Essential Albums of the 80s and 90s: NWA – Straight Outta Compton

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

Year of Release: 1988

Essential Tracks:

  • “Straight Outta Compton”
  • “F*ck The Police”
  • “Gangsta Gangsta”
  • “Express Yourself”

Okay. Here we go. I am going to start this with a disclaimer. I am a white male who did not grow up in the “hood” and am in no way a racist individual. Got it? Good. Here we go.

Time to go back to the 80s. Look around the streets and listen. Boomboxes were everywhere. Rap was everywhere! And there came a time when a small cross-section of the rap genre reared its ugly head- Gangster Rap! Who was on the forefront of this controversial musical movement? A lot of groups were but leading the charge was a formation of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Eazy E (Eazy Muthafuckin’ E R.I.P.).

I am, of course, talking about NWA! That’s right. Ni**az With Attitudes! What a storm this group caused! The media flipped out because of the violent and explicit language they used. Parents lost their minds and kids loved it because “they said bad words.” (Admit it. You did. I did. We all did.)

In 1988, this group hit big after some lesser known stuff and really caused the world to pee its pants with the album “Straight Outta Compton.”

The album opens with a punch in the face in the form of the title track after a warning to prepare yourself. “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” And here we go! Verses are traded between Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Eazy E. They all get to show off their style of rap here and this continues through the rest of the album.

Track two is the one that most people are familiar with and the one I am sure everyone is waiting for me to talk about. Here it comes. “Fuck The Police.” Let’s set the scene. NWA is holding court in a case against the police department with Dr. Dre presiding as judge. Ice Cube, Ren and Eazy E are all giving testimony against ignorant police officers. Violent? Yes. Unnecessarily explicit? Maybe. Hilarious? Yes! After all the testimonies are given via traded verses between the “prosecuting attorneys,” Judge Dre gives his verdict. Guilty! And then you hear the cop being dragged out of the courtroom. All through the song, you get the chant of “Fuck the police… Fuck, fuck, fuck the police” as a hook in the chorus all over 80s beats and 70s funk. Catchy? You bet!!

Most tracks on the album tell a story of street life and the trials of “gangsta life.” This is continued in “Gangsta, Gangsta.” More funky music and a great hook: “I’m the type of ni**a that’s built to last. If you fuck with me, I’ll put a foot in yo’ ass. I don’t give a fuck ’cause I keep bailin’, What the fuck are they yellin’? GANGSTA GANGSTA!” This is followed by a line from the legendary KRS One (look him up, kids): “It’s not about salary. It’s all about reality.”

The funk, flow and anger continues. There is a great self-referential track about how bad the lyrics are (“Parental Discretion Iz Advised.”) There is another single to follow up “Straight Outta Compton” which could be considered a slow jam, cover, and sample-heavy groove: “Express Yourself” which takes directly from Charles Wright’s R&B song of the same name and allows Dre to take a solo role. There are remixes of tracks that they released before this debut (“8 Ball,” “Compton’s In The House,” “Dopeman.”) And it all comes to a close with Dre and Yella producing a track that could easily be the soundtrack to a group of urban teens breakdancing in the streets (“Something 2 Dance 2,”)

All in all, this album, while controversial enough to cause Tipper Gore to go on a rampage (look it up), is a great slice of history when it comes to rap. You like the stuff from today? This is where some of it started. You don’t like rap? Do yourself a favor and at least listen to this album which has a permanent place in my list of essential albums from the 80s and 90s that you must own or listen to before you die. Little 9 year old Jake approves and current mid 30s Jake continues to approve.

Essential Albums of the 80s and 90s: KMFDM – Angst

Join me as I take you on a musical journey through time as I share the albums from the 80s, 90s, etc that are a must own or at least a must listen!

KMFDM – ANGST

Year of Release:  1993

Essential Tracks:

  • “Light”
  • “A Drug Against War”
  • “Sucks”

When I say the word “Industrial” when it comes to musical genres, what comes to mind? Groups like Nine Inch Nails, I’m sure. Maybe you even think of Stabbing Westward or, more recently, Korn and a whole crop of Nu Metal groups. All these answers are acceptable. There are even hundreds of other groups that I don’t even know.

Well, there is one group that always comes to mind for me. Straight out of Germany, it’s KMFDM! The band which started as a project of artistic expression and whose full name,<Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, loosely translates as “no pity for the majority” originated in 1984 and released 18 albums and countless singles. All the albums are great but one stands out to me as an essential album you must own or at least listen to before you die.

Angst came out in 1993 and solidified the group as a mainstay in the metal scene at the time. They were featured in metal magazines and even had one of their songs, “A Drug Against War,” featured in Beavis and Butthead.

The album is completely mindblowing. It opens with “Light” and gets you pumped with a grindingly heavy guitar riff blending with some synthesizers that sound like the 80s and 90s are fighting each other with no clear winner. The refrain of the song will get you prepared for the album as a whole too with the line “KMFDM. Doin’ it again. A treat for the Freaks.” Yup. Get in and get pumped. The second track on the album, “A Drug Against War,” may very well be the best one and is easily the definitive track with fast paced, seizure-inducing guitars and drums, distorted vocals, sampled lines which distinctly sound like George Bush Sr saying “Bomb the living bejeepers out of those forces” and a random “Kill everything.” This is easily the most over-the-top speed metal track the band ever did and when people think of them or at the very least of this album, “A Drug Against War” is what comes to mind.

The angry and distorted lyrical style continues through the majority of the album mixing with guitar riffs that sound like they belong to classic rock greats before them like Black Sabbath (Listen to the guitars in “Blood”) and bands that came after like Rammstein mixed with 80s and 90s synth programming that could easily come from a Depeche Mode album (“Lust”). All in all, the mix of speed metal and synth is what makes the band fantastic and I feel it’s best expressed on this album.

Aside from “Light” and “A Drug Against War,” this album brought us the definitive moment in KMFDM’s history. The second to last song on the album is “Sucks.” Leave it to a band that started as a performance art project to produce a techno song discussing how much they suck. The lyrics are rapped over some of the cheesiest and most hollow sounding synth pop. “Our music is simple. Totally fake. It’s done by machines ’cause they don’t make mistakes.” There are references to hating all music “especially rap” which adds to the irony since the lyrics are rapped and a mention of hating Depeche Mode which has become a running joke as there was a rumor that the band’s name stood for “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode.” (It doesn’t.) Why is this song so pivotal aside from being hilarious and dangerously catchy? Look at any band shirts from KMFDM in the 90s and look at any fan posts online about them. You’ll see this: “KMFDM SUCKS!” This is especially funny when non fans see it and think people are bashing the band (they aren’t)!

The band is one of my personal favorites and this album is my absolute favorite from them. I am happy to make this the first entry into my series of essential albums from the 80s and 90s. Even if you do not like them or this type of music, please do yourselves a favor and check this one out.

…And remember: “KMFDM SUCKS!”