N.W.A.: A Nasty Jolt for the Top Pops

N.W.A.'s grotesque new rap album soars to No. 1, raising questions about why ghetto rage and the brutal abuse of women appeal to mainstream listeners

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Say what? The fact is, Efil4zaggin is an entire open season for negative stereotyping. That's the classic rap posture, black male division, of course: turning the comic-book white fantasy of the black male as a murderous sexual stud into a hyperbolic reality. Rappers like N.W.A. and Public Enemy want to scare the living hell out of white America -- and sell it a whole mess of records -- by making its worst racial nightmares come true.

This makes for some interesting distinctions in the group's audience. Timothy White, editor of Billboard, thinks N.W.A.'s attraction for white male teens is "danger at a safe distance." Jon Shecter, the Harvard-educated editor of The Source, a monthly journal of hip-hop culture, points out that although "it's a cool status symbol among white kids to like and identify with N.W.A., most of the black community doesn't like them. There's a lot of positive, intelligent rap out there, and N.W.A. is negative to the extreme."

Women, even more than cops, take the brunt of the abuse on the album. Listening to a continual obscene litany about bitches, hos, and the things they want or are willing to do with the group's sex organs is an exercise in brutalization. It doesn't make N.W.A. seem baaad, it makes them look awful. M.C. Ren doesn't see it that way, natch. "Ever since we did Just Don't Bite It ((on the EP 100 Miles and Runnin')), girls tell me how much they like it," he says. "They like She Swallowed It a lot. The only people who think our stuff is bad are the people who don't listen to it."

Not quite. Over in England, where authorities are mulling a ban on the new album, Sinead O'Connor has backed off her previous vigorous support of the group. She told the New Musical Express that N.W.A.'s "attitudes have become increasingly dangerous. The way they deal with women in their songs is pathetic."

N.W.A. has serious stuff to say, but they are stifled by their ravening sexism. No excuse cuts it, no rationalization holds. Until that attitude changes, "the world's most dangerous group," as it bills itself on Efil4zaggin, will be a threat above all to itself.

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