In this, the second instalment of our 30th anniversary breakdown of N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton, we look at tracks from the Dre-fronted "Express Yourself" to album closer "Something 2 Dance 2."
Even Straight Outta Compton - an album which struck no small amount of fear into parents and government officials alike - wouldn't be complete without a wholesome ode to genuine self expression. "Express Yourself" is both a hearty affirmation of individual identities and the premier emceeing performance from the group's producer, Dr. Dre.
One of the most famous samples on the entire record comes from Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's "Express Yourself." Released in 1970, the track became the soul outfit's signature song. The track found a new audience after a prominent sample was used as a hook.
As for how they found the sample, it's a bizarre coincidence: Eazy-E - real name Eric Wright - was Charles Wright's nephew.
At 2:12, Dre interpolates the key refrain from Straight Outta Compton cut "Dopeman" The track was originally included on their first release, the compilation album N.W.A and the Posse. That 1987 album featured a swathe of West Coast rappers including all members of the group, though it's not counted as their official debut. Arabian Prince claims that the record was a bootleg, expanded and released by Macola Records without their consent.
"Compton's N The House - Remix"
The track that best demonstrates the inextricable link between Eazy-Duz-It and Straight Outta Compton, "Compton's N The House" was originally included as the b-side to Eazy E's titular single. The original track featured both Dr. Dre and MC Ren, but very little Eazy - the duo spit an impressive eight verses, occasionally going bar-for-bar. The remix features an additional vocal sample from Slick Rick associate Dana Dane.
The drums that enter at 0:13 are sampled from "Take Me To The Mardi Gras," a 1975 jazz track by keyboardist Bob James. The same track - a cover of the '73 Paul Simon cut - was earlier sampled on "Straight Outta Compton."
It's easy to see why Dezo Daz's "It's My Turn" is sampled again, given that it contains one of the most isolated and malleable vocal samples that shouts out Compton. The city from which N.W.A hail is an essential part of their mythology, and is mentioned countless times in their catalogue.
Eazy's posthumous sophomore album, released in 1996, was titled Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton.
The vocal sample at 1:38 - "born and raised in the streets of--" - is taken from Whodini's "Funky Beat." The sample is cut before crew member Ecstasy says "Brooklyn," at which point an older N.W.A sample is inserted to pay homage to Eazy's West Coast heritage. The track was later sampled in Ice Cube's "The Nigga Ya Love ta Hate."
Vocals from Whodini's "Fugitive" were earlier sampled on "Ain't It Ruff."
The brief sample juxtaposed against the Whodini vocal grab is lifted from N.W.A's "8 Ball."
Whilst the remix was included on Straight Outta Compton, the original was included on the group's contentious 1987 compilation, N.W.A. and the Posse. The sample is a simple one: Eazy's distinctive, high-pitched voice saying "Compton!"
There's a brief vocal sample at 2:36 - "hell no, he replied" - sourced from Dana Dane's 1987 track, "Cinderfella Dana Dane."
Dane - a peer of Slick Rick who performed with him in The Kangol Crew prior to his success with Doug E. Fresh - released his debut, Dana Dane With Fame, in 1987. The album was produced by Hurby 'Luv Bug' Azor, best known for his work alongside Salt-N-Pepa and Kid n Play.
"I Ain't Tha 1"
A solo Ice Cube number in which he claims to be wise to the ways of gold digging women, "I Ain't Tha 1" finds the emcee tackling to topic over three hefty verses. For what it's worth, Cube doesn't come off much better: whilst he claims that women only want money, he openly admits that he's "only down for screwin'." The track is the simplest on the record, produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella from a single sample.
The sole sample on "I Ain't The One" is the work of Brooklyn funk group Brass Construction.
"The Message (Inspiration)" was included on 1976's Brass Construction II, the second in their six-instalment self-titled series. The group released ten albums in as many years, though they never quite replicated the success of their debut.
"Dopeman - Remix"
The original "Dopeman" appeared on the 1987 N.W.A. and the Posse compilation album and, like "8 Ball" and "Comptons' N The House" before it, was remixed for inclusion on the group's official debut.
The warped synth line should sound familiar, as it previously appeared in "Gangsta Gangsta." It's sampled from Ohio Players' "Funky Worm," and quickly became an important sample in the evolution of the West Coast sound.
The "Yo, Dre!" that opens the track is sampled from The C.I.A's "My Posse."
The C.I.A., or Cru' In Action!, were a pre-N.W.A outfit featuring Ice Cube, Sir Jinx and K-Dee. They got their start performing at parties organised by Dre, who was then a member of World Class Wreckin' Cru. The Dre-produced "My Posse," released in '87, was the group's only release.
The album featured an all-star roster of contributors, including production supervisor Russell Simmons, photographer Glen E. Friedman, mastering engineer Howie Weinberg and liner notes from hip hop commentator Nelson George.
