Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NWA and Guns N' Roses: Kindred Spirits

The first time you hear "Straight Outta Compton", it sounds like a sonic assault of rage and inner-city anger. It's powerful and then when you hear Ice Cube's booming voice on the intro, it's on like a runaway train.

The first time you hear "Welcome to the Jungle," you get the same feeling. It's raw, violent and dangerous. The soundtrack to the dark side of Hollywood and Axl Rose's wail sounds like a maniacal host.

NWA and Guns N' Roses. Two of my favorite artists linked by their meteoric rise, being in LA and sad fall. Both of them changed the game by bringing some edge into it. Both scared folks and made them step their game up. Five men in each group being among the best in their craft.

Axl Rose = Eazy-E: The leader and volatile personality who was the face of the group.
Slash = Ice Cube: The most talented member, regarded as one of the best to ever do it.
Duff = MC Ren: Underrated yet valuable and consistent
Izzy = Dr. Dre: The rhythm of the group, the engine that made it churn.
Steven Adler = DJ Yella: The 5th wheel who's important in their own way.

Appetite for Destruction and Straight Outta Compton were released 13 months apart yet both albums were incredibly similar. Los Angeles was defined by the hair metal scene and it was all about the party without the substance. Popular music needed a swift kick in the rear and along came these two albums that paved the way for Nirvana's nail in the coffin in 1991.

No Guns N' Roses song matches the social commentary and Black anger as "F The Police" or "Gangsta Gangsta" (Paradise City might capture that rage in its blistering 2nd half). No NWA song was anywhere near the beautiful ballad "Sweet Child O' Mine" (although Express Yourself might come close). Yet both albums were almost mirror images of angst, chemistry and purposed rage in that summer of 1988.

I'm pretty sure both of them knew how powerful they were. Axl started wearing an NWA hat on tour and NWA had a song called "Appetite for Destruction" on the Efil4zaggin album. I admire both of them because they represented the soul of a Los Angeles that's rarely seen. LA isn't all surf and sun (c) Ice Cube - it's got some grit mixed in there. And most of my favorite L.A. bands captured that.

The saddest thing was both were too good to last. Comets in the sky. Axl and Eazy-E played key roles in destroying what they built. By 1993, NWA was splintered and Guns N'Roses released their last album as we know it (Chinese Democracy doesn't/shouldn't count). Yet their legacies remain as two of the greatest artists of not just the past 25 years, but of all time.

Watching this NWA documentary on VH1 tonite, it made me miss the power of Dre's early beats, Ice Cube and MC Ren's booming voices and Eazy-E walking around like a boss. And it reminded me of Axl's powerful voice and the twin guitar assault of Slash and Duff.

Absolutely brilliant. Music doesn't scare or challenge people lyrically or sonically in the mainstream anymore and this is a reminder when music could be legitimately hard and still make a dent on the pop charts. Killer Mike and Rise Against are two of the few artists today that remind me of that raw, potent energy.

Here's hoping that we can get an NWA reunion on Dre's final album Detox (10 years since "Chin Check" and "Hello") and a true G'N'R reunion at the Rock'N'Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.


  1. Cool piece.
    Both groups were heavyweights.
    Axl lost me with One In A Million, but it doesn't mean his talent disappeared.
    Eazy lost me at that Republican dinner. Doesn't mean his talent vanished either.
    Would be cool if Dre & Izzy made a jam together.

  2. I havent heard One In A Million but from what I read, it's ridiculous. Don't know why Axl would be that dumb. Eazy going to that dinner seemed like the ultimate G move but Cube got in his Jheri Curl good for that on "No Vaseline"

    Control freaks make for good frontmen but ruins things in the long run. A dream would be Dre + Slash doing a record. But props for Velvet Revolver briefly reminding what G'N'R could be in today's time.

  3. one in a million is a great song. its just a story... axl explained it many times after.

  4. Nice! I loved both groups and I think they correspond in a lot of ways just like you wrote.