We’ve all heard of N.W.A., especially after last year’s widely successful film Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A.’s members were both controversial in their lyricism and lifestyles. It’s often hard to interpret their insane real-life stories into facts because there are two to five conflicting versions of the same events.
N.W.A. was formed by Eazy-E and Dr. Dre in 1986, who had really just banded together to open a recording label. Arabian Prince later helped Dre produce, and Ice Cube was brought in to write the lyrics. DJ Yella and MC Ren were added later as well.
N.W.A. had a message that resonated in those times much like it has in some instances today. However, the group’s frustrations were misguided at times, while distributing disrespect towards women and exuberayting aggressive themes. This caused heavy controversy for both the group and its members. N.W.A. fought an uphill battle with radio stations, police, and even the FBI, but still came out on top, while changing the landscape of hip-hop forever. As most groups from that era, N.W.A. faced financial issues as a result of shady business dealings, which caused members of the group to turn on each other. This eventually led to all of the members parting ways and most taking a chance with a solo career.
Their lyrical influence and insane lifestyles have been debated for years, even after the entire group fell apart. The recent release of Straight Outta Compton was even rebutted by Michel’le’s Lifetime movie, entitled Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, and Michel’le.
The entire group had a habit of not only rapping about insane real-life problems with drugs, violence and women, but they also lived it. This ultimately took away from their crusade against police brutality, despite the realness behind their message. But judge for yourself, with these 16 Insane Real-Life Stories About N.W.A.
16. Ruthless Records
Ruthless Records was founded in 1987 by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, who helped get the label and N.W.A’s foot through the door. To put it best he was the manager behind both the rise and the fall of N.W.A.
Eazy-E actually sought Heller out with his plan of setting up the label in 1987. Jerry Heller was an opportunist, who’s past fame from managing rock and roll gods still made him worthy enough for Eazy to offer up $750, just to arrange a meeting. Heller met with him and in Ruthless he recalls that Eazy “plucked the agreed-upon sum out of a cash roll stashed in his crew sock”. After hearing the debut single Boyz-n-the-Hood, Heller claimed in his memoir that he was “smitten”.
Ruthless Records got its official start that day. It’s insane that Eazy was able to take $7,000 and 5,000 copies of the Boyz-n-the-Hood and turn it into a billion dollar record label.
15. Money & A Dream
It’s insane to think that money and a dream was what initially brought N.W.A together, yet it was also what ended up tearing it apart.
N.W.A. was co-founded by Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, which had been friends since childhood. Eazy was trying to get his label set up to break away from the streets, following the shooting death of his cousin. Dr. Dre was a member of World Class Wreckin’ Crew back then.
Dre ended up getting arrested for parking tickets outside of a club, which was a little different than what was portrayed in the movie Straight Outta Compton. Eazy really did bail him out though and in return he wanted Dre to work with him on producing for the up and coming label.
Starting the group benefited both friends, however. Eazy had the dream to do something better with his life in opening the label and starting up the group. He also had plenty of money from dealing. Dre had a dream of doing something on his own, but didn’t have the money to pull it off alone.
Two friends, one with money and a dream and the other with a dream and no money. That’s how N.W.A. got its start.
14. N.W.A. Definition
An insane name for a relevant group, who were trying to tell an insane, yet very real story about their struggles in Compton.
Not everybody understood the meaning behind those initials at first. Jerry Heller guessed wrong when meeting with Eazy for the first time about the Ruthless label. He asked if it stood for “No Whites Allowed.” Ice Cube also had a little fun with the name’s meaning last year with Jimmy Fallon. They actually made it into a game of what doesn’t N.W.A. stand for as they took turns shouting out incorrect phrases.
N.W.A. could stand for several variations, but no option fits the bill for the group’s lyrics better than the true one. Ni**az Wit Attitudes. The members of the group were standing up for what they believed in. Even if their attitudes were in some cases misguided in their lyrics with disrespect to women or aggression.
It has never been fully established who came up with the name, since all members have different stories, but it’s safe to say that Cube, Eazy, and Dre all had joint credit.
13. Hispanic Zone
If you’ve never heard of Hispanic Zone, you wouldn’t be the only one. It was renamed Panic Zone by the time it was fully written. N.W.A.’s real first album was N.W.A. and The Posse, which featured single tracks from the groups’s members and other talents produced by Dre. It also introduced Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Panic Zone was also featured on the album. The 12 people on the cover has raised some questions obviously, as N.W.A. only had four members back then.
A couple of the people in the photo claim to have been original members at some point, although Krazy D actually has the best case scenario. He is listed as one of the writers on Panic Zone. In fact, he actually admitted in an article with Phoenix New Times that he basically wrote it. “I was doing a song called Hispanic Zone and Dre and I were talking about it and he was like ‘Nobody’s gonna buy a song called Hispanic Zone’”.
