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N.W.A: A Hard Act to Follow 

Hip-hop and hype from the streets of Compton (reprint of May 5, 1989, Weekly cover story)

Tuesday, Dec 4 2007
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Page 6 of 6

A slight blonde from PBS takes notes for a possible five-minute segment on the band; Ice Cube, Eazy and Ren sprawl over easy chairs in the lobby, zombielike, doing phone interview after phone interview. “Kids want to hear about reality,” Ice Cube says again and again. “White kids don’t live in the ghetto, but they want to know what’s going on.” Ren cuts in on cue: “If you’re watching the news and Tritia Toyota says three people got killed in McDonald’s, it’s not like she’s telling you to kill them — she’s just telling you what happened.” Ice Cube stands up, stretches: “But y’all have mwa-ral authawrity,” he says, imitating the last interviewer.

“If they don’t buy our records, fuck that shit.”

He pulls a scrawled-on sheet of three-ring paper out of his pocket and walks into the studio. Yella rolls the tape, and Ice Cube starts to rap. His staccato drawl is devastating, playful, spontaneous yet on; he knows exactly which syllables to punch and which to roll; he’s comfortable and in control, although he seems to have written the rhyme only minutes before. It’s like hearing Clifford Jordan try out a new standard on tenor. It’s clear that Ice Cube would be a star rapper with any producer in the country.

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In the waiting room, Ren finishes up another interview and starts talking to his buddy Laylaw about Compton. Laylaw has heard this story many times:

“I lost a lot of friends to gangbanging, man. When you been kickin’ it with somebody, and you hear they dead, you think like, ‘That was my homeboy, that was stupid.’ The night I got shot, I was in front of a friend’s house just kickin’ it. You know, we wasn’t doin’ nothing. It was one of my buddies, though, who was into gangbanging; he was into it. The Crips were over here, right? And the Pirus were over from across the boulevard; I guess they came and spotted his car, which was parked where all of us were at, like, 2 in the morning. My friend says, ‘Come on, man, let’s go watch some movies.’ All of us walking in the house, they just start blat-blat-blat-blat — shooting and shit — and I got hit. And you know, after I get shot I was like ‘Man, damn what they shoot me for? I didn’t do nothing.’ It’s all because my friend go around shooting people. I got his bullet, man, because a bullet don’t have a name on the motherfucker. Since then I haven’t wanted to be around my friend too much anymore.

“But when we put this shit out on video and on records, ain’t nobody want to see this shit. The video ain’t half of a half of what go on for real. It’s just a little sweep, no guns. MTV’s into all that crazy devil-worshipping shit .?.?. To me there’s more violence on a motherfucking cartoon than in our music. Little kid see a cartoon character with a gun, he going to want to carry a gun, right? GI Joe, all that shit. But they aren’t even playing our video on the MTV rap show.”

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