banks who embody women “crazy about their bodies”, “crazy with sex”, or Eminem and Kendrick Lamar who recount their moral crises, their addictions, their murderous follies.

Ice Cube is also called “motherfucker “. These insults are a commonplace, a symbol of rap. But what does that mean basically? How is it that at such vulgar and faded words, somewhere, the public has hung up to this point, and that this style of writing has then known such a development, from ultra-contestant and marginal to mainstream and nearly mandatory within a few decades? This is because these insults have a deep and vital meaning. To say that Ice Cube is a motherfucker, means that he fucks his mother, therefore he is incestuous, guilty, his sexuality is illegal, forbidden, blamed, and in other words: he has no one else to fuck apart from his mother, he does not have a wife, he is not a normal, married man like most adult men of the public likely to listen to his words. All this basically means: “I, the son of the murdered black community, enslaved, relegated, blamed, I have no honorable identity, no enviable social status, other than this inglorious status of criminal without ancestry or descent you forced me to have in your society: so, I slap you with it“. That’s what motherfucker really means. It is an indirect accusation of racism: “you prevent me from living a normal male adult life, because I am black, so I send you the insult in the face, so that you take your actions”.

From the gang called Niggas Wit Attitudes

Ice Cube continues to slap us with his identity card, as we would in front of a cop. He informs us that he belongs to a gang – this implicitly advises us to pinball, to fear him, to respect him (this is what he really wants, in fact, respect, as in the famous song Aretha Franklin RESPECT, the “niggaz” have never stopped asking for it, and sometimes got it).

A gang is therefore an association of criminals, the gangsters – we can see that the gang gives them their name as individuals, and that what is at stake here is also at the micro-social level the recognition it is at the macro-social level. Gang members usually recognize secret signs. On the contrary, the gang is showing off.

This gang that would be called “Niggas wit Attitudes “ (expression written in bad english, niggas instead of niggers, wit instead of with) did not actually exist because it is the name of NWA, as a musical band without criminal activity, but several of its members actually did belong to gangs, or been close to gang members: Ice Cube for example was a member of one of LA’s two main gangs, the Crips. It’s to impress that Ice Cube acts as if NWA was a gang.

Niggas wit Attitudes “: Negroes with attitude, negroes with style, this way of identifying oneself, of presenting oneself as an artist and of signing one’s work, says two things:

  • They know and show themselves as “niggas “, niggas. What does this term mean? It is a racial insult targetting the black populations. Therefore, why reproducing it? A probable answer: to denounce it, and to devitalize it by appropriating it. Using insults as a slogan is what many minorities, gays, queer, and sluts did. It is typical of dominated populations to whom a dominating population denies the right to a respectable identity. It is pathetic, somewhere: these populations could have designated themselves a free, autonomous way, without taking into account the malicious look that a hostile power bore on them. By repeating an insult, one plays the game of the insulter…
  • They make a difference between the niggas wit attitude, and without attitude, the not-stylish niggers. There is a narcissistic identity claim – the right to love oneself, to be good, to be admired. And there is also a kind of internal reproduction of racism – for if the stylish niggers dissociate themselves from the naughty niggas, what happens to them? The whites despised them already, and now even the stylish Negroes would despise them too, for their lack of attitude, of respectability? There is the pathetic trace of the condition of the blacks, considered as unloveable, undesirable, invisible, unworthy, and struggling desperately, even among and against themselves, to climb the ladder of social respectability.

When I’m called off, I got a sawed-off

To be called off is to be canceled. But it is at first to be called,  action that is immediately canceled by the off, as in on / off. The rapper is canceled immediately after we called him called, which is not nice at all – it is a lack of respect to disturb him for nothing, which explains to some extent his reaction to come…

I got a sawed-off: the expression is shortened (like the weapon…), but he’s talking about a sawed-off shotgun. The fact that he says it in a shortened way, supposes that he knows about it, he is in the habit of going fast to talk about it, and he makes quite as if we could understand – while he knows he wants his record to be listened to by white America and to scandalize it. A sawed-off shotgun is a homemade weapon, retouched to be more dangerous and more concealable, so it’s a typical weapon of gangsta, a weapon of savage violence. So here, if he’s called for nothing, Ice Cube takes his shotgun. The public is warned, we begin to understand who the singer is. He is less friendly than Elvis, and much darker. Even Sid Vicious sounded less vicious.

Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off

Even if the action is brutal, violent, made to shock, we will still notice the elegance of the formulation. He could have said stupidly: I’m going to kill you all. He said it in a much more striking way, passing the principal of the action (the death of many people) in ellipse between a small suggestive cause, squeezing the trigger, and the dramatic result, the inanimate bodies drawn, moved away.

This lightning expression also has the advantage of imitating the action: it goes as fast as a bullet.

You too, boy, if you fuck with me

You: Well, dear reader, dear reader, the gangsta is threatening you with death, so if I were you, I’d be scared. You will notice that it is rare for a singer to threaten to massacre his audience, but to innovate in music, making it sound as a crime, pays.

The police are gonna have come and get me

Do not worry, they left the police station since the beginning of your verse.

This verse discreetly introduces the theme of the police, intended to be mythically fucked in another tube of NWA that will be analyzed just after: FUCK THA POLICE (make love to her).

The police are gonna have: that, even French people would have seen it, it is some broken english spoken by some black boy who was selling drugs instead of going to school. The mistake is basic, obvious, and keeping it is a political act: it says shit to the American school system, known to be highly discriminatory, almost segregative. (It has happened that an American Nobel Prize in psychology defended the idea that since blacks were measured with 10 IQ points less than the national white average, there was no point in educating black people. This Nobel Prize for madness was white-skinned like some pill to cause headaches, obviously… )

Off your ass, that’s how I’m going out

Here is a play of words finely brought and funny, between two possible interpretations of this verse and the previous one:

  • The police are gonna have to come and get me off your ass: that means, “the police will have to pick me up and take me away from you”, as if I had just jumped on you; here, your ass, your ass, it means “ you “, like when they say “ bring your ass here “.
  • Off your ass, that’s how I’m going out: what’s understandable would be that I just sodomized you, I being the singer and you being the public. Again, such an aggressive, openly scandalous speech was unheard of, at the time. In fact, at the time of the release of the album a law was passed, which forced all music publishers to put a “Parental Advisory: explicit lyrics” label on the problematic lyrics. A sort of “class X” of social violence, that rap skilfully used to challenge this censorship.

For the punk motherfuckers that’s showing out

Casually, the addition of this verse to the previous one lowers the tension a bit, since it limits the threat of beatings or sexual violence only to these “punk motherfuckers “. One wonders who are these punks: in 1988, the punk movement is rather on its downward slope. It’s not about them. In American slang, punk is originally a horribly contemptuous term that refers to that kind of prisoner that others use as sex toys – they get raped; by extension it means stain, waste, shabby, less-than-nothing, a worthless man. It is a notion that will be found in the white grunge a few years later, a feeling of downgrading, of social exclusion.

Those enemies that Ice Cube threatens, those punk motherfuckers that’s showing out, look oddly like Ice Cube: he described himself as a motherfucker, and he too is there, just now, showing up, himself and his talents, showing out. There is also something masochistic, a form of self-hatred, the aftermath of white racial hatred.

Niggas start to mumble, they wanna rumble

So here, the speech changes the subject, it took him 8 verses presenting himself as, basically, the bad guy who was going to smoke us, and here he alternates showing us these niggas, which we do not know yet whether they are his ghetto brothers, helpers, or his enemies.

Mix ‘em and cook’ em in a pot, like gumbo

This surprising line makes it possible to decide that these niggas were the enemies of Ice Cube. But the other interpretation still floated in the air for a moment.

This culinary destruction of others sounds surprising: until then the gangster issued his sawed-off cannon or his insults, so we did not expect him to also take out his apron to cook us, moreover in a fairly “negro” style, the gumbo being a typical dish of Canadian French who moved to Louisiana, sharing everyday life with the local black majority.

Going off on the motherfucker like that

With a gat that’s pointed at your ass

These two verses, obvious, without effects, without jokes, sound weaker than the rest. We blow a little stylistically.

So give it up smooth

It would become almost fun: so we have this choice to “give it up“? In this case, he will not kill us? It’s not bad, this music, it almost relieves us, the killer, I mean the singer, gives us a chance to survive his rap…

Ain’t no telling when I’m down for a jack move

Here’s a murder rap to keep y’all dancin’

A murder rap: it sounded new at the time.

To keep y’all dancing: that’s surprising, and it reveals the fact that this singer is telling us a story, playing a role, in short, that all his hyper-realism has a spectacular, fun, and fictional side: he is perfectly conscious of singing for fun, for the aesthetic pleasure of people, and not REALLY wishing their death. Again, this element can relieve some of the emotional tension felt by the public, constantly assaulted by these offensive words. He just wants us to dance. How cool is that:)

With a crime record like Charles Manson

Charles Manson: famous American killer, hippie.

