Review Summary: Proof NWA was so good they could be epic without "Benedict Arnold."
In 2010, if you tune your radio into the local hip-hop station, you’ll hear rappers boast about jewelry-encrusted necklaces and desirable sexual adventures, delve into feverous ego-stroking trips, and mention use of controlled substances. Turn the clock back nearly two decades ago, to 1991. Back then, if you listened in on the local hip-hop station, you’d hear criminals narrate stories about drug deals and drive-bys, express hatred for women and law enforcement, and recount hardships of poverty. Enter NWA, a band that was banned from the radio periodically, had their own FBI file on them, and was despised by anybody who wasn’t pulling triggers, hitting women, or selling rocks. But, eventually, all groups ‘sell out’…at least to an extent. For such a crew, Efil4zaggin
was the effort in which NWA delved into the ploys that make an album more commercially successful. Catchy verses, infectious beats, and deflected attention from aforementioned lyrics made Efil4zaggin
NWA’s bestselling album. Reaching #1 on the chart positions for 1991 – in comparison to #37 for their previous album Straight Outta Compton
– this was the best way for NWA to go out, as they dissembled quickly after. A testament to the statement “happy medium,” Efil4zaggin
combined the catchiness of mainstream and the substance of the underground to make one awesome album.
, NWA doesn't differ in their lyrical ideals per se. Listen to a handful of songs from the album and you'll have no trouble recognizing why they were banned from the radio. It's evident why the FBI started a file on the group, and why Eazy-E contracted AIDS. Ranging from attempted gang rape and murder (“One Less B*tch”) to running many miles in order to escape the police (“100 Miles And Runnin’”) to downright n*gg*ry (“Real N*gg*z Don’t’ Die,” “N*gg*z 4 Life,” “Real N*gg*z”) N.W.A packed plenty of potent, odious content into Efil4zaggin
. The only real difference manifests itself in the degree of offensiveness the lyrics the leading songs contain. In contrast to its hit songs on former albums (e.g. “F@ck Tha Police”) the chief song on Efil4zaggin
, Alwayz Into Somethin’, isn’t as insulting as some of their older material. While this isn’t enough to offset the entire lyrical content of the album, it repels the spotlight from the complaint-inducing libretto.
Needless to mention, helping was the fiery production of Dre. Arguably at its best during his time with NWA, the Docta prescribed some of his sample-heavy gangsta funk. Typical of any collection of Dr. Dre instrumentals, samples of Isaac Hayes, Parliament, Jimi Hendrix and James Brown are present, in addition to sludgy bass, sharp percussion, whiny, droning horns, and various assortments of clicks, clacks, and twinkles. All the cuts are engaging in some way or another, which is something NWA’s previous albums didn’t provide. The Parliament-mimicking portrayed on “Automobile” with its ‘I been workin’ on the railroad”-esque vocals seemingly extends the invite to sing along, and the fat, reverberating synths, glimmering chimes, and cutting percussion make of “I’d Rather F*ck You” for a perfectly relaxing smoke beat.
However, a few songs into the album, something is to be noticed. It’s nothing really negative, necessarily. Yet, it’s definitely not positive. By the time you hit the eighth track, “Message to BA,” it hits you like a train: Ice Cube’s gone. After departing following their second album, Ice Cube had been gone for around two years by the time this album hit the market. This was the album in which the vocals of MC Ren were first heavily employed. Obviously the best lyrical member of the group, Ren’s upper-kick voice and semi-energetic delivery played a new kind of foil to E’s nasally, shrill voice and uptempo flow in contrast to the authoritative presence and thick, mid-gamut voice of Cube.
Other than the nostalgia-killing, disappointing absence of Ice Cube and the slight lack of taboo subjects in the hit single, Efil4zaggin
surpasses NWA’s other albums in quality. Shortly after this album, the group disbanded. A great career for a highly influential supercrew ended at an almost-perfect juncture, and that juncture was Efil4zaggin