Why was the rap group N.W.A. so controversial, and what social tensions did their music most reveal?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The rap group N.W.A.’s name stands for “Ni**az Wit Attitude.”  The group was controversial because it was one of the first “gangsta rap” groups and its lyrics seemed to promote violence.  The group’s music mainly revealed tensions between black and white and between African Americans and legal authorities.

NWA is typically seen as one of the first gangsta rap groups.  Their music was full of references to violence.  Their songs often had gunshots and sirens in the background.  The groups detractors said that the music was promoting violence and other antisocial and/or illegal behavior.  The group responded by arguing that they were simply depicting the problems and issues faced by poor urban African Americans.  The group’s most controversial song was “F**k tha Police.”  This song was meant as a protest against police brutality.  However, it was seen by many people as an attack on the police and on authority in general.

NWA’s music most revealed the social tensions between blacks and whites and, in particular, between blacks and (mostly white) legal authority.  Their music revealed that many whites were uncomfortable with the idea of African Americans creating music that was so aggressive and so antagonistic towards authority.  The music also revealed the tensions between African Americans, many of whom see the police as a hostile force, and whites, who tend to support the police and see them as a force for good.  

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