NWA is all the rage again as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube bombard the media to promote Straight Outta Compton, a biopic based on their legendary hip-hop group’s meteoric rise. So far, the reviews of F. Gary Gray’s film have been great, and even Oprah, who abhors the n-word and has had a complicated history with hip hop, has called it “powerful” and an “eye opening rap education.”
This week, Dre and Cube grace the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone to talk about the rise and fall of NWA, the film, Dre’s abuse of women, the group’s rampant misogyny, and what inspired their game-changing songs.
“You had to see why we did the music. You know, not just ‘we were young, angry niggas out of South Central,’ but why did we make those kind of records?” Cube said of their desire to make the film. “We were living in the middle of dope dealing, gangbanging, police brutality, fucking Reaganomics, and there was nowhere to escape.”
One thing that’s not in the movie, however, is the group’s treatment of women. Writer Sikivu Hutchinson breaks it down for the Huffington Post:
As gangsta rap pioneers and beneficiaries of the corporatization of rap/hip hop in the 1990s, N.W.A. played a key role in yoking rape culture and rap misogyny. Throughout their career they’ve been hailed as street poets and raw truth tellers mining the psychic space of young urban black masculinity. In song after song, gang rape, statutory rape, the coercion of women into prostitution and the terroristic murder of prostitutes are chronicled, glorified and paid homage to as just part of the spoils of “ghetto” life. The 1988 song “Straight Outta Compton” trivializes the murder of a neighborhood girl (“So what about the bitch that got shot, fuck her, you think I give a damn about a bitch, I’m not a sucker”) while its outlaw male protagonists go on an AK-47 and testosterone fueled killing spree. “Straight Outta Compton” was an early salvo for such popular fare as “To Kill a Hooker,” “Findum, Fuckum & Flee” and the rape epic “One Less Bitch” in which N.W.A. co-founder Dr. Dre lets his boys gang rape a prostitute then notes, “the bitch tried to ‘gank’ me so I had to kill her.”
After years of avoiding the issue, Dre rationalized his violence against women by calling it a youthful mistake.
“I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life,” Dre explained. “I was young, fucking stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true – some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”
Like Dre, one might also try to brush aside NWA’s horrific views of women as a product of the times. They were young, many will no doubt argue, and surely they’ve grown since then, right?
In the Rolling Stone piece about the group, Cube discusses NWA’s anti-women songs and skits not by apologizing for their disgustingness, but by laughing it off.
“If you’re a bitch, you’re probably not going to like us,” he tells the music magazine. “If you’re a ho, you probably don’t like us.”
Despite the offensive, and completely juvenile explanation (Cube is 46), he insists “bitch” and “ho” isn’t aimed at all women, but rather some amorphous group of “despicable females” he fails to define.
“If you’re not a ho or a bitch, don’t be jumping to the defense of these despicable females. Just like I shouldn’t be jumping to the defense of no punks or no cowards or no slimy son of a bitches that’s men. I never understood why an upstanding lady would even think we’re talking about her.”
Thanks for clearing that up, bruh.
While Cube tries to assert that he’s not calling all women bitches, his music speaks for itself.
In “Bitch is a Bitch” off NWA’s Straight Outta Compton album, Cube raps:
I once knew a bitch who got slapped
Cause she played me like she was all that
A bitch can be your best friend talking behind your back
About who’s fucking who and who’s getting fat
Look at yourself for me
Now do you fall in this category?
Are you the kind that won’t blink
Cause you don’t think your shit stink
Luckily I haven’t had a drink
Cause I’d down your ass
Then I’d clown your ass
Cause the niggas I hang with ain’t rich
We’ll all say “Fuck you bitch!”
Now what I can do with a ho like you
Bend your ass over and then I’m through
Cause you see Ice Cube ain’t taking no shit
(Why?) Cause I think a bitch is a bitch
But that was a long time ago, right? What about now?
On Cube’s last album he released a song called, “She Couldn’t Make It On Her Own,” in which he talks about women–excuse me, bitches–who need a pimp, presumably Cube and his crew, to help them out.
Ice Cube is the shit, who you been speaking with?
They been lying to you if they told you different
I got a different cool type of temperament
West Coast style baby on some California shit
They mighta told you that, I was hard on a bitch
You know how it go, some bitches think they slick
Look at me and think they ’bout to get rich
You are a stranger
Who am I, I am The Lone Ranger
Tonto tell ’em, I’ll run yo’ fucking ass through the ranger
Growing up, I was completely enamored with hip hop. I enjoyed the gritty songs that spoke to my childhood in South Central Los Angeles, and found my voice as a writer and poet listening to rappers as they waxed poetic about the world. But as a young woman completely head over heels for rap, I quickly realized that the music I loved so much didn’t always love me back.
As the media heaps praise on Straight Outta Compton and Cube and Dre continue talking about the good ole days of NWA, it would be nice to see that the pair has grown over the years. It would be nice if they distanced themselves from the ultra-vile misogyny NWA injected into their music—a trend that has only continued in the two decades since. And it would be nice if they admitted that calling women bitches and hoes and joking about doing them harm was wrongheaded and disrespectful.
Sadly, though, Dre is still putting out songs that talk about murdering women and disposing their bodies, and Cube still thinks a bitch is a bitch.