Krazy D was the man behind the voice in Dope Man, but was never listed for vocal credit. He also was given a member shout out in the song 8-Ball.
Easy-E couldn’t rap before the track Boyz-n-the-Hood. Eazy and Dre were not meant to be rappers on his up and coming label. Dre and Arabian Prince were there to produce. Eazy and Dre had some talent lined up and were producing and distributing through Macola Record Company. Ice Cube was added on later to write the lyrics.
Cube’s first writing job was really for Eazy’s group H.B.O., but the East Coast group turned Boyz-n-the-Hood down. Dre decided that Eazy’s unusual sounding tone might be right for the rap and bam! A star was made! Wait a minute… If only it was that easy.
It took hours getting Eazy to rap because not only was he awful, but he was also a little shy when it came to rapping. At first Eazy wouldn’t do it all and when he finally did it was in the dark with his shades on. After hours of practice he finally got it right.
11. The Origin of Gangsta Rap
Gangsta rap might have been around before N.W.A., but rappers thought of it as reality rap back then. It wasn’t an actual term until N.W.A. hit the scene and it was even believed that N.W.A. invented the label themselves. MC Ren set the record straight in an interview with Hip Hop DX. He told them “we never labeled it “Gangsta Rap,” and that’s the killer part. Somebody will label you one thing, and it sticks with you like you labeled it yourself”.
The real story is that N.W.A. was doing an interview in Eazy’s backyard and the “white man” doing the interview was “shaking”. The man got even more scared as Eazy went inside to get guns for the photo and he actually knocked some stuff over in the backyard.
After taking the photo and doing the interview the man left and “gangsta rap” became a thing.
10. Skateland U.S.A.
Skateland U.S.A. was the place where the owner, Craig Schwiesinger saw the birth of N.W.A. He had seen the potential for a skating rink in an old burned down bowling alley right next to the club owned by Alonzo Williams. Williams had lent the talented trio of DJ Yella, Dre, and Cli-N-Tel to Schwiesinger at Skateland, which had quickly become a hotspot for early rap groups to hold concerts.
It was there that Dre and Eric Wright, aka Eazy-E would improvise raps together after hours as the staff stayed behind with Schwiesinger to clean the mess up. Dre and Eric starting adding to their entourage, which led to Ice Cube becoming the writer for N.W.A.
Boyz-n-the-Hood was first performed a Skateland U.S.A. and the neighborhood responded so well to it that they continued to do shows. The group began to do shows with a collaboration of about 20 artists and D.J.’s, which concludes the insane, yet mysterious story behind the N.W.A and the Posse album cover.
9. Harassed By The Police
Yes, the members of N.W.A. were harassed by the police outside of Audio Achievements, which is a recording studio. This is strongly corroborated not only by both Dre and Cube from the movie (as seen above), but the incident is also mentioned in Jerry Heller’s memoir Ruthless.
The police pulled up on N.W.A. while the group was taking a break. The police claimed that the group looked like “bangers”, which in their minds gave them reason to handcuff and harass the group. When in reality what the police were doing was racially profiling the members. Heller was confused as to what was going on and told the officers as much. The song F**k Tha Police had already been written by Ice Cube long before the incident, but Dre was spending weekends in county jail and didn’t want the song out there just yet.
The song was still inspired by LAPDs harassment of young black men, but just not on that singular incident.
8. Dee Barnes
It appears that the misogynistic lyrics went a little bit deeper beyond just words for some of N.W.A.’s members. The movie, which was put together with the help of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and MC Ren, conveniently left out some of the details about N.W.A. members.
In 1991, Dee Barnes did an interview with ex-member Ice Cube and Dr. Dre didn’t like what was said. He later beat the hip-hop journalist up in the women’s room of a club. Dee Barnes came forward after the movie release, as well as Dr. Dre’s ex-wife Michel’le. Michel’le corroborates Dee’s story in her follow-up movie Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, and Michel’le. Dr. Dre apologized in a statement, with The New York Times saying that he was sorry for his past treatment of women. This also explains some of Dr. Dre’s initial hesitation with doing the biopic.
7. The FBI vs N.W.A.
N.W.A. had a strong message when it came to police brutality, which was a common threat for many African-Americans. Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and MC Ren, were frustrated with how black men and women were treated by the police. Their lyrics told the story of what was going on in our nation, long before the video surfaced of Rodney King being beaten by police, or the riots that followed.
The song F**k Tha Police was an answer for the growing frustration of not only the member’s of N.W.A., but the black community as well. The lyrics were a way to retaliate using freedom of speech without actual violence, although the words were aggressive. The police saw the rap as attack as did the FBI, apparently. The follow-up was a letter from the FBI about the song’s alleged influence for violence against law enforcement. N.W.A.’s response was equal to the name of the song.