"Quiet On Tha Set"
"Quiet On The Set," MC Ren's second and final solo display, features the most samples of any Straight Outta Compton cut, with 19 different elements incorporated into just four minutes. Despite this, the track is one of the more lyrical on the LP, focusing on Ren's intricate (and essential) penmanship.
The track opens with the familiar sounds of Clyde Stubblefield's funky drumming. The titular "Funky Drummer" of Brown's famous track, Stubblefield has been sampled thousands of times.
Wild Sugar's "Bring It Here." The 1981 single and accompanying b-side was the only release from the female vocal trio, who also sung on four Fatback Band tracks. The Fatback Band famously released the first hip hop track in 1979.
The heavily-scratched vocals at 0:10 and 0:15 - "hip hop on the strip" and "listen to this" - are courtesy of Cool C. The vocals are lifted from "Down To The Grissle," a 1988 single from the Philidelphia-based artist.
Though he's a seldom sampled act, Cool C's legacy is nonetheless assured - after shooting a policewoman during a botched robbery in 1996, the former rapper has been on death row.
The exchange that kickstarts Ren's verse at 0:17 - "yo Ren," "what's up?" - should sound familiar. It's taken from the opening of Ren's "Straight Outta Compton" verse.
At 0:17, during a frantic section of scratches and cuts, a voice can be heard saying "one!" This voice belongs to hip hop pioneer Kurtis Blow, who scored the first-ever gold certified hip hop record.
"AJ Scratch," a track from Blow's fifth album, 1984's Ego Trip, achieved little commercial success but has since become a sampling staple. It graces classic cuts by N.W.A contemporaries Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Run-DMC and Slick Rick.
The guitar riff at 0:19 is taken from KC and the Sunshine Band's "I Get Lifted," a track from their 1975 self-titled sophomore LP. That album includes "Get Down Tonight" and "That's The Way (I Like It)," two of the group's biggest hits.
The five-note ascending horn scale that leads into the hook at 0:34 is borrowed from The Brothers Johnson's 1978 single, "Ain't We Funkin' Now."
Another sample that shows the inextricable link between Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-It, "Quiet On Tha Set" makes use vocals from Eazy-E's "Ruthless Villain."
Another new drum break enters at 1:08, courtesy (yet again) of hip hop mainstay James Brown.
The drums on "Funky President" were played by Allen Schwarzberg, a prolific studio musician who played on hits such as Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye," Harry Chapin's "Cat's In The Cradle" and the Star Wars theme. "Funky President" itself has appeared on more than 800 tracks, including joints by Kanye West, Eric B. & Rakim and N.W.A.
At 1:17, the group samples a scream from Laura Olsher's "The Unsafe Bridge," a track included on Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House a 1964 Disney-released story and SFX record. Olsher, who died in 2012, was an voice actor, actor and director.
"Lights, camera, action" at 1:22 is a sample of Big Daddy Kane on "Just Rhymin' With Biz," an album track from his 1988 debut, Long Live The Kane. Though Kane's debut was released just a few months before Straight Outta Compton, "Just Rhymin' With Biz" was issued as a b-side to single "Get Into It," released in '87.
The horn hit and drumkit that come in after the brief break are taken from The Magic Disco Machine's 1975 track, "Scratchin'."
The oft-sampled group of Motown session musicians are best known for this track, which would go on to appear on Eazy-E's "Eazyer-Said-Than-Dunn," N.W.A's "Real Niggaz Don't Die" and The D.O.C.'s "The Formula."
The distinctive, attention-grabbing drums at 1:45 are taken from Steve Miller Band's "Take The Money And Run."
The slightly popular break, which was featured on Ultimate Breaks and Beats, has been sampled more than 30 times. It previously appeared on Straight Outta Compton cuts "Gangsta Gangsta" and "Something Like That."
Of course the easily identifiable vocal sample at 2:00 - "man, you should have known by now" - is taken from the title track to Eazy's debut album.
"Eazy-Duz-It," which contains a mean 20 samples in its own right, has, like many N.W.A associated releases, been sampled in later work by the group's members. It appeared on later cuts by Eazy-E as well as tracks by Yella and The D.O.C.
The "three" in "N.W.A, take three" is courtesy of Public Enemy frontman Chuck D.
It's a sample of "Rebel Without A Pause," the lead single from the group's genre-defining sophomore album, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. The track was released in July '87, just five months after their debut album and a whole 11 months before the record itself.
The intricate electric guitar riff at 2:59 is lifted from the opening of Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds' "Theme to 2001." The track is a disco rendition of the theme to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, otherwise known as Strauss' Nietzsche-inspired epic, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra."
