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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

N.W.A. and The Posse

NWA
N.W.A.
N.W.A And The Posse
I guess it would be safe to say that I was a weird kid. (And I guess it would also be safe to remove the past tense from the previous statement.) There are lots of reasons for that to be the case, but one of them is definitely that I got pretty hooked on West-Coast gangsta rap at the age of 12. It seems pretty improbable now. I was a farm kid in Pennsylvania, and about as gangsta as a Care Bear. And the year was 1989, well before hip-hop was anywhere near the mainstream phenomenon that it is now. Dr. Dre was still a fresh-faced lad and devoted member of N.W.A., Vanilla Ice hadn’t yet brought commercial hip-hip onto the Billboard charts, and there weren’t legions of trailer park kids cruising around with 400 watts of bass booming out of their Ford Mustangs.
NWA
Nonetheless, I discovered and loved N.W.A. Not surprisingly, my source was television. Not that network television was willing to go anywhere near N.W.A. (or most other hip-hop) in 1989, but that never stopped little ol’ TV-40. Far, far from the boardrooms of network television, TV-40 was living in its own independent, low-wattage corner of the air waves. It was independent network television at its most bizarre. During prime time, they were fairly likely to be broadcasting gambling events like dog racing or Jai-Alai from somewhere in Florida. At night, it was usually public-domain horror films from the 1940s. But somewhere in all that, they carried a few music video programs. One of them — which ran, as I recall, in the middle of the afternoon on some weekday during the summer — was all hip-hop videos. Never in my young life had I seen such a thing. They played videos by the likes of Kid & Play, Three Times Dope, Heavy D, MC Lyte, De La Soul, Kwame, and, oddly enough, N.W.A. I distinctly remember seeing a video for “Straight Outta Compton.” How they can possibly have aired it without the FCC putting a boot up their ass can only have had to do with the fact that their viewing audience was probably as meager as their broadcast wattage. (Side note: I got into “alternative” music — back when that meant something — the same way. They used to broadcast a program called Noise Bazaar out of Kenosha, Wisconsin at midnight on Saturdays. It was both noisy and bizarre. In retrospect, it baffles me that bands like Poop Shovel, Daisy Chainsaw, and Skinny Puppy even made music videos.)
Anyway, I was really into N.W.A. by the time I started ninth grade. I used to listen to Straight Outta Compton many mornings on the bus on the way to school, staring out the window at sheep and silos, and I knew all the words. I could spit lyrics about oral sex before I knew that there was such a thing. I knew which gangs drove the ’64 Impala, and who drove the ’65s. I didn’t talk, dress, or act like a “wigger”. I was just a skinny kid in a plaid shirt with snaps, velcro sneakers, and tinted eyeglasses who happened to be able to recite every lyric on Fear of a Black Planet.
So yeah, I turned out kind of weird. I’ve been recording fiddle tunes lately. I may still re-mix them into hick-hop masterpieces. We’ll see.
By the way — Best Lyric from N.W.A. and the Posse, from the song “Fat Girl”: “She had more chins than a Chinese phone book.” Brilliant.