'Gangsta Gangsta' - N.W.A. - Confused Young White Man Critiques Mid-to-Late 80s' Rap Music Narratives #1

by Rathe on Monday, 7 February 2011

Being a young British male, I occasionally feel twinges of regret whenever I am reminded of how little I actually know about 80’s rap narrative. I feel left out when I overhear my friends' conversations about the “flow” of The Chronic, or the ‘phat rhymez’ of Illmatic. It’s a talent of my generation’s that I’ve missed out on, along with ‘your mum’ jokes and an encyclopaedic knowledge of each Britain’s Got Talent winner. However, there’s no time like the present, and I seek to rectify this.

Like all white rock fans, I do very much enjoy me some Public Enemy, hypocritical and irrelevant as they may be these days – hell, I named my game articles after one of their songs – but I need something else to work from. Oh, here we go, the ubiquitous Straight Outta Compton. I at least recognise some of the rappers on this. ‘F*** Tha Police’ would be the obvious choice, so I’m going to go for one of my favourite album cuts, the brilliantly exaggerated ‘Gangsta Gangsta’.

An awful lot of swearing, casual mysogyny, advocation of drug use and crippling amounts of the 80s' in general after the jump, so a discretionary warning to anyone who isn't an alcoholic sailor or living in Texas.

Here's a little somethin' bout a nigga like me
never shoulda been let out the penitentiary

Right from the off, I have to say I’m a little worried that Ice Cube apparently seems to hate himself so much he feels he doesn’t deserve to be out of jail. I’d have at least waited until after he made Are We There Yet?

Ice Cube would like ta say
That I'm a crazy mutha fucka from around the way
Since I was a youth, I smoked weed out

“Smoked weed out”? As in, gassing it with smoke to flush it out? I’m not sure that’s how it works.

Now I'm the mutha fucka that ya read about
Takin' a life or two
that's what the hell I do, you don't like how I'm livin
well fuck you!

I suppose something has to be said for how non-committal he seems about it all. Mr. Cube cares as much about the consequences of his mindless murders as a McDonald’s janitor.

This is a gang, and I'm in it
My man Dre'll fuck you up in a minute
With a right left, right left you're toothless
And then you say “goddamn they ruthless!”

Actually, I say “Goddamn, Dr. ‘Andre Romelle Young’ Dre just knocked every single tooth out of my mouth with four punches.” I counted.

Everwhere we go they say [damn!]
N W A's fuckin' up tha program
And then you realize we don't care
We don't just say no, we to busy sayin' yeah!

You do yourself down, Ice ‘O'Shea Jackson’ Cube! It seems to me you and your gang put an awful lot of effort, time and dedication to brutally beating people, so I wouldn’t say you “don’t care”. You also seem very optimistic about it! An attitude more of your fellow OGs could use. No point in going to jail and being miserable about it.

To drinkin' straight out the eight bottle
Do I look like a mutha fuckin role model?

I’m not sure if you can understand me, having had my molars slammed into my throat, but I’d hazard a “no”.

To a kid lookin' up ta me
Life ain't nothin but bitches and money.

“…and wanton violence and XXX 2. You’ll get the hang of it.”

Cause I'm tha type o' nigga that's built ta last
If ya fuck wit me I'll put a foot in ya ass

Again, this is the sort of attention to detail that I appreciate from Ice Cube. Some other rappers may merely kick my ass, but he is likely – nay, willing, I daresay – to insert his entire foot, probably up to the ankle (certainly no less) into my sphincter. It just adds an entirely new dimension to our professional relationship.

See I don't give a fuck 'cause I keep bailin
Yo, what the fuck are they yelling

“Oh god, he made another movie!”

Gangsta, Gangsta! That's what they're yelling
 "It's not about a salary, it's all about reality"
Gangsta, Gangsta! That's what they're yellin
"Hopin’ you sophisticated motherfuckers hear what I have to say"

That there’s the chorus, and already we have a whacking great bit of hypocrisy– O’Shea! You just told my children life itself is not worth living save for the accumulation of wealth and wenches – what’s all this “it’s not about a salary” nonsense? Consistency, Ice! Consistency!

When me and my posse stepped in the house
All the punk-ass niggaz start breakin out

I keep wanting to hear this as ‘start playing Breakout’. So, so much.

Cause you know, they know whassup
So we started lookin for the bitches with the big butts

Oh, Ice! Must it always be about looks?

Like her, but she keep cryin
"I got a boyfriend" Bitch stop lyin
Dumb-ass hooker ain't nuttin but a dyke

This is possibly my favourite part of the whole song, because it crystallises just how desperate Ice Cube is to established his man-dentials – so acute is his sense of estimating affection he can somehow tell that a woman doesn’t have a boyfriend on sight! Also, stupid prostitutes are lesbians. No exception.

Suddenly I see, some niggaz that I don't like
Walked over to em, and said, "Whassup?"
The first nigga that I saw, hit em in the jaw

You know what, Mr. Cube? You didn’t even give that man a chance! In fact, you literally greeted him and punched him the face before he even replied! You’re little more than an overcompensating bully! Who went on to star in terrible films!

Ren started stompin em, and so did E
By that time got rushed by security
Out the door, but we don't quit
Ren said, "Let's start some shit!"