A record crimeword play on record, so crime record both means criminal file, and criminal album.

The word play completes the previous verse, so it’s about making us “all dance / on a criminal record like Charles Manson“. In fact, it is the gangsta-rap project that is formulated there, a kind of signature.

AK-47 is the tool

Rap and audiovisual have popularized this weapon of war (especially used in the war of Afghanistan in the 80s) whose name was know by few people at the time.

Do not make me act a motherfucking fool

Note that this type of formulation is typical of what Marshall Rosenberg calls violent communication.

Wait, I’ll explain why I’m talking to you about him…

Marshall Rosenberg is an American of Jewish origin who grew up in a ghetto and survived an assault by sympathizing with his attacker. He has been involved as a psychologist in the development of a nonviolent method of communication as part of the struggle for the civil rights of blacks in the United States since the 1960s. His teaching consists of identifying and removing from the communication all that is unnecessarily offensive, and which would provoke unnecessary violent reactions. He also recommends to fully assume one’s emotions, positive or negative, without attributing them to the other. But here is exactly what Ice Cube does: he attributes the fact he’s ready to kill us, to our own behavior, as if we had this power to make him a motherfucking fool, a fucking idiot. However, if he is silly and aggressive, and goes so far as to threaten his audience with death, it is obviously not the fault of his victims. The rapper obviously lacks logic and wisdom. But it’s good to be honest, it’s the only way to correct yourself. It turns out that Ice Cube has had a long and successful musical career, and so he did not act like a fool, retaining his desire to kill.

You can go toe to toe

To go toe-to-toe: in blacks’ consciousness, the expression inevitably reminds of an original traumatic scene: African slaves piled in the boats of white European slavers (especially French, English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch…)

I’m knocking niggas out the box, daily

Word playto knock out is to put KO, and to be ready out of the box, it is to be all ready. The box can also designate a room, and thus a club, a nightclub, so the place where he is singing.

So the verse means both that Cube Cube puts his fellow citizens of Compton KO on a daily basis, so that he is a local caïd, and that he empties the niggas from the club where he sings, implicitly because he is too strong, too threatening, toog good.

Yo, weekly, monthly and yearly

Technically, for his society, Ice Cube is unemployed, and idleness is a widespread plague of the poor, who find nothing to do. This small social fact may explain why the rapper was willing to show us his busy schedule, killing people all year long, having a real goal in life.

Until them dumb motherfuckers see clearly

Dumb: decidedly, Ice Cube is passionate about intelligence. He clearly shows his preference for smart people, by repeating that he despises idiots.

The stake of the verse shows the stakes of the song: these idiots who fuck their mothers must see things clearly. The song is educational, in fact. Ice Cube is an independent teacher, protesting in his methods, but clear in his objectives, it is about raising awareness of his audience, as did Christian and civil rights preachers of the black community like Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. We will see in FUCK THA POLICE that NWA did not hesitate to parody another giga-social institution responsible for the segregation of blacks in the USA: justice.

That I’m down with the capital CPT

To be down with, it means to agree with, in harmony with. But here, there is also a form of echo, of double meaningto be down, means to be depressed, to be at the lowest, and therefore to be down with CPT, it means to be in the same depression as the other inhabitants of Compton, a miserable and violent city. Finally, we can hear I’m done with the capital CPT. In any case, we hear that the rapper is one with his city, even in adversity. He represents !

Boy, you can not fuck with me

Boy: he calls us so, so he’s the adult man; we will see later the rappers treat us in the same way, calling us “boy” or “girl”, in any case refusing to recognize us as adults, reserving for their own use this role of power, prestige, knowledge, wisdom. Revenge of kids humiliated by despising adults, and of blacks by condescending whites…

You can not fuck with me: still a threat.

So when I’m in your neighborhood, you better duck

’Cause Ice Cube is crazy as fuck

The rapper closes his loop by returning to his “madness” he had announced from the first verse.

As I leave, believe I’m stompin ‘

The English verse sounds particularly good, with a nice double rhyme effect, between leave and believe right after, then I’m and stompin, which makes another nice effect of imitation of the action by the sounds, two strokes and two blows, like someone walking away.

