With the news of Dr. Dre becoming hip-hop’s first billionaire (thanks to the Beats/Apple deal) and the hype surrounding the N.W.A. biopic (which I’m not optimistic about, since Dre and Cube have veto power to edit or remove any/every scene of the up coming movie), its only fitting that N.W.A. would be today’s subject.
To help build up anticipation for the follow-up to their mammoth debut album Straight Outta Compton, the disgruntled Los Angeles quartet dropped the 100 Miles & Runnin’ EP in late 1990. The results were fairly positive, but with the EP only containing 5 tracks, the full impact of Ice Cube’s departure could not be properly assessed. 1991 brought the proper full length follow-up to their debut which they would affectionately title Niggaz4life.
Like anything else the members of N.W.A touched, (except for MC Ren’s solo material) Niggaz4life would go on to move a ton of units, and be the final chapter in the book of N.W.A as a group and the beginning of the members solo careers, which for some of them would turn into successful ventures, both musically and beyond.
Prelude – The members of Above The Law kick off Niggaz4life, with a few kind words about their disgruntled brethren, even going as far to include a Psalms 23 hood remix. This sets up Ren who spits two solid verses over the same instrumental used for the closing track on the 100 Miles & Runnin’ EP, “Kamurshol”. Happy to see they didn’t let a sick instrumental go to waste.
Real Niggaz Don’t Die – Dre’s instrumental sounds like heaven battling hell when you hear the melodic bells over the rough guitar sample. Even though he’s been gone nearly two decades, hearing Easy’s line “only the good die young so that makes me young and bad” was kind of uncomfortable.
Niggaz 4 Life – Ren, Dre and Easy all share nonsensical reasons why they call themselves niggas, and they all sound pretty entertaining doing it over this hot Dr. Dre production.
Protest – Interlude
Appetite For Destruction – This was the second single released from Niggaz4life. Dre, Ren, and Easy take turns spittin’ over this dark and eerie Dre instrumental. Easy bats third and if I’m not mistaking, he refers to himself as “chicken shit” in step 6 of his countdown. Don’t know if this was a blooper or if he meant do say it. Either way it catches you off guard and is bound to make you chuckle and rewind it just to make sure you didn’t misunderstand him.
Don’t Drink That Wine – This is a faux Public Service Announcement hosted by MAAD (Muthafuckas Against Drunk Driving). Coincidentally, D.O.C, who by this time had already lost his voice after injuring his vocal cords in a car accident, makes a cameo on this interlude. I sometimes wonder what type of impact D.O.C. would have had on the game had he not lost his booming voice, being left to whisper on garbage interludes such as this one.
Always Into Something – Dre and Ren tag team Dre’s laid back instrumental and drop some old gangsta shit on the album’s lead single. Ren provides another blooper reel moment on his final verse as he accidentally uses “nothing” instead of “something” (I’m sure most of you never noticed but now it will stick out like a Nicki Minaj booty cheek in daisy dukes). No matter how much time passes, this Dre instrumental is still smooth and never gets old.
Message To B.A. – Interlude aimed at Ice Cube.
Real Niggaz – Same version that was on the 100 Miles & Runnin’ EP, only minus the opening babble from the big homie.
To Kill A Hooker – This might be the most ridiculous interlude in the history of hip-hop interludes. The crew rolls up on a hooker (that they’re apparently not aware of her profession) who they decide to murder after they, not so politely, ask her for her services and have the audacity to get offended when she asks them what their willing to pay. Are you kidding me? This sets up the next song…
One Less Bitch – Dre and Ren turn into serial killers as they kill no less than 4 chicks (and 1 dude) on this one. Dre’s sample of the Barry White classic “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” was very underwhelming, along with everything else about this song.
Findum, Fuckum & Flee – You know what this is about.
Automobile – Easy (with a brief assist from who I think was Dre?) tries to serenade the ladies into giving him some pussy. Terrible.
She Swallowed It – This is Ren’s sequel to “Just Don’t Bite It” from 100 Miles & Runnin’. Ren orally (pun intended) shares a few more experiences with the listener.
I’d Rather Fuck You – Easy decides to test his singing chops again, only this time he invites long time Deathrow contributor Jewell and an uncredited male vocalist to help. This is a remake of the Bootsy Collins funk classic “I’d Rather Be With You”, and it kind of works in a cheesy kind of way, do in large part to Jewell and the other uncredited guest’s contributions. And that concludes the misogyny portion of Niggaz4life. Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Approach To Danger – The instrumental matches the song title beautifully. All three rappers spit vocally distorted verses about death and violence over a dark Dre instrumental. The verses were cool but Dre’s instrumental is the true star on this one (like most of the album).
1-900-2-COMPTON – Interlude…
The Dayz Of Wayback – Ren and Dre reminisce on their youthful days growing up in the hood. They both stray from the subject at hand but find their way back eventually. Decent way to end the album.
Straight Outta Compton will always be N.W.A’s most significant and revered album of the two full lengths they released as a group. At its release it was both groundbreaking and revolutionary with its brash demeanor and hard content. Niggaz4life doesn’t have the same sting. Ren, Dre, and Easy do a decent job compensating for Ice-Cube’s absence, but Niggaz4life misses his swagger, severely. On the other hand, Dre’s production on Niggaz4life is miles ahead of the work he did on Straight Outta Compton, as we see glimpses of the sonic funk blueprints that would help Dre dominate the nineties (and arguably the early 2000’s), etching his legacy in the annuals of hip-hop as one of the top two hip-hop producers of all time (yeah, I said it). So, even if you don’t feel the rhymes you’ll definitely feel most of the production on Niggaz4life.