No, no, I think you’ve done a good enough job…

I got a shotgun, and here's the plot
Takin niggaz out with a flurry of buckshots
Boom boom boom, yeah I was gunnin
And then you look, all you see is niggaz runnin
and fallin and yellin and pushin and screamin
and cussin, I stepped back, and I kept bustin
And then I realized it's time for me to go
So I stopped, jumped in the vehicle
It's like this, because of that who-ride
N.W.A. is wanted for a homicide

Alright, let’s step back and just review this. At this point, the tale breaks down into pure childlike fantasy, like your friend Timmy did when you were six and he told you he once fended off burglars with his dad’s gun. Ice fires three shots into a crowd of people for little reason other than he doesn’t like the look of them, and then speeds off with his gang in a presumably stolen “vehicle”. I don’t know who I’m rooting for here, but I wouldn’t think it to be the guy who appeared in Anaconda. Anyway, the refrain and chorus repeats, taking us to verse three…

Homies all standin around, just hangin
Some dope-dealin, some gang-bangin

I had no idea this is what “hangin’” actually consisted of. I’m going to have to be more careful when I ask friends to spend time with me.

We decide to roll and we deep
See a nigga on Dayton's and we creep
Real slow, and before you know
I had my shotgun pointed in the window
He got scared, and hit the gas

Really; can’t imagine why.

Right then, I knew I has to smoke his ass

As opposed to all that time you spent pointing a shotgun at him?

He kept rollin, I jumped in the bucket
We couldn't catch him, so I said fuck it
Then we headed right back to the fort

I like the idea of N.W.A. owning a real fortress, guarded by a moat of cheap liquor.

Sweatin all the bitches in the biker shorts

Another disturbing facet of Mr. Cube’s fetishistic tendencies are revealed: biker shorts.

We didn't get no play, from the ladies
With six niggaz in a car are you crazy?

Hey, you suggested it!

She was scared, and it was showin
We all said "Fuck you bitch!" and kept goin

Let me get this straight. You put a woman in a position that you purposely knew would make any suggestion of sexual activity awkward, and then berated her for it? You guys are worse than people I knew in sports classes! And none of them were in BarberShop2: Back in Business!

To the hood, and we was fin to
Find somethin else to get into
Like some pussy, or in fact
A bum rush, but we call it rat pack
On a nigga for nuttin at all
Ice Cube'll go stupid when I'm full of eight ball

Well, based on given evidence I’d say you wouldn’t even need that.

I might stumble, but I won't lose
Now I'm dressed in the county blues
Cause I'm the type of nigga that's built to last
If you Fuck wit me, I'll put my foot in your ass
I don't give a fuck, cause I keep bailin
Yo, what the fuck are they yellin?

Then the chorus repeats. At this point we get a little interlude between who I believe to be Dre himself and Cube.

(Wait a minute, wait a minute, cut this shit)
{Man whatcha gonna do now?}
"What we're gonna do right here is go way back"
(How far you goin back?)
"Way back"
[Slick Rick] "As we go a lil somethin like this"

Disappointingly, it isn’t a Journey to the Beginning of Time-esque shift; merely a change in rapper.

Here's a lil gangsta, short in size
A t-shirt and Levi's is his only disguise
Built like a tank yet hard to hit
Ice Cube and Eazy E cold runnin’ shit

Actually, Eazy-E was 5’5”. Tragically, he also died of AIDS in 1995. Sad as that makes me, I must contest – he was not built like a tank. Not at all.

Well I'm Eazy E the one they're talkin about
Nigga tried to roll the dice and just crapped out
Police tried to roll, so it's time to go
I creeped away real slow and jumped in the six-fo'
Wit the "Diamond in the back, sun-roof top"

Whoa, whoa, what’s going on? E and some policemen were playing Dungeons and Dragons and he left when they had their turn?

Diggin the scene with the gangsta lean
Cause I'm the E, I don't slang or bang
I just smoke motherfuckers like it ain't no thang

Damn, son! He doesn’t just render me toothless; he cremates me and ingests my ashes!

And all you bitches, you know I'm talkin to you
"We want to fuck you Eazy!" I want to fuck you too

I just love this part. The idea they actually recorded and sampled a group of women saying the quote makes me wonder exactly how straight they had to keep their faces. Or if they got paid.

Cause you see, I don't really take no shit

Yes, I believe we covered this.

[So let me tell you motherfuckers who you're fuckin with]

No, no, I think we’re pretty well acquainted, now…

Cause I'm the type of nigga that's built to last
If you Fuck wit me, I'll put my foot in your ass
I don't give a fuck, cause I keep bailin
Yo, what the fuck are they yellin?

The chorus, E. That’s it! That’s Track 3 of Straight Outta Compton. I realise, looking back over this, that I seem pretty down on the song, but that’s not true – the lyrics are so cartoonishly over-the-top that only the most ardent Daily Mail readers could fail to crack at least a smile, and their use of guitar and voice samples were well-chosen and to be applauded. I quite enjoyed doing this analysis of sorts. I might try to do this with some regularity. With enough effort, time, and practice, I too can become a well-rounded critic of late-80s hip-hop narrative. At least as good as Ice Cube is an actor, anyway.

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