But when I come back boy, I’m coming straight outta Compton

(Compton Compton Compton)

So we have another effect of meaning this time, since the verses describe a go then a return. Again it’s elegant and logical – the gangster who says he’s crazy does not look so crazy, stylistically speaking. Normal, he’s a stylish negro…

 

Interlude – Eazy E (MC Ren)

Eazy E: Yo, Ren!

MC Ren: (Whassup?)

Eazy E: Tell ‘em where you from!

These spoken interludes between gangsters who challenge each other contribute to the atmosphere of brotherhood of the intrinsically collective, united, fraternal gangsta-rap and echo Dre ‘s intro about street knowledge – here taught by street rappers.

 

Verse 2 – MC Ren

Straight outta Compton, another crazy ass nigga

Straight outta Compton: it is therefore the second anaphor (repetitive construction) that serves as an identity reference point. It’s like a map with a “You’re here” mark.

Another crazy ass nigga: well, here is another character, which does like the previous one: he introduces himself. His characteristics are remarkable, he is:

  • Another: just another, as if they were all the same… and this is again the sequel of how the whites look at the blacks, not recognizing them, as if it was always the same head of headless slave.
  • Crazy: well, at this rate the Compton Asylum will quickly fill up with NWA members to heal urgently.
  • Ass: it gets along with the neighboring terms, crazy ass, and ass nigga. Someone who seems undesirable, described like that…
  • Nigga: So, he is nigger, negro, rewritten within the ghetto in bad English, nigga. The term is unacceptable, and that’s why he’s using it.

When we sum up this self-portrait, we clearly see a thematic Anti-Hero. An honorable American Hero of 1988 would be discreetly white, not manifestly “nigga“, he would have the right to a distinct identity, to a personal recognition, he would not be “another”, he would be mentally sane and not “crazy”, he would not be seen from behind or looked at in a degrading way (“ass”). In fact, this Anti-Hero is a kind of caricature that a victim of racism refers to his attackers.

More punks I smoke, yo, my rep gets bigger

Well, the victim of racism was quick to rebel, it is said in a blazing way by the absence of transition, the ellipse – yet logical – between these two lines. A negro without identity, he gets recognized as a killer. He asserts himself as dangerous as Ice Cube previously. Which adds to the dramatic tension: we had a hostile gangster on the back, now we have two. Yipee, let’s dance…

I’m a bad motherfucker, and you know this

I’m a bad motherfucker: the song observes a strict parallel between the two rappers, both are crazy, both are motherfucker. But he has one thing more, he’s a bad motherfucker. Definitely improved.

You know this: we are still in the theme of knowledge and education – this time the teacher is called MC Ren, he will teach us “street knowledge” today!

But the pussy-ass niggas will not show this

So there is something in the world called pussy-ass nigga. In fact, it seems that this is a poetic image, where the nigga would have the ass used like a pussy, so he would be a homosexual nigga. And this, the gay niggas, would be the antithesis of the good nigga, and especially the Super Nigga who is the gangsta: a Manly Man, homophobic by definition, a fucking conformist; in short, a true sexist male aggressor.

But I do not give a fuck, I’ma make my snaps

So, he’s a bad motherfucker, he knows we know it, but he knows you’re a pussy-ass nigga who refuses to recognize him, but he does not care. Here is a very subtle argumentation, punctuated by the But, but, and which will continue to accumulate logical connectors along the following verses: if not, just, and. MC Ren teaches logics.

If not from the records, from jacking or craps

If not from the records: a little joke by self-mockery, the termthe records” is again two-way, meaning at the same time criminal record, and musical disc. So basically he means that he will do his stuff, his business, and if it’s not from his albums, it will be at least from his criminal record…

Jacking: it’s pickpocketing, or car-jacking.

Craps: a game of dice and money, popular in the ghetto. We’ll see Ice Cube play it again 4 years later in its IT WAS A GOOD DAY tube.

Just like burglary, the definition is jacking

The definition: we are once again in the theme of teaching, the teacher gives the definitions.

And when I’m legally armed it’s called packing

So he is a criminal law professor too, he knows crime well, he teaches us his terminology.

Shoot a motherfucker in a minute

Hop, we go directly to the practical work. It’s fast.

sharp contrast between the two verses, one is discursive, he speaks in a scholarly way, the other is purely expressive, it is a threat in the face. The artist shows that he has brilliance, agility.

