N.W.A: History of the Hip Hop Group

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in 1986 in Compton, California, N.W.A. forever influenced gangsta rap in an extremely short period of time. Made of up several DJs and MCs, the group quickly made a name for itself by tackling heavy themes such as racism and city living. They generated controversy with their graphic language and musical feuds between members but also produced some of the most original and groundbreaking material in rap and G-funk. Though the crew didn't stay together, their musical legacy remains. In this video, explores the history of N.W.A.
These rappers might have been “Straight Outta Compton,” but they were known around the world. Welcome to and today we’re taking a look at the history of N.W.A.


Hip hop group N.W.A. was formed by rapper Eazy-E in 1986 in the south central Los Angeles city of Compton, California. He quickly recruited others to join him: Dr. Dre and DJ Yella came from the electro group World Class Wreckin’ Cru, and Ice Cube originated from the hip hop group C.I.A. Together, they were N.W.A.

First Single

The group released their first single “Panic Zone” in 1987 on Eazy-E’s label, Ruthless Records. That same year, the song was included on the compilation album N.W.A. and the Posse, and that album also featured collaborations with future N.W.A. member Arabian Prince.


MC Ren joined N.W.A. in 1988. That year also saw the release of their debut, Straight Outta Compton. Though N.W.A. referred to their music as reality rap, the album is considered one of the original records of gangsta rap. Due to its themes and graphic language, Straight Outta Compton was one of the first albums to ship with a Parental Advisory label; however the record still managed to become the group’s best-selling effort.

Police Brutality

In addition, the LP tackled issues that were facing urban youth, including police brutality, racial profiling and the struggles of the inner-city. This was particularly notable in the song “Fuck tha Police,” which was strongly criticized for its violent and controversial lyrics.

Working Together as N.W.A.

Every member of N.W.A. had a specific role, and together they worked like a well-oiled machine. This efficiency made N.W.A. a tour de force in the rap game.

Ice Cube’s Departure

However, the group lost Ice Cube after a disagreement regarding royalty payments in December 1989. The next year, he dropped his critically and commercially successful solo debut.


N.W.A.’s first post-Ice Cube recording was the title track to 1990’s 100 Miles and Runnin’. This song, as well as several others on the EP, made reference to the rapper’s departure and even attacked Ice Cube as a coward. This began a feud that lasted several years.

Ice Cube Continues the Feud

In effect, Ice Cube responded by calling out each member of N.W.A. on the song “Jackin’ for Beats” later that year. He continued with the insults on his 1991 follow-up Death Certificate, which yielded the infamous track “No Vaseline.”

Second Album

Meanwhile, N.W.A. dropped Niggaz4Life in 1991. While the effort contained blatant disses towards Ice Cube, it also contained extremely sexist lyrics. Regardless, the record topped the Billboard 200 chart and was praised for its production work. Some critics even called it the album that ushered in the G-Funk era.


However, Niggaz4Life was N.W.A.’s last album. Disputes concerning contracts and money issues spelled the end for the group and bred a nasty rivalry between Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, who had moved to Death Row Records.

Eazy-E’s Death

The two released numerous songs that depicted their hostility for one another, until Eazy-E’s death of AIDS-related complications on March 26th, 1995. With the loss of their friend, the former members of N.W.A. eventually expressed regret for their past behavior in their music.

Later Releases and Projects

While the surviving members of the group continued with their own projects, several compilations came out. Notable releases include The N.W.A. Legacy, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Stories about an N.W.A. biopic have swirled for years, and a persistent rumor suggested the role of Eazy-E would be played by the rapper’s real-life son.

Musical Legacy

Even though they released only two albums, these gangster rappers influenced a generation. Their harsh look at reality brought to light the struggles and situations faced by many urban youths and gave a voice to their anger. N.W.A was fearless and it was this fearlessness that made them legendary.

They may have been straight outta Compton, but they will always live in rap history.