N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton vs. Geto Boys’ Grip It! On That Other Level. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Two Gangsta Rap giants face-off as Hub City squares off against H-Town. N.W.A. and Geto Boys would share distributors in the 1990s, collaborating as individuals quite regularly. However, in the late 1980s, these two outspoken lovers of the profane and the profound would fight for the same real estate. In a year with each outfit still in headlines (to massively varying degrees), look back at their ’80s standout albums, and decide the better of the two (click one then click “vote”).
Voting For This Poll Has Closed. Visit the “Finding The GOAT” page for current ballots.
Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.
“The World’s Most Dangerous Group” took Gangsta Rap to a new plateau with 1988’s Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. (the working name for Niggaz Wit’ Attitude) accomplished plenty with their group debut. Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and MC Ren spoke out against systematic oppression—in their lexicon with “Fuck Tha Police.” Meanwhile, the sextet (counting DJ Yella and Arabian Prince, as on the album cover) urged First Amendment rights too on “Express Yourself.” But not everything on the Ruthless Records debut had deeper meaning. N.W.A. celebrated simply pissing off the moral majority on “Gangsta, Gangsta” and gave a firsthand account of a drug dealer’s perspective on “Dopeman (Remix).” The world (read: Compton) seemed to have a different set of circumstances and codes than much of election year America. Straight Outta Compton became a subversive op-ed to those living comfortably numb to the ghetto reality.
Straight Outta Compton endures not just because of what it said, but how it said it. N.W.A. was an arsenal of talent on the microphone, with Cube’s between-the-ribs jabs of hard truth, Ren’s ability to flip words in an unbreakable stride, and Eazy’s constant playing to the audience of taking it over the top. Dre was far from a slouch on the mic himself, though he and Yella arranged sounds in an unrivaled complexity for Hip-Hop. For as brash as N.W.A. may have seemed, the group showed a perfectionist dedication to their art. For those who related to N.W.A.’s world, Straight Outta Compton was a cathartic investigative report. For those who found the album to be thrilling awakening, the group packed the substance of Bob Dylan, with the “F.U.” flare of Guns N’ Roses. This album (the title song of which recently reached a pinnacle chart position after the biopic of the same name) put five men, a city, and a way of life through music on the map.
Album Number: 1 (2 as group)
Released: August 9, 1988
Label: Ruthless/Priority Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4 (certified gold, April 1989; certified platinum, July 1989; certified 2x platinum, March 1992)
Song Guests: The D.O.C.
Song Producers: (self)
Grip It! On That Other Level by Geto Boys
In the group’s second album, the Geto Boys (still as “The Ghetto Boys”) found their winning formula. With only dancer-turned-MC Bushwick Bill and DJ Ready Red remaining from the group’s original lineup, Akshen (n/k/a Scarface) and Willie D joined the fold with chiseled lyrics and chips on their shoulder. Grip It! On That Other Level fumed with songs like “Seek & Destroy,” “Trigga Happy Nigga,” and group mission statement “Do It Like A G.O.” The GB’s were loud, proud, and could not care less about offending anybody. With its two newest members from Houston, Texas, Rap-A-Lot’s breakthrough possé had a drawl, dialect, and locality new to mainstream Hip-Hop. Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-bred Bill added some East Coast sensibilities, as Ready Red’s sounds had more in common with Marley Marl than Luke Skyywalker.
Geto Boys would later find specific avenues to picket. On their hallmark second album (later re-presented as a Rick Rubin-helmed self-titled LP), Willie, Bill, and Brad were mostly concerned with their own issues. Three-foot-eight Bushwick used “Size Ain’t Shit” to tell the world about his hurdles with Dwarfism in a way that was accessible to anybody feeling marginalized. “Scarface” chronicled one man’s rise in the drug game in an archetype that would recur in narratives from Master P to Jay Z, UGK to Wu-Tang Clan. The Geto Boys’ fearlessness—towards censors, East Coast Hip-Hop centricity, and the wall of radio gave peers confidence. J. Prince’s house group gained by having nothing to lose. An album that felt militant, street, and like something that needed to be hidden and enjoyed in private made it a coveted badge of Gangsta Rap. Grip It! On That Other Level has never fallen out of touch, out of favor, or out of relevance to the Hip-Hop narrative.
Album Number: 2 (solo)
Released: March 12, 1989
Label: Rap-A-Lot Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #166
Song Guests: J. Prince
Song Producers: (self), John Bido, Prince Johnny C., J. Prince, Doug King
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.