Editorial:: How N.W.A. Introduced Black Radicalism as a West Coast Hip-hop Tradition.

Regionalism in Hip-hop has existed since its emergence in the late 1970s in Bronx NY. Due to the Big Apple’s physical construct– each burrough would form their Hip-hop identity in relation to the other by competing and proving that the best talent in the city lies at home. As the culture grew, so did the scope and regional reach of Hip-hop. As a byproduct,  attention shifted from the East to the West  during the emergence  of Hip-hop’s Golden Age, the emergence of  acts like N.W.A.Tupac Shakur, Ice T, and Too $hort etc brought many new controversial elements to Hip-hop that were not previously apart of the culture’s world view.

West coast rappers helped to articulate black radicalism as a theory within rap music. Their music is the  summation of  the social and intellectual processes that has contributed to Hip-hop as a distinct, west coast tradition. In this process, we have chosen a proven musical act of  the west coast Hip-hop intelligentsia: N.W.A –Eazy E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. They have been chosen because each are detailed examples of how west coast Hip-hop has substantiated the radical discourse in the Hip-hop community. In addition, their personal life circumstances were shaped by subsequent aftermath of the black power resistance efforts of the 1970s.

N.W.A.’s emergence in Hip-Hop came at a time when rap music was continuing to be dominated by east coast aesthetics and cultural styles of New York. As the center of the culture and its birthplace, early Hip-hop during the mid-1980s characterize social justice and poverty issues in a way that was familiar to places like New York and Philadelphia. For example, Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s seminal rejection of the conditions of black and brown on “The Message” reflected east coast poverty. Folks in Los Angeles and Oakland and San Francisco could relate to “broken glass everywhere” and “people piss on the steps,” however, those descriptions did not articulate the unique aesthetics of west coast impoverishment.

West coast Hip-hop was characterized by the same poverty and injustice in Grandmaster Melly Mels lyrics from “The Message” — but a unique version of injustice native to the west coast.  West coast urban centers were being impacted by crack-cocaine’s devastating wrath in the same way that every other major city was at the time, but the blood and crip gang elements that were ravishing these communities meant that only rappers from the those communities had the experience to tell  the story from their perspective.

As Hip-hop continued to refine its identity in the late 1980s, the portrait that east coast rappers  portrayed were becoming increasingly inadequate for whole regions of Hip-hop listeners that held more diverse experiences than rappers who were dominating Hip-hop’s New York-centric  landscape. N.W.A.’s political socialization, on the other hand, reflected  the progressive rhetoric that is ingrained in the psyche of the liberal communities in Los Angeles and the San Francisco  Oakland and Bay Area region. The radical spirit was cultivated by the Black Power movement that preceded Hip-hop. They were able to breakthrough because they could articulate rap music that others perceived as radical because they came from a geographic region that cultivated radicalism and a black community that had encouraged truth telling; no matter how obtuse.

N.W.A. managed to deconstruct Public Enemy’s lofty critique of power structures in “Fight the Power,” condense it, and deliver it in a simple comprehensible way. N.W.A screamed “ F*ck the Police” instead of “Fight the Power” because it more accurately appealed to the basic, guttural feelings that often manifested themselves in the hearts of the oppressed. People may not be able to comprehend what fight the power actually looks like, but they can actually recall  feeling N.W.A.’s lyrics from experience.

N.W.A.’s  most direct political influences were the Black Panther Party movement’s undaunting pursuit of justice in the most effectively abrasive fashion. They introduced Hip-hop to explicit and vulgar language with the aim of bring attention to the racists and exploitative environments black folks suffered as a result of social and political neglect. The Black Panther Party agitated white audiences and even made black folk uncomfortable by toting guns in public and declaring in a forceful fashion that they would fightback as a tactic to publicize their cause and bring attention to impoverishment and inequalities. Thank God for radicalism. Thank God for Hip-hop.




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