"Something 2 Dance 2"
The closing track marks the only appearance of mysterious and maligned N.W.A member Arabian Prince. The track's unique sound can be attributed to Prince, as he's credited as the sole writer on the track, which features vocals from Prince, Dre, Yella and Eazy. Prince is upfront about his lack of gangsta bravado, a fact demonstrated throughout "Something 2 Dance 2."
Prince was a founding member of N.W.A, appearing on the group's unofficial 1987 compilation. He stayed with the core group into the Straight Outta Compton era, but left before the record was released, citing financial impropriety. Though the most successful of the N.W.A members prior to the group's formation, Prince is best remembered for producing J.J. Fad's "Supersonic," a hit that helped bankroll N.W.A's debut.
The dialogue that precedes the first verse is taken from a curiously old film. The dialogue can be heard at the opening of the 1943 Gang Busters movie serial, an adaptation of the radio serial that was originally broadcast from 1936 to 1957.
The Universal Pictures-produced serial ran for 251 minutes. Film serials, which were small chapter-based cinema experiences, were popular through the first half of the 20th century.
A sample in some sense of the word, "Something 2 Dance 2" makes use of the Fairlight CMI Series IIx's distinctive ORCH5 instrument. The Fairlight CMI was a 'digital audio workstation' first released in 1979. It included an innovative sampling synthesizer - some of the inbuilt sounds, such as the ORCH 5 orchestral hit, became staples in their own right.
At 1:14, there's a sample of the 1982 rap song, "Change The Beat." The track was released as a two-part single with renditions from both Freddy and female rapper Beside. Beside's version has become one of the most sampled tracks of all time, owing to the turntable-ready vocoder vocal at the close. Arabian Prince acknowledges this by following it up with the lyric "man, that's wack, everybody uses that!"
At 1:41, there's a brief sample of Paul Terry's 1955 "Mighty Mouse Theme." This theme was the one used in the original run of films, which were produced between 1942 and 1961.
Mighty Mouse appeared in over 80 films across those two decades, and was popularly revived in Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, a CBS TV show which ran between '87 and '88. It concluded two months after Straight Outta Compton dropped.
Tell 'Em Where You From!
Much like the album itself, what happened next is the stuff of legend.
Ice Cube split with the group in 1989, citing the same financial impropriety that claimed Arabian Prince one year earlier. Cube's departure was more impactful than Prince's: alongside MC Ren, Cube represented the lyrical heart of N.W.A. He took these talents to Public Enemy associates The Bomb Squad and released his solo debut, Amerikkka's Most Wanted, in 1990. It made no mention of his former outfit.
The remaining members of N.W.A - Dre, Eazy, Ren and Yella - returned with an EP, 100 Miles and Runnin', three months after Cube's debut. Their barbed comments would lead to one of hip hop's most decisive and venomous musical retaliations, "No Vaseline." The track was so brutal that Island Records, who distributed Cube's Death Certificate in the UK, removed it from the album without Cube's consent. Whilst far from the first hip hop beef, the Cube/N.W.A feud is arguably the earliest to enter mass consciousness. It occurred at the height of West Coast dominance, pitting former members of the world's most famous rap group against one another in a vicious lyrical battle.
Though N.W.A soon deteriorated, members of the group continued to pioneer hip hop. Dre birthed the West Coast's defining sound, G-Funk, and continued to solidify his legend with The Chronic and 2001. Cube's run through the early '90s produced a swathe of classic West Coast records, including Lethal Injection and Death Certificate. Eazy, the embodiment of gangsta rap, released just one LP before his death from AIDs on March 26, 1995. MC Ren's '90s output was warmly received, though it struggled to achieve any real commercial success. DJ Yella, in an unexpected twist, left the music industry and went on to produce and direct over 300 porn films.
Straight Outta Compton was far bigger than just N.W.A. It marked the beginning of a West Coast explosion, a period of commercial supremacy that would last for five years. Though hip hop had traditionally focused on the East Coast, acts such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Ice Cube and Tupac Shakur dominated radio play throughout the early '90s. It wouldn't be until 1993, when Wu-Tang, Black Moon and A Tribe Called Quest kicked off the 'East Coast Renaissance,' that NYC would regain tastemaker status. What's more, the oncoming wave of gangsta-minded hits would set the stage for increased posturing, making a gangsta image an invaluable tool in achieving mainstream success. It would be a good two decades years before this was undercut by the mainstream efforts of Kid Cudi and Kanye West. Even in the wake of gangsta rap's mainstream dominance, it exists as an subgenre that enjoys continued success through the likes of Pusha T, Freddie Gibbs and Schoolboy Q.
Thirty years on, however, there's no gangsta rap outfit more essential than N.W.A -- and there never will be. In ushering in a new prevailing style of rap, N.W.A remain one of the most significant hip hop acts of all time, their legacy indelibly marked via homage, influence and no small amount of reverence.