Album: Straight Outta Compton
Label: Priority, Ruthless
Producer: DJ Yella, Dr. Dre

Here it is, the song that made a relatively small hamlet south of downtown Los Angeles one of the most famous cities in the world. Compton had been a middle-class white suburb for most of the 20th century, and following the LA riots it would slowly change to a predominantly Latino neighborhood. In the public consciousness, however, it will always been the territory of a crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube, from the gang called Niggaz With Attitude.

Compton is not nearly the most dangerous part of Los Angeles, but the name had symbolic potential and syllabic force. The word Compton is shaped like a bullet, and it punctuates in a way that Hawaiian Gardens or Wilmington never could.

The genius of N.W.A was that they treated Compton both as a place and a symbol. They could rap about its dirt motels and swap meets and stash houses because they had lived them, but the real accomplishment of “Straight Outta Compton” was that gave a name to innumerable ghetto neighborhoods in Los Angeles-and over the world-where gang violence, drug commerce and police brutality are major motivators of everyday existence.