As of 1988, the top-selling hip hop albums of all time were Run D.M.C.’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, both released in 1987. But the music scene was about to get a shake up with the introduction of gangsta rap. And it would happen on this day in 1988 with the release of NWA’s Straight Outta Compton.
Till then, rap hadn’t strayed far from being party music. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had established hip hop’s potential for social commentary with their epic single “The Message” in 1983, but Straight Outta Compton offered something far less measured and polite than one usually associates with the word “commentary.” It’s commercial success was as surprising as it was profitable. MTV and local radio wouldn’t touch it, so it relied solely on word of mouth for traction. Rap has never looked back.