100 Miles and Runnin’
Let me just be frank. I pretty much lost all interest in N.W.A. once Cube left the crew. He always has been and always will be the standout talent of the crew. Sure, he has made more decisions and lost his edge a bit in the years since the golden era of hip hop. It happens. We all gotta grow up sometimes. It’s the politics of aging. Dr. Dre can sell a brand for millions to Apple, Cube can make movies for your kids. If Eazy was still alive, I would guarantee he wouldn’t be the turbulent force to be reckoned with in the late 80s, early 90s. I was talking to j3 the other day about Straight Outta Compton being one of the only albums that fit the description of “severely influential groups that only made one exceptional album.” That album changed the game for hip hop and for how hip hop related to the world around it.
Jump ahead two years, Cube has left because of royalty disputes and N.W.A. needs to make sure people still know who they are until they can deliver an LP. This is where 100 Miles and Runnin’ comes in. 5 tracks. 1 throwaway track (“Kamurshol”). 1 track that is utterly vomit-inducing with its misogynistic and rapey verses–even by N.W.A.’s standards–“Just Don’t Bite It.” Which left three tracks that make for good listening: the title track–which includes the greatest part of the album in its final 1:35, “Sa Prize, Pt. 2” & “Real Niggaz.” While these three tracks have some solid moments of production, sampling and flows, there is clearly an absence of lyrical prowess and mic presence without Ice Cube. Just face it. He’s key.
“Real Niggaz” shows the remaining four members of N.W.A. taking the first swing at Cube who avoided mentioning his former crew and label in Amerikkka’s Most Wanted vying, instead, for moving forward and concentrating on his craft with the exception production work of the Bomb Squad. Easy-E and company just couldn’t let it go and they put this nice little potshot in the lyrics: “We started with five, but yo / One couldn’t take it—So now it’s four / Cuz the fifth couldn’t make it.” Ice Cube would eventually fire back. But the tension and loss is real even within the space of 5 tracks. May I be so bold as to say that Ice Cube was the final winner of that battle, because N.W.A. was never quite able to accomplish what they created on their first outing and we can start to see that inability on this EP. But that is not to say that it is bad, because, really, anything they created following their debut would have felt deficient. The ol’ sophomore slump coming in big here.
So before you are sinking into the cushy seats of your local movie theater to see the N.W.A. biopic by F. Gary Gray (Friday) coming out on August 14th, go back and revisit the N.W.A. catalog. There is a lot to love in there–though mostly from Straight Outta Compton–and regardless of their inability to attain the heights of their debut, they were still a force to be reckoned with and a game changer. 100 Miles and Runnin’ still maintains a semblance of that importance.