I find a good piece of pussy and go up in it

So here’s a lucky nigga. He stumbles a motherfucker in a minute, and the next moment he falls magically on a good piece of pussy. It’s good to live in Compton (??). And so, what does he do in his miraculous piece of pussy? He goes up in it, he climbs into the whole thing. In fact, this seems to be two fairly basic statements of arrogant masculinity. It deeply and awkwardly expresses a feeling of not being attractive, not being loved.

So if you’re at a show in the front row

Direct address to the public, again. This contributes to the emotional strength of the song, the audience is regularly challenged. On stage, it heats the room by causing people to assume their hostility.

The logical link, So, has a posterior effect with respect to the two preceding verses, which we observed to have arrived in a sudden rupture with the preceding verse. This So shows that they were not alone, they unexpectedly formed the premise in a logical reasoning. You thought it was crazy ? No, it was logical. You thought it was logical ? No, it was crazy.

I’ma call you a bitch or dirty-ass ho

What a nice alternative. In fact it is about being offensive, then super offensive, so we say a big word, then a worse formula.

Bitch: this execrable term is one of the most used of the English songwriting in the last 30 years, because of these uses in rap. Remember what it means: it means that we reproach a woman to be sexual, to love sex, to enjoy sex. And let’s remember what it’s worth: this sexist men’s antisexual misogyny is just container shit, which will really encourage a whole bunch of male listeners, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated, to find rather cool this misogynist violence. How can a man be so stupid as to insult the pleasure of his own mother, of his own sexual partner, of all the women he likes or desires, of half of humanity from the beginning to the end? It’s a super-stupid stupidity and the teacher on the subject is still MC Ren, yo!

Bitch: but wait, this bitch, this slut, in fact, it’s not a woman, since it’s the public, and since for a sexist man, the default audience will be male. This bitch is the male audience. By inference, it can only be a slut if it is a feminized man, so in fact, in the imaginary of the average sexist, it is, again, a homosexual man. That’s what this bitch means, actually. It is a homophobic insult by misogynistic attribution of the “feminine” quality to a man, in order to de-virilize him. It comes from the same liner as the other, it was the container next door, a big delivery of shit from the land of manly men. You’re just macho bitches.

You will probably get mad like a bitch is supposed to

This verse forces the identification between the public and this despised and crazy bitch.

It also specifies the intentions of the poet, who is also a psychiatrist: he wants to make us mad with rage.

But that shows me, slut, you’re composed to

But: once again a logical link, the argument goes on. The rapper does not particularly want to tell, he wants to prove.

That shows: which shows us once more that the genre of the text is of the type “class presentation”, it is in an argumentative logic, it gives examples, it makes demonstrations, it exhibits proofs.

Slut: then, fuck yourself;)

A crazy motherfucker from the street

Hop, here we pick up the major elements of the self-portrait of the gangsta-type. No mental health, no mother, no home. You do not need to be black to experience that: those same ingredients will be at the root of Eminem’s future successes.

Attitude legit, ‘cause I’m tearing up shit

Attitude legit ‘: as value, we will find the authenticity everywhere in rap music. A real rapper comes from the street and has to prove it. Conversely, the lyrics often target the false rappers as well as the bad ones. Legit comes from legitimate, which applies to particular brand objects, we have legit Nikeauthentic Nike, not the Chinese counterfeit fallen from the truck. The attitude of NWA is legit because it comes from the streets and because its rappers authentically tear things up.

MC Ren controls the automatic

The artist signs his self-portrait – until now he had remained anonymous by designating himself as another crazy ass nigga. There, we know that it is MC Ren. MC, means Master of Ceremonies, the name of the speaker in the disco shows, become the name of the rappers who, too, speak on a musical background.

controls the automatic: the automatic weapon, but since this weapon is passed over, the control seems to control everything that could be automatic, which sounds more ambitious, more desirable, stronger.

For any dumb motherfucker that starts static

Dumb: the teacher is severe, does not like the dumb motherfuckers.

The teacher defines what a dumb motherfucker is: someone who starts static. Indeed, we say that it can not move in this way. Not stupid!

Not the right hand, ‘cause I’m the hand itself

Word gamenot the right hand means both “no good hand” (right opposes wrong) and “no right hand” (right opposes left).

The whole expression sounds like a new affirmation of power, reinforced by the negation rendered double by the double meaning, but tainted with paradox: I am not the right hand, I am not the right hand (the most noble), but I am, in full, the hand… which seizes a weapon in the following verse.There is a strange, surreal but nice mental zoom effect on this hand…

Every time I pull an AK off the shelf

So, that’s the guy who often picks up his AK from the shelf with his right hand. Did you ever do it? Characterization of the character as gangster.

