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Compton commodified: NWA was always a blend of fiction and reality

Automotive Rhythms (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

The biopic Straight Outta Compton tells the story of rise and fall of Los Angeles rap group NWA.
Automotive Rhythms (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

Last week, Dr Dre released Compton: The Soundtrack – his first album in 16 years – with cover art that features the iconic Hollywood sign transformed to read C-O-M-P-T-O-N.

The timing, title and cover imagery of the album coincide with the new biopic Straight Outta Compton, a film that details the rise and fall of Dr Dre’s former rap group NWA (Niggaz Wit Attitudes), which, along with Dre, included Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Ice Cube.

NWA was active for only a few years, but their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton gave birth to West Coast gangsta rap – the controversial genre of music defined by its gritty depictions of inner-city street life.

In NWA’s world, however, Compton and Hollywood have never been far apart. In fact, the photograph for the cover of the group’s first album – 1987’s NWA and the Posse – wasn’t even taken in Compton.… Read the rest

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