Producers: Dr. Dre and Yella
Track listing: Prelude / Real Niggaz Don’t Die / Niggaz 4 Life / Protest / Appetite for Destruction / Don’t Drink That Wine / Alwayz Into Somethin’l Message to B.A. / Real Niggaz / To Kill a Hooker / One Less Bitch / Findum, Fuckum & Flee / Automobile / She Swallowed It / I’d Rather Fuck You / Approach to Danger / 1-900-2- COMPTON / The Dayz of Wayback
June 22, 1991
Other rap albums, like the Beastie Boys’ bratty Licensed to Ill, Tone Loc’s funky Loc-ed After Dark, and M.C. Hammer’s pop-flavored Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, had hit the top of the album chart, but there had never been a Number One album like N.W.A’s EFIL4ZAGGIN.
N.W.A —short for Niggaz with Attitude — formed in the late ’80s in Compton, California. The group was first featured on the 1987 album N.WA and the Posse, which included its earliest raps and presaged a new sub-genre known as gangsta rap. However, it was the group’s 1988 album Straight Outta Compton that brought N.W.A out of its home turf and into instant infamy. That album featured a track called “Fuck tha Police,” which raised the ire of law-enforcement organizations around the country, even prompting a letter from the FBI to the group’s label.
With the resulting controversy and plenty of street credibility, N.W.A proved to be a surprisingly potent commercial force, even though the group’s profanity-laced raps and hard beats were far too extreme for radio and video outlets. The album, which offered a dose of urban reality in graphic and often shocking terms, climbed to number 37, and went on to sell more than two million copies.
Yet all was not well in the N.W.A posse. Ice Cube, one of the group’s most notable voices, left the group over a dispute with management, but there was no stopping N.W.A. A follow-up EP, featuring the four remaining members — Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, D.J. Yells, and M.C. Ren — titled 100 Miles and Runnin’ peaked at number 27 in 1990, setting the stage for EFIL4ZAGGIN.
According to N.W.A leader Eazy-E, there were those who doubted the crew would be able to carry on without Ice Cube. “At first they thought we couldn’t do it without him, so we had to prove we could,” he said. Some critics complained that when N.W.A lost Ice Cube, it also lost its conscience, as the material on EFIL4ZAGGIN was even more graphic and shocking than the previous effort, as evidenced by song titles like “I’d Rather Fuck You” and “Findum, Fuckum & Flee.”
“We just did whatever we felt like doing,” explained Eazy-E. “A lot of people were afraid to put it on wax, but we didn’t give a fuck.” And the group also didn’t mind the negative reviews. “Publicity is publicity,” Eazy-E said. “It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. It’s all good to me.”
However, the group did make one small concession: The album was originally slated to be NIGGAZ4LIFE. “Everyone complained, so we put it backward and it looked kind of cool,” Eazy-E recalled.
EFIL4ZAGGIN was so controversial that many retailers balked at carrying the album. Like its predecessor, EFIL4ZAGGIN didn’t benefit from radio or video airplay, but it didn’t matter. The album rose to the top of The Billboard 200 in two short weeks. Even Eazy-E was surprised.
EFIL4ZAGGIN proved to be N.W.A.’s finale, as the group’s members opted to go solo at the album’s release. Years later, plans for a full N.W.A reunion were scrapped after Eazy-E announced he had contracted AIDS. He died of AIDS-related complications on March 26, 1995.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of June 22, 1991
1. EFIL4ZAGGIN, N.W.A
2. Spellbound, Paula Abdul
3. Out of Time, R.E.M.
4. Gonna Make You Sweat, C + C Music Factory
5. Time, Love & Tenderness, Michael Bolton