Today has marked an incredible moment for hip-hop: N.W.A have been inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick Lamar is easily one of, if not the most important rapper around today. He is certainly the perfect man for the job of inducting N.W.A, whom he has long stated to have been a major influence on his own career, and on hip-hop as a whole. He’s also collaborated with both Dr Dre and Ice Cube, penned a tribute to Eazy-E, and last year he conducted an extensive interview with the group for Billboard.
All four surviving members of N.W.A – Ice Cube, Dr Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren – were at the ceremony to receive the coveted recognition. Below, you can read Lamar’s entire induction speech, which tells the powerful story of each member, and talks about the impact and relevance of N.W.A to Lamar personally, to hip-hop, to music as a whole, and the cultural and social impact of the undisputed legends.
— billboard (@billboard) April 9, 2016
— Rock Hall (@rock_hall) April 9, 2016
N.W.A, man. I said, N.W.A, man! What it do, boy. The world’s most dangerous group. It’s five members that I can recall having pivotal roles while forming this type of Voltron, y’all.
First off, DJ Yella Ye. Ah? Ah? Hip-hop, we in Compton. His personality, charisma not only poured out into the company that was around him, but it shown whenever he got behind the turntables in production, providing some of the illest breaks, cuts, scratching, that only the most elite – I said elite – Compton MCs can spit over, you dig that? Any time my boy Yella dropped that needle, you know it’s time to get busy, right? Right?
MC Ren, the motherfucking – can I cuss? MC Ren, the motherfucking villain! The name is just not self-proclaimed. It was proven every single time he stepped behind that microphone. Hardcore lyrics that not only made you jump out your seat, but feel like you’re getting your motherfucking head pushed through the speakers, you dig that? A true code red every time we heard a rhyme, you dig that, so it was nothing but honesty, spoken from a true tone of a Compton resident: MC Ren, believe that, boy. 100. Yessir.
Cube! Where y’all at? I said Ice Cube? Storytelling genius. Every bar had us hanging over our seats. Punchline, delivery, detailed imagery made you get just a small glimpse of how it was growing up in the city of Compton, you dig what I’m saying? Cube was always proving to be one of the greatest MCs to ever step behind the mic, and on a personal level, my debut album, you was the blueprint on how I went to approach it. That’s for real, you dig what I’m saying, so salute to that. That’s 100.
Doc Dre! Dr. Dre! The scientist! The perfectionist. The producer extraordinaire. My mentor, you dig what I’m saying? This dude here taught me a lot as far as never being satisfied with the work you do, on and off the record. Whether I’m on the mic, whether I’m out in life, in general, always taught me that. Number two, make sure you take care of your music and your family each and every single day. I never forget the words, you dig what I’m saying? Since the first day meeting me, you always gave me the energy, saying “Superstar!” You never called me Kendrick Lamar. So that gave me the belief in what I was doing, and also gave me the energy of knowing I was doing it right, and then I became. I appreciate you for that, every time.
With that being said, not only on a personal level, when I met Dre, it was way before I actually met him personally, it was on the music, you get what I’m saying? So let me say this. Dre has provided N.W.A with unapologetic production made on high-level soundtracks for hardcore lyrics. You could never press play without having an extra pair of Kenwood speakers. You know what I’m talking about, woofers! You know what I’m saying? Tweeters! You understand when I’m having ’em blown out. Every single hi-hat, snare make you break your neck! I believe Andre to be one of the greatest producers of our time, and still to this day. Believe that. That’s real.
Last but not least, the legendary, the late great Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. He was a true mastermind. A businessman, an incredible entertainer. His persona was unmatched. His confidence spoke with abundance. His high-pitched tone spoke to nations around the world, y’all. There was no better voice to put across than Eazy-E. He is the gatekeeper of reality rap. He’s the reason why I’m proud to stand on this stage and rep Compton. He’s the reason why we’re proud to have songs like “Dope Man,” “Express Yourself.” I said, “Fuck tha Police,” “Express Yourself”! “Boyz-n-the-Hood.” These are the records that made L.A. known all across the world. It was dubbed gangsta rap, but what it was for me was an intimate look at what was actually happening in our community in Los Angeles, and in Compton in particular.
Chuck D once said rap and hip-hop was the black CNN. N.W.A represent that to the fullest, am I right? Bringing inner city life to the forefront and making the world pay attention to our realities. Even myself, I look around and I’ve seen people N.W.A spoke for, whether it was my cousin, whether it was my uncle, they were Compton Crip or Piru, they was all influenced. That’s real, y’all probably don’t know about that – y’all looking at me like I’m crazy. But they know! It was all influence, and it all had a deep impression. What they know is a big misconception. The impression was just that they’re trying to kill people. To be clear, to be very clear, the fact that a famous group can look just like one of us and dress like one of us, talk like one of us, proved to every single kid in the ghetto that you can be successful and still have importance while doing it.
That was N.W.A. That was their true message. And I know each and every one of them said they never wanted to be role models, but look … The first time I see Eazy bust through that screen out the jail cell on stage on “We Want Eazy,” I felt like every single one of them was black superheroes where I come from. Because it shows, like I said, people from our community can be on that television screen, be on awards, and still have their voice and be real to themselves. So make some noise for that because that’s the realest thing.
But as you know the history, a lot of people said it was too gangster. It was too much for them. But for me, it was honest. So I’m going to put it like this. Being gangster symbolizes a hustle that you can change your reality. The true meaning of gangster, being able to show what it takes to be the world’s biggest music group. Being gangster is forming iconic labels: Ruthless Records, Death Row, Aftermath Records. Being gangster is breaking out to become a movie star, a movie producer, and having your own son play you as a retrospect to your career, Straight Outta Compton. Being gangster changed the way people listened to music. Being so obsessed with sound that you create your own headphones and force people and fans around the world to listen to deep, intricate sounds the way you outta hear, you dig? Being gangster is partnering with the biggest tech companies and launching groundbreaking music on a whole other platform. So now after 30 years of being heard, being gangster is being inducted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Ladies and gentleman, without further ado, my good homies, N.W.A! What’s up!