6. Freedom of Speech
In 1989, N.W.A. performed at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, but were told not to perform F**k Tha Police by law officials beforehand. Insane… huh? There is this thing in the constitution, I believe it’s called freedom of speech! Anyway…
N.W.A. started the rap, but firecrackers went off that sounded like gunfire. Security whisked the group away to safety, however the members were later confronted and arrested by police in the hotel lobby when they went down to meet some girls.
An officer who was at the concert explained recently that the officers were just following orders. It was meant as a message that “you can’t say f**k tha police in Detroit”. Not all of the officers agreed with the decision, but still pulled the plug anyway. N.W.A. members were arrested, but not charged.
5. Jimmy Z & N.W.A.
It’s only right to introduce good ole Jimmy Z first. He was the white musician on the Ruthless label back in 1991. He did one album under the label called Muzical Madness (which didn’t do so well). Anyhow, this is one of the most insane, yet funny N.W.A. stories from his website.
Eazy-E and Jerry Heller were apparently pretty generous about taking the whole crew out at times. Everybody piled in a limo once and were carted to the Chyna Club where the doorman realized N.W.A. was in the limo and had to check and see if they were allowed access to the club. It turned out that everyone was allowed in as long as they didn’t have “a piece” except him. He was eventually allowed access, but only if N.W.A. kept an eye on him. He also claims that Eazy kept a huge stash of weed in his trunk.
4. Michel’le & N.W.A.
You wouldn’t know it from the movie Straight Outta Compton, but Michel’le played a huge role in the life of one N.W.A. member and also in the history Ruthless Records. She was actually married to Dr. Dre for the majority of the time he was with N.W.A. Her biggest hit on the Ruthless label was No More Lies.
When Dre wanted to leave Ruthless, Michel’le did also. Suge eventually had his crew beat up Eazy, forcing him to let Dre, Michel’le, and D.O.C. out of their contacts so they could be on Death Row Records instead.
She came out with her own movie called Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, and Michel’le. It shows her part in everything, including how Dre beat and neglected her and their child.
Michel’le later ended up with Suge, who at one point insinuated that their relationship was retaliation against Dre for leaving Death Row.
3. Ice Cube Split
Ice Cube split off on his own from N.W.A. when he realized that he wasn’t getting his fair share for his work in the group. Not only was he a key member in rapping, but he also wrote most of Straight Outta Compton himself. It appeared to him that both Jerry Heller and Eazy were getting the majority of the money and cutting the rest of the members short. N.W.A.’s publicist confirmed his suspicions and helped him with a solo deal through priority.
Ice Cube’s solo career blew up in less than a year, largely due to hit singles written against his old group and their manager. No Vaseline was one of the most brutal diss tracks written by Cube against N.W.A.
Ice Cube also ended up taking a bat and smashed up Bryan Turner’s office at Priority Records after he didn’t get his check when he was supposed to.
2. Suge and Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre left N.W.A. after an argument with Eazy about finances. Dre blamed all of the money issues on Jerry Heller, unlike Ice Cube, who put the blame on both. Dre felt betrayed by Eazy when he wouldn’t listen to his pleas about Heller possibly taking the majority of the shares from the entire group. It was also around this time that Suge Knight got involved as Dre’s bodyguard.
It was a combination of Suge and things getting bad between Dre and Eazy’s friendship that made him finally want to leave. Dre has always claimed innocence when it came to Suge having Eazy beat up over his contract, but he had an idea of how Suge was. Jerry Heller also received threats, which ultimately led to Eazy and Heller releasing Dre.
Dre later went on to become a great producer at his own label, Aftermath Entertainment. Then of course there was Dre Beats, which was sold to Apple, making Dre the first billionaire in hip hop history.
1. Eazy-E Posthumous Hall of Fame Induction
That was pretty much it for N.W.A. after Dre left, but Eazy still had Ruthless and the label’s latest group was topping the charts. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, surely you know who they were.
Anyway, they were about to drop their second album just as Eazy was passing. That’s one thing: Eazy really knew how to get things going when it came to getting an album cut. N.W.A. wouldn’t have ever come about had he not been there to pull the pieces together in the beginning.
Eazy died from complications with AIDS and he wanted the world to know, just like in the movie. He wanted fans to be smarter. Eazy also had seven children with six different mothers. Most of those children claim not to have gotten any inheritance after he died. He married Tamica Woods Wright at the hospital before he died and she inherited everything.
N.W.A. was supposed to reunite, but that didn’t happen soon enough for Eazy. N.W.A. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 8th of 2016.