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 2. N.W.A

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  Honorable Mention

  The Brain Trust speaks

No group can be compared to the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA's production is incredible. I can't see how they wouldn't be #1.
                 — Eric, 24
                   Buffalo, NY

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Rank: 2

They were called "the world's most dangerous group" for a reason. It wasn't just good to be bad when it came to Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, DJ Yella and Ice Cube: It was life-altering. It feels almost criminal to categorize N.W.A as merely a group. They were and are a state of mind, a lifestyle, a movement. With all the dope-selling, the graphic sex and violence in their lyrics, N.W.A were like voices from the other side of the ghetto. While the East Coast was dominating hip-hop, the ghetto-entrenched narratives of N.W.A's 1989 breakthrough, Straight Outta Compton, introduced society to a whole different 'hood mentality. Ice Cube in particular could make you feel like you were standing on the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson in South Central L.A. with a 40-ounce in your hand, getting ready to duck the swing of a bigoted cop's baton. Lyrically, the underrated MC Ren was right on his heels — so cold-hearted in his delivery and remorselessly precise with his bars.

The group's influence has reached far beyond its songs. With Ruthless Records, the late Eazy-E helped to design the template for the independent rap-label hustle. Hollywood has become so enamored of the former public enemy number-one Ice Cube that he now stars in kids' flicks. And Dre has become simply the greatest hip-hop producer of all time, helping to launch the careers of Snoop Dogg, the D.O.C., Eminem and 50 Cent, among others — and Eazy didn't do too badly for himself, with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

Co-Signer: RZA, Wu-Tang Clan
"When I first heard [Dre's production], it took a long time to get into it. 'Cause back in the N.W.A days, I was in New York and we felt kind of advanced, so we didn't take it seriously at first — 'cause we from New York, yo, know what I mean? We already had our lyrics down, we already had our b-boy [stance] down. But once homie dropped The Chronic, that was it. To this day, in my opinion, I don't think nobody's got a better ear in music than Dr. Dre. And not just in hip-hop: There's been no other producer in our generation that has sonic quality like that man has. Whatever the doctor be doing, that's why that name fits him perfect, 'cause he goes and operates on your sh-- and makes it sound 10 times better. Whether you like hip-hop or not, you appreciate what he does to the sounds.

"One thing about N.W.A, they were some of the boldest people to speak out. Their freedom of speech was really activated. N.W.A was one of the most powerful groups to hit the game because they expressed their freedom and they were saying that real n---a sh-- that [other] rappers were ignoring.

"I was disappointed when all the n---as went their [own] ways. To me, the black power they were showing, and the [influence] they had over the world, that was powerful. And that power hasn't re-emerged yet. And to me, that's sad. Hip-hop is worth 20 times more than it was back then, but n---as that made it [that way] isn't getting in."

100 Percent Proof
"F---in' with me 'cause I'm a teenager/ With a little bit of gold and a pager/ Searchin' my car, lookin for the product/ Thinkin' every n---a is sellin' narcotics/ You'd rather see me in the pen/ Than me and Lorenzo rollin' in a Benz-O." (Ice Cube, "F--- Tha Police")

"Why do I call myself a n---a, you ask me?/ Well it's because mutha----as wanna blast me/ And run me outta my neighborhood/ And label me as a dope dealer, yo/ And say that I'm no good." (MC Ren, "N---az4life")

Selected Catalog
N.W.A and the Posse (1987), *Straight Outta Compton (1989), *100 Miles and Runnin' EP (1990), *N---az4life (1991).

NEXT: Public Enemy's Chuck D says of this group: 'The greatest group of all time, bar none!' ...
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Photo: Raymond Boyd

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