Just, by the way: who would have sung this kind of verse on stage in front of an Amarican audience, before rap? Could you imagine Franck Sinatra, Lou Reed, Madonna, singing “Every time I pull an K off the shelf” on a nice melody, threatening everybody to shoot them in a minute? Even the Sex pistols just had pistols. NWA did it. It happened to be a good idea, but the people found it a bit dary.

The security is maximum, and that’s a law

Not only does he play cowboy but also parodies the sheriff.

REN spells Ren, but I’m raw

Hop, you had not done your dictation yet. If you do not understand it does not matter, you’re probably a silly motherfucker, said bluntly – raw.

But: still a logical argumentation structure.

See, ‘cause I’m the motherfucking villain

’cause: same remark, Ren is logician, he exposes the causes and the consequences.

villain: this term is interesting. It comes from the old French word villain, which in the society of the time, in the Middle Ages, means inhabitant of the city, of the city and not of the castle where the nobles live. In the United States, this feudal meaning does not mean anything, but villain keeps the sense of urban excluded from true power, far from the palaces of the rich and the noble. It is the situation of Compton, a small black city, near the big LA, near the Hollywood of whites which makes the world dream.

The definition is clear, you’re the witness of a killin ‘

The course continues, definition.

Witness: still the theme of the course, this time he teaches criminal police.

This is a killing, since they are already two to kill us regularly.

That’s taking place without a clue

Without a clue, because the sound disappears immediately… music is a crime that leaves no exploitable evidence.

And once you’re on the scope, your ass is through

Direct address to the public, again. In traditional songwriting, “you” is often the beloved one in love songs. But here, fuck it! It’s a new genre: hatred song.

Your ass is through: it means you get pierced, but your ass is crossed, something passes through, in short, you get fucked. So either it’s an assault or it’s a rape…

Look, you might take it as a trip

The expression has several meanings:

  • To take a trip is to go on a trip, like you think you’re going on a cruise or something?
  • To take a trip is also to swallow an acid, take a drug.

But a nigga like Ren is on a gangsta tip

Aim: again, again this obsessive logic. For the rapper it is necessary to explain everything, to justify, to argue, to impose his speech.

So this verse says that Ren must be feared since he is a member of a gang, strong of a collective force.

Straight outta Compton

This verse plays twice, it is the gangsta tip that is straight out of Compton, and it is also MC Ren who shouts his last identity claim, closing the loop, returning to the rendezvous point.

(Compton Compton Compton)

(Straight outta Compton)

 

Interlude – Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre: Eazy is his name, and the boy is coming…

The boyeuphemism, Dr. presents Eazy pleasantly as a boy, while he knows we will see that he is a damn bad motherfucker ass nigga too.

 

Verse 3 – Eazy E

… Straight outta Compton

Really, this thing works well, it is an excellent idea, at the same time artistic title and social signature, political slogan and geographical and symbolic landmark, this anaphora in “Straight outta Compton” cumulates the functions and works wonderfully well.

Is a brother that will smother your mother

A brother, is what is said in the black community to consider someone who shares the same conditions of life.

And so, this brother is going to smother your mother. The precedents were motherfuckers, they had just fucked their mothers. Rap does not like moms? Later, with his song MAMA, Tupac will try to fix things.

And make your sister think I love her

We do not yet know who this rapper is, who says these words, but he does not seem to love us, nor our family.

Dangerous motherfucker raising hell

Ah, there you go. It’s a third motherfucker, actually. And he has two new qualities, he is dangerous, and he raises hell – a little as if he had supernatural powers, from beyond the grave.

And if I ever get caught, I make bail

That’s good, being a dealer, Eazy-E was the first NWA financier…

See, I don’t give a fuck, that’s the problem

Eazy-E stands out in a style quite different from the two previous ones. Ice Cube was an expert on murder. Ren played the serious, the tyrannical and contemptuous teacher. Eazy-E plays it super cool, dilettante, relatively indifferent to the affairs of the world. We see immediately that he is eazy, easy, flowing.

I see a motherfucking cop, I don’t dodge him

So, the cops are motherfucking too, it’s definitely like an epidemic of incest…

And so, our Eazy-Eric does not avoid the cops, because he does not care, that’s his attitude as a nigga.

