Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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N.W.A

  • Straight Outta Compton [Priority, 1988] B
  • 100 Miles and Runnin' [Ruthless, 1990] C-
  • Niggaz4life [Ruthless, 1991] C-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Straight Outta Compton [Priority, 1988]
"It's not about a salary/It's all about reality" they chant as they talk shit about how bad they are. Right, it's not about salary--it's about royalties, about brandishing scarewords like "street" and "crazy" and "fuck" and "reality" until suckers black and white cough up the cash. "Fuck tha Police" is a fantasy, "Fuck with me I'll put my foot in your ass" an exaggeration, "Life ain't nothin' but bitches and money" a home truth, and I bet Ice Cube gets more pussy now than when he copped the line. Somehow DJs Dr. Dre and Yella, who's also got the brainiest rap on the Charles Wright rip that busts out of their ghetto, drive the three M.C.'s past their own lies half the time. It would be poetic justice if both of them departed for greener pastures. B

100 Miles and Runnin' [Ruthless, 1990]
Too used and abused to pursue their business interests, the self-appointed "real niggaz" watched other fake gangstas climb the charts till they could bear it no more. So they threw together this $6.98-list shortie and hoped Amerikkka would want it. Their best riff of 1988 is their best riff of 1990, attached to a blaxploitation docudrama pitting fake gangstas against fake cops (probably played by members of their management team). And for that 2 Live touch they hire a woman (as we'll call her) to mouth their instructions on cocksucking technique, one of many things they don't know dick about. To wit: first "grab" (ouch); then "lick" (just twice, before you get down to bidness); then "insert" (now "take it slow"); and "before you know it" (damn soon), "splash." When she swallows, she inspires such a conflation of awe and disgust she's forced to service the rest of the crew forthwith. C-

Niggaz4life [Ruthless, 1991]
This is supposed to be where they finally slam nonstop. In fact, however, the music's just like the lyrics--market-ready. Catchy, yes, and funky in its laid-back electro way, but never hard enough to scare off the novelty audience. Which might be fun if they didn't outpig the LAPD in the bargain. Can Chuck D really believe they mean what they say? Sure they really hate women, and anybody else who looks at them funny. But unless they're even sicker than they seem, they're too greedy to murder anybody as long as they can make so much money fronting about it. And so they've calculated every rhyme to push somebody's button--to serve up the thrill of transgression to ghettobound and merely ghettocentric young-black-males, and also to the big score, culturally deprived white boys seeking exotic role models. That kids will take them at their word obviously doesn't concern niggaz who'll be hard-pressed to contain their pent-up hostility after the bubble bursts. It'd be nice to think they'll off each other when that great day comes, but I doubt they have the balls. So in the interests of public safety, pray they don't get taken by their investment advisors. C-