Like Public Enemy and the Wu-Tang Clan, the five pioneering group members in N.W.A. were a revolutionary bunch that changed music with unabated street rhymes composed within the framework of gangster rap. However, no rappers were oppressed like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Yella, and the late Eazy-E — their subject matter was considered too vile by Eighties standards, and radio stations refused to play their music. This twentieth-anniversary album cements the group's importance with a seventeen-track compilation — including the tunes "Alwayz into Somethin'" and "Straight Outta Compton" — that features a polished MC Ren, raw freestyling from Dre, Cube's socially conscious rhymes, and Eazy's unapologetically sexist wordplay. What might surprise 21st-century listeners is that Ren, whose career should have taken off along with his soon-to-be-famous contemporaries, is the most savvy rapper of the group, especially when one views the accompanying 30-minute DVD that includes music videos and previously unreleased archived interviews on subject matter like censorship, racism, and street life. In the end, this celebratory document further illustrates that a group of this magnitude is becoming more and more rare, especially considering today's lack of support for musical chance-taking. Steve Jansen


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