But I’m smart, lay low, creep a while

But: look, this “but” will be repeated two more times. Finally, Eazy-E also argues, comes to prove what he says.

Smart: again the same refusal to be silly, these singers want their intelligence to be recognized.

And when I see a punk pass, I smile

This is another example of Nigga Wit Attitude’s attitude.

To me it’s kinda funny, the attitude showing a nigga driving

He continues on his good mood, his smiling attitude, which might seem nice but somewhere sounds even more threatening, because potentially sadistic, a good psychopath mood.

But do not know where the fuck he’s going, just rolling

But: This “but” is funny because it is not even necessary. Nothing opposes the idea of driving to the idea of ​​not knowing where we are going, the two are compatible, suddenly this “ but “ sounds parasitic, as if Ezay really wanted to add opposition but when there is not none. This highlights his confrontational turn of mind.

Looking for the one they call Eazy

This is obviously a nice, funny narration effect, that Eazy tells us how another nigga is looking for Eazy. It’s like a trickster trick, a trickster being this joker character of traditional tales. And that proves that Eazy is smart, cunning.

But here’s a flash, they’ll never seize me

Being elusive is another trickster-like characteristic, no longer obeying ordinary physical laws, escaping the real.

Ruthless, never seen, like a shadow in the dark

Ruthless: The rapper is advertising to his label, Ruthless.

Never seentheme of invisibility, which magnifies reality: the anonymity of an umpteenth citizen of the ghetto…

Like a shadow in the dark: as a shadow, which sticks with never seen, illustrates his anonymity of black man on a black background.

This is one of the only poetic passages in the song, which could have been written by a normal author. It sounds literary, high register, no motherfucking nigga ass. Which shows that when he wants, little Eric can write WELL. The problem is that he very rarely wants.

Except when I unload

And of course unload here has two meanings, as usual. Lil ‘Eric duz it 2 wayz. (Unloading his gun or unloading his cock, of course.)

You see a spark and jump over hesitation

Youdirect address to the public.

Same stylistic process as Ice Cube when he described the cause and effect, squeezing the trigger and pulling the corpsesRepetition of a striking visual shortcut. Doesn’t it remind you of anything? It does to me, of course: slow down shots, in the westerns, on the shooters who pull out! Casually we stay in California on these lands of cowboys that the world’s public knows since a century of propagandist cinema.

And hear the scream of the one who got the lead penetration

The lead penetration sounds very ambiguous… in the vicinity of “I unload “, it sounds obviously sexual. Yet, it speaks of the penetration of a bullet in your body, nice public.

Feel a little gust of wind and I’m jetting

Nice parallel again, echoing the previous figure, plus! The blow of the bullet leads Eazy straight towards his jet, he is like the Speedy Gonzalez of crime, killing you and fleeing in a grandiose way with the same light movement, too easy, too eazy

Jetting is taking his jet-plane, so having one, being a rich businessman, social model No. 1 in the land of capitalism. Eazy appears as a jet-setter from the ghetto.

But leave a memory no one’ll be forgetting

That’s it, he is concerned about his image, pretty good finally, and like any man who respects himself, he wants to be a great man and mark the history of his footprint.

So what about the bitch who got shot? Fuck her!

Ah, narrative effect ! He told the murder too fast, too dilettante, so now he goes back to point out that he left a victim, a bitch of course, who was shot. Well, he does not care, which explains why he didn’t tell us about this “detail” (dead bitch) earlier.

Here, take a break. In fact, Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E, said the same thing when the delicate Dr. Dre beat a journalist. Eric said on TV, we don’t care about that. Decades later, Dre publicly expressed regret that sounded moderately sincere. In short, here the misogyny of words is real, as Eric will say in two verses: it’s autobiographical. We have real sexist men there. I say that, I say nothing, huh… It’s probably a great idea to imitate female assailants, eh colleagues?

You think I give a damn about a bitch? I am not a sucker

Eric, wait, if you could ever stop messing around for two seconds. Can you make us another song that would explain why only suckers would care for a bitch, like, your mother or your female friends or your daughter?

Okay, you can not, because you’re dead.

And you died, Eric, in 1995, at the age of 30, killed by the biggest gangster of the time, namely AIDS, who killed so many more niggas than all your crew and all Compton united, while simultaneously devastating the loves of all your gay friends.

This is an autobiography of the E

Yes that’s it.

RIP, E.

