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Straight Outta Compton is the debut studio album by American hip hop group N.W.A, released August 8, 1988 on group member Eazy-E's record label Ruthless Records. Its title refers to the group's native Compton, Californiamarker. Production for the album was handled by Dr. Dre, with DJ Yella giving co-production. The album has been viewed as the pioneering record of gangsta rap; with its ever-present profanity and violent lyrics, it helped to give birth to this then-new sub-genre of hip hop. It has been considered groundbreaking by music writers and has had an enormous impact on the evolution of West Coast hip hop.

Straight Outta Compton redefined the direction of hip hop, which resulted in lyricism concerning the gangsta lifestyle becoming the driving force in sales figures. It also helped to shift the power to the West Coast from the East Coast, which had enjoyed a period of prominence in hip hop for most of the 1980s. It was later re-released on September 24, 2002, which was remastered and contained four bonus tracks. An extended version of the album was released on December 4, 2007, the 20th anniversary of the original album.


The album reached double platinum sales status, becoming the first album to reach platinum status with no airplay support and without any major tours.Stephen Thomas Erlewine. N.W.A Biography. Allmusic. Accessed October 4, 2007

As the hip hop community worldwide received the album with a high note, the members of N.W.A became the top stars for the emerging new era of gangsta rap while popularizing the lyrics of Ice Cube. The album also helped to spawn many young MC and gangsta hip hop groups from areas such as Compton, Californiamarker, and South Central Los Angelesmarker, as many thought they had the same story to tell and the ability to pursue the career track that N.W.A had taken, hence groups such as Compton's Most Wanted coming into being. Compton's Most Wanted. Accessed September 30, 2007.

Because of the recurring violent and sexual lyrics and profanity, often specifically directed at governmental organizations such as the LAPD, N.W.A always enjoyed a particular repudiation from U.S. Senators and the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker (FBI). This situation persisted over the years with the group's visible head, Eazy-E. One of the reasons for this was "Fuck tha police," the highly controversial track from the album that resulted in the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service sending a letter to Ruthless Records informing the label of their displeasure with the song's message, and N.W.A was banned from performing at several venues.



The album's most controversial track, "Fuck tha Police," was partly responsible for the fame of N.W.A as the world's most dangerous group, and it did not appear on the censored version of the album. The song "Gangsta Gangsta" talks about the danger and violence in South Centralmarker and Comptonmarker. "Express Yourself" speaks of the ideas of free expression and the constraints placed on emceess by radio censorship. Every N.W.A member except DJ Yella recorded a solo song. Dr. Dre, who mostly produced more than performed, did a solo effort in the single "Express Yourself." Ice Cube performed on "I Ain't tha 1" and "A Bitch Iz a Bitch". MC Ren made his solo performance in the songs "If It Ain't Ruff" and "Quiet on tha Set". Eazy-E's only solo recording was a remix of the song "8 Ball," which appeared on N.W.A's previous album N.W.A and the Posse. The only guests on the album were Ruthless Records ghostwriter the D.O.C., who appeared on "Parental Discretion Iz Advised," rhyming the intro, and founding N.W.A member Arabian Prince, who contributed minor vocals on "Something 2 Dance 2."

Seven tracks from the album were released on N.W.A's Greatest Hits: "Gangsta Gangsta," "Fuck tha Police," "Straight Outta Compton (extended mix)," "If It Ain't Ruff," "I Ain't tha 1," "Express Yourself," and a bonus track from the remastered version, "A Bitch Iz a Bitch".


The lyrics on the album were mainly written by Ice Cube. Critics of the album expressed their view that the record glamorized Black-on-Black crime, but the emcees stated that the group was simply showing the reality of living in the areas of Compton, Californiamarker, and South Central Los Angelesmarker. Allmusic's Steve Huey states that the lyrics are all about "raising hell" and also noted the album for its humor, which he says has been lost in modern lyricism.

