Usually, when I think of or find and decide on an addition to the Bo Jackson HOF I refer to allmusic for historical perspective and accurate names and release dates. They’re good for that. But many of those short retrospective discography reviews are spotty and quick – and their representative “picks” and star system is sometimes misleading. Compton’s Most Wanted’s debut It’s a Compton Thang get’s the brunt of this slack. Throughout the entries on the group they casually drop terms like “icon” and “prototype” but equally include “novel” and a grand conclusion that they did not live up to snuff with that other Compton group. Regardless of how far the group took the group…and regardless of how solo careers unfolded, anyone who made one of those brilliant St. Ides commercials, deserves mention as one group that defined the golden age of gangster rap (especially that of the South Central neighborhood that spawned a phenomenon), though we should probably elect Ice-T as grandfather/godfather. What? Are they the Go-Bots vs. N.W.A.’s Transformers?
Besides St. Ides, this debut is the prototype, representative, and, after a few nostalgic listens for prosperity, a landmark in the genre. Only one year removed from that other album re: Compton, it’s of that mind-set – drugs, guns, bitches, and cold-blooded revenge – and still on the opposite end of anger-management. MC Eiht and the Unknown DJ’s chemistry is blue-cool, a cadence between the two that shoulda’ and kinda’ begat the “laaaaaaid-back” g-funk click of Dre and Snoop.
Obviously in that year ('89-'90) I owned a solid black fitted cap (missing the Compton rep-font, but purely influenced by), so the title of the tape alone was enough for purchase at RTO (Record and Tape Outlet, the one a block from Cub Foods) and it didn’t leave the yellow sport Walkman for many a paper-route. Begin with the chill of “One Time Gaffled ‘Em Up,” where you can almost see the smoke snaking off the porch, the conversation/story of a cop bust unfolding in front of your eyes, and the stoned swagger of MC Eiht red-eyed and familiar. You can listen to his relaxed flow for hours without tiring of it. Even better is the pimp-mode of “Late Night Hype,” a quiet-storm manifestation of the gangster, full of smooth jazz and double entendres – Eiht was a master at that. Another highlight, and shoulda’ been hallmark of the era, is “This is Compton,” a hard-knock piano hook giving the world another perspective of life in the CPT.
MC Eiht would go on to secure a modicum of solo success, even as those records were constructed as grimier and darker tales of the street, with less of the hooky anthems CMW produced. To a degree his name alone eclipsed what his group did previously, but their pinnacle single “Growing Up in the Hood” from the brilliant Boyz N’ the Hood soundtrack, has survived even when this solid debut wallows in out-of-print obscurity. Who wants to start a Bo Jackson re-issue label? Me.