And if you ever fuck with me

Never ever, Eric… not without a hood anyway !! 😉

You’ll get taken by a stupid dope brother who will smother

Stupid: echo to “do not make me act like a motherfucking fool “.

Brotherrepetition and theme of fraternity.

Word to the motherfucker, straight outta Compton

Hop, last passage of the identity structure in anaphora / epiphora.

(Compton Compton Compton)

(Straight outta Compton)

Outro

Damn, that shit was dope!

Just as the piece opened on a vocal intro, so it closes again. We were told that we were going to witness the strength of street knowledge, and we concluded for ourselves that it was good dope. Logic !

SYNTHESIS

One might ask: where does the success of such a song come from ?

The public of 1988 and then had to ask the question a few times… especially people who hate rap!

From an artistic and literary point of view, one could also ask oneself: with all the high-quality literary offer available at the time, with all these pretty lyrics in other musical styles, how is it that these words coming from street artists, illiterates who left the school system early, authors who represent themselves as delinquents and criminals, aggressors, rapists, thieves, authors who even dare to attack directly and repetitiously their own public, to the point of threatening us with death, how is it that these lyrics have seduced the public more than 10,000 more correct, more normal, more respectful, nicer songs?

Already, note that no lyrics exists without public. To write is necessarily an act of communication, and to write without a public is not to write artistically. So at the limit, a beautiful text without public is not a text, while a mediocre text having found a huge audience, is a real text.

But this song first hit the public who was the target group, initially unambitious: the black and Latino ghettos, dangerous cities especially in California. This phenomenon is easy to understand, since the authors present themselves as the dominant males of their community, so it is logical that they be successful with populations who know the same living conditions, speak in the same special way, very different from the politically correct english that is English WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, who have always been the social class of reference of the United States society).

But strangely, and to the surprise of the NWA members, the song has found an audience far beyond the niggas of Compton: among the whites of America and even among Europeans and Asians, for example in the French suburbs and even in mainstream media like MTV.

So, why is this a good song ?

  • Written in slang, it partially refuses its audience the possibility to understand its lyrics which is a paradoxical but clever way to excite curiosity.
  • By attacking its audience, making the singer a killer, the authors have a very intense emotional impact, that the public already knows a lot in the audio-visual media – we have seen thousands of violent scenes in the movies and on TV – but still rarely in music, with a kind of more pronounced effect of real.
  • Written by oppressed people representative of millions of others, and ostensibly attacking the symbols of authority of the dominant society – its language, its education, its justice, its town planning, its police, its morality… – the song speaks inevitably to this dominant majority, who reacts to it even if they do not like it. In this case, opponents and protesters anti-NWA (moralists, Christians, gays…) have contributed much, unfortunately for them, to advertise this scandalous band, making it the symbol of what should be censored, which led members of Congress to defend the band’s lyrics in the name of freedom of expression.
  • Even if it shows little literary culture, the song rests on solid foundations: these characters of violent killers are already popular in the mainstream culture, for example in the movies of policemen and thugs (THE UNTOUCHABLESMEAN STREETSSCARFACETHE GODFATHER…) or the polars (James Ellroy…) The song comes to give a new voice to an archetypal character already well known to the public, a sure bet: the Criminal, the Outlaw.

Technically, artistically, the song has qualities and defects:

  • its narration is rudimentary, one could do much more dramatic than these rough self-portraits with no real history behind: each character enters on stage to say basically one only thing, “I am a killer, fear me“: it’s strong, but it’s poor
  • its discourse is relatively disjointed, loosely constructed with primary logical links – but the force of emotion (aesthetic fear or sadistic jubilation) replaces that of ideas
  • however, its structure is very clear: it is about three killer characters who speak in turn, in a surprising, original, memorable way, showing their eloquence, their style, their humor
  • similarly, the multi-function reprise of the words “Straight Outta Compton” as the end of the verse and as a chorus works very well, and finds a form of transition found in the best poetic traditions
  • and then, this language is beautiful, even with all these raw words and all these threats, the authors play many times with the sounds, the rhymes, the figures of speech, they present themselves as brutal thugs but are as stylish as their name promised!

So finally, it’s true, it’s an attack, it’s true, it’s a bit raw, but yes, it was memorable and it was worth knowing. Because with this iconic song of a legendary album, it is a whole part of the hip-hop that is going to take, for a long time, the way of a new genre: Gangsta rap. The music that gets you out of the ghetto.

Gangsta-rap songwriting
Did you like this page?
[Total: 1 Average: 5]