Straight Outta Compton (Reissue)

Decked out in identical utility gear and sporting enough lyrical artillery to frighten all of middle America, N.W.A quickly upended hip-hop tradition with Straight Outta Compton. One of hip-hop's crucial albums, it was a bombastic, cacophonous car ride through Los Angeles' burnt-out and ignored hoods. Dr. Dre's busy funk production lent the proceedings a carefree, unhinged air, and the lyrics, mostly written by Ice Cube, were powerful audio verite, especially on songs such as "Fuck Tha Police," "Express Yourself" and "Dopeman." N.W.A's broad influence became apparent three years later, in 1991, when Billboard adopted SoundScan technology only to learn that the top slot on the pop album charts didn't belong to Paula Abdul but to these Compton, California, thug arrivistes (sans Ice Cube, who'd left the group due to financial differences). Niggaz4life wasn't quite the barnstormer its predecessor was — it was less textured both sonically and politically — but its success showed that the boyz in the hood weren't to be taken lightly ever again.