By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Now they have something else to nab. On the surface, it appears the rationale behind the DMN story is directly attributed merely to the release of a new boxed set of old material. But does that mean they are still relevant? Clark should know that rap music has a very short shelf life anyway, that repackaged collections of old hip-hop tracks just won't sell to a kid gettin' his Nelly freak on. Without question, Dr. Dre is obviously a gifted record producer (he remixed a song by my band DDT for the Colors soundtrack), and Ice Cube certainly had a gift of twisting the English language in a manner that was quite appealing to angry young people.
But the real talent in N.W.A. ended right there. Eazy-E was in the group because the money he made selling drugs paid for their initial recordings. Recording his vocal parts in the studio was a total nightmare: one line at a time--pause, record, pause, record, with his Sky Pager going off every 30 seconds. (He was also the one who brought parasitic Heller into the fold--a horrible business decision that quickly alienated him from the other members of the group.)
Interestingly, Clark's article neglected to mention that Eazy-E contributed $1,000 to George Bush's presidential campaign in 1992, that Dre once severely beat up a female reporter in public or that Ice Cube gave up an academic scholarship to Arizona State to remain a part of N.W.A. For Cube, the price paid included subjecting his mother's house to a number of drive-by shootings by real gang members. Also neglected in the article was mention of the fact that when Eazy-E died from complications of the HIV virus in 1995, he left behind seven children by six different women--none of whom had medical insurance at the time. Nor did it mention Dre's rocky affiliation with Suge Knight, the man who reportedly hung Vanilla Ice out an eighth-floor hotel window in an extortion attempt.
It's amusing that Clark's article was found in the Arts section. Fellini once said, "All art is autobiographical." The members of N.W.A. often said that their music wasn't manufactured, but merely a slice of their normal everyday lives. This, of course, was a lie. Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Ice Cube and DJ Yella were never L.A. gang bangers. They never killed a policeman during a drive-by shooting. Only Eazy-E ever actually stood on a Compton street corner and sold crack cocaine.
While, in retrospect, it may now stand as "art" to the passing listener, the only motivation for any member of N.W.A. during that time period was the accumulation of money. (If their music is real art, then so are snuff films, bumper stickers, street graffiti and pornographic playing cards.) The last thing on any of their minds at the time was creating art as a representation of their everyday lives. N.W.A. and Heller were capitalist businessmen whose product was a depiction of the degradation and isolation of the collective African-American community. A problem they actually contributed to, rather than helped to rectify.