Many critics feel that the albums' lyrics glamorize gang violence. The Washington Post writer David Mills wrote: "The hard-core [sic] street rappers defend their violent lyrics as a reflection of 'reality.' But for all the gunshots they mix into their music, rappers rarely try to dramatize that reality — a young man flat on the ground, a knot of lead in his chest, pleading as death slowly takes him in. It's easier for them to imagine themselves pulling the trigger". However, Wichita Eagle-Beacon editor Bud Norman noted that "They [N.W.A] don't make it sound like much fun... They describe it with the same nonjudgmental resignation that a Kansan might use about a tornado."


The production on the album was generally seen as top-quality for that point in time, with Dr. Dre's production performing well with his instrumentals and drum machine beats, and DJ Yella's turntable scratches and overall co-production seen as proficient by hip hop critics. Some critics find it somewhat sparse and low-budget given the significance of the album and compared with other producers of the time such as Marley Marl.


Sales and certifications

The album has sold over three million copies Eazy-E Timeline. Accessed October 4, 2007 Straight Outta Compton article. Los Angeles Times. Accessed October 4, 2007 and was certified double Platinum on March 27, 1992. It was N.W.A's best selling album, as their debut, N.W.A and the Posse, was certified Gold.Their final album, Niggaz4Life, was certified platinum. According to Priority Records' calculations, 80% of sales were in the suburbs, beyond the boundaries of black neighborhoods.

The album first appeared on music charts in 1989, peaking on the U.S. Billboard 200 at number thirty-seven, and peaking on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums at number nine. N.W.A - Discography, Charts and Awards. Allmusic. Accessed October 9, 2007. It re-entered the charts in 2003, peaking on the UK Albums Top 75 at number thirty-five, and on the Ireland Albums Top 75 at number twenty.

Critical response

The album was generally well received by critics. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune gave Straight Outta Compton three and a half out of four stars and praised its production. The Richmond Times-Dispatch s Mark Holmberg described the album as "a preacher-provoking, mother-maddening, reality-stinks diatribe that wallows in gangs, doping, drive-by shootings, brutal sexism, cop slamming and racism". Newsweek noted that Straight Outta Compton "introduced some of the most grotesquely exciting music ever made". A Newsweek reviewer added, "Hinting at gang roots, and selling themselves on those hints, they project a gangster mystique that pays no attention where criminality begins and marketing lets off". Following its 2002 re-release, Jon Caramanica of Rolling Stone magazine cited Straight Outta Compton as one of hip-hop's most crucial albums, calling it a "bombastic, cacophonous car ride through Los Angeles' burnt-out and ignored hoods."


In 2003, the TV network, VH1, named Straight Outta Compton the 62nd greatest album of all time. It was ranked ten in Spin magazine's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005". In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. It is the group's only album on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (ranked #144), and the first hip-hop album ever to get a 5-star rating from them in their initial review, and when comedian Chris Rock wrote an article for the magazine about the 25 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of all time in 2005, Straight Outta Compton was number one on his list. The album was also ranked the 130th best album of all time by In 2006, the album was listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The same year, TIME Magazine ranked it as one of the 100 greatest albums of all time. Q magazine voted it one of the 'Top 50 Titles Of 1989. Alternative Press (7/95, p.88) ranked it #45 in AP's list of the 'Top 99 Of '85-'95'. Vibe (12/99, p.164) included it in Vibe's 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century.

  • An asterisk (*) indicates a 2002 reissue bonus track.
  • Double asterisks (**) indicates a 2007 20th Anniversary bonus track.

Track listing

All songs were produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella.

Sample list


  • Artwork: Helane Freeman
  • Engineer: Donovan Sound
  • Executive Producer: Eric Wright (Eazy-E)
  • Mastered by: Big Bass Brian
  • Photography: Eric Poppleton
  • Producers: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella

Chart history

Charts Peak

US Billboard 200 37
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 9
Ireland Albums Top 75 20
UK Albums Top 75 35

Sample use

Sampling of songs from Straight Outta Compton.



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