Eazy-E was one of the founding members of the 1980s gangsta rap crew N.W.A. Alongside Ice Cube, Dr Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, the Compton rapper made hip hop history with his songs that shook up an entire nation, and a lot of his songs still live on to this day.
As a member of N.W.A, Eazy-E was initially not the most talented rapper and could only rap acapella, not quite able to stay on beat. However, through a long and gruelling process of recording in snippets, crew member Ice Cube managed to get Eazy sounding on the beat, and the finished product was Eazy’s first ever record, ‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’.
Eazy-E, despite the fact he was earning a decent living selling narcotics in South Central LA, thrust himself into music when his cousin was shot and killed, knowing that it could have easily been him. The rapper (real name Eric Wright) quite literally went from selling dope on LA street corners to ruling the charts and making platinum hit records. Although Wright was famously short in stature, he was mentally strong and, with the help of Dr Dre and Ice Cube, took himself off the streets and into the studio. Exploring how the late rapper produced these songs is fascinating, and looking behind the scenes of the hit factory that was N.W.A is exciting, to say the least.
As fans of Eazy-E and N.W.A, we got to hear the three minutes of perfection. However, we didn’t see the gruelling hours that went into creating that perfection. It’s important to dig deeper to find those hidden gems. For fans, it is fascinating to know how artists we admire and producers we love create these masterpieces. In this article, we’ll be looking Behind the Mic to discover the story behind Eazy-E’s 1987 hit ‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’ and bring you facts no one else knows about on how this classic was made.
‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’ was produced by West Coast legend Dr Dre alongside DJ Yella. The song samples 1986 single ‘I’m a Ho’ by rap group Whodini. It also contains samples from Beastie Boys’ song ‘Hold It, Now Hit It’ as well as two ’70s soul samples. Jean Knight’s ‘Mr Big Stuff’ and ‘I’ll Take You There’ by the group The Staple Singers.
The track was actually written by Ice Cube, but he encouraged Eazy-E to rap it as he felt his unique tone of voice would fit the track better. Taking two days to complete due to Wright’s dyslexia and timing issues, the song is about ghetto life in Compton and describes a day in the life of a gangsta. The song was not written in the same period it was recorded as Ice Cube was only 17 years old when he wrote the track. He took it to Eazy-E years later, after Eazy started Ruthless Records.
The writing credits for the song vary across different releases. The first Eazy-E version lists just Ice Cube as the writer. The N.W.A version has Eazy, Dre and Cube credited. However, the 1988 Eazy-E version is listed as written by Cube and Eazy. Ice Cube, six years younger than Eazy-E, was far less wary about the music business and upon his split from N.W.A claimed that he was cheated out of royalties by Eazy. The original version of the track was recorded by Eazy with the help of Ice Cube at Audio Achievements Studio in Torrance, a neighbourhood to the South West of Compton.
Rolling Stone ranked the song as among the 20 greatest West Coast rap songs. However, while the crew labelled it “reality rap”, the mainstream media dubbed it gangsta rap, and the crew and Eazy-E started to garner attention and receive negative press. Often called the Godfather of Gangsta Rap’ Eazy-E became synonymous with gangsta music. The song gained even more traction when in 1991, director John Singleton borrowed the song’s title for his film Boyz n the Hood.
‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’ was Wright’s lead single for his 1988 debut album Eazy-Duz-It which has been certified double platinum in the US.
You can watch the music video for ‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’ in the video below and a recreation of its recording from Straight Outta Compton.