Thursday, May 8, 2008

N.W.A. and Nirvana

Twenty years ago N.W.A., the hip hop group composed of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy E, MC Ren, and D.J. Yella released their groundbreaking album, "Straight Outta Compton." For those in the alt-rock world, N.W.A. produced a genre defining work that revolutionized the industry, much like Nirvana's "Nevermind" in 1991. The similarities continue in the mixed bag of tragedy and triumph that followed the individuals in their lives since.

Eazy E: A lifetime Crip, Eazy was a "businessman"(read: drug dealer), and the guiding hand in forming the group. A successful rapper in his own right, he managed to have a double platinum solo album while contributing to a string of N.W.A. hits Always combative, and often accused of scheming with management, Eazy faced a series of lawsuits over the departure of Dr. Dre. By March of 1995 he was diagnosed with AIDS and passed by the end of the month.

Dr. Dre: Arguably the most successful post N.W.A. career, Dre released two "solo" albums that continue to reverberate today. His production has been amongst the elite from the days of Deathrow Records to his current standing as CEO of Aftermath Entertainment. His final album "Detox," is expected this year. Able to manage the ups and downs of the industry, Dr. Dre is the Warren Buffet of hip hop, each selectively pick winners while avoiding the static beneath them.

Ice Cube: The solo career of Cube proves that the pen is mightier than the sword. Credited with writing much of the N.W.A. material, that same raw talent exists 20 years later. Master of several successful albums, even more collaborations, and recently a box office star, Ice Cube possess more talent in his pinky than most do in their body.

MC Ren: Joining N.W.A. straight outta high school, Ren has had a quieter career than some of his peers. His first solo album went platinum, but each offering thereafter was greeted with less enthusiasm and subsequently things quieted down. Appearing for a few verses for Public Enemy, Cube and Dr Dre since 2000, Ren seems to have ended his career in 2006.

DJ Yella: The only other to stick with Eazy after the Dr. Dre split, Yella's career effectively ended upon Eazy's death. Recently he has resurfaced with this NSFW career.

1991 saw the arrival of Nirvana, and the departure of Whitesnake, Winger, Warrant, and all the other terrible bands of the 80's that don't begin with W. Comprised of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl, Nirvana wailed away with a previously unheard of passion. Not limited to high energy anthems, their Unplugged session demonstrated the depth of their musicianship. Just as they changed the game like N.W.A., they are tale of tragedy and triumph as well.

Kurt Cobain: Unable to cope with the pressures of stardom, the temptations of narcotics, and his own sadness, Kurt took his own life in 1994.

Krist Novoselic: Dabbling in music periodically, the former bassist has found his passion in politics. He chairs the board of FairVote, a group dedicated to election reform. He also founded JAMPAC to encourage music support and funding for youth. In 2004 he wrote a book, "Of Grunge and Government: Let's Fix This Broken Democracy." Rumors have swirled about running for various Washington state offices, Krist will likely be heard from again.

Dave Grohl: From grunge percussionist, to Foo Fighters guitar, and lead vocals, Grohl is an immense muscial talent. The Foo Fighters remain a staple of MTV rock, and continue to write new material. Grohl's ability to drum and strum in 2 world-class bands, sets him apart from most of his peers.