by Dr. Boyce Watkins
The unforgettable, yet unforgiveable impact of America’s first gangsta rap group is the stuff of legend. NWA is responsible for prophetic songs like “F*ck the Police,” which told the world about LAPD brutality before the Rodney King incident, but they are also responsible for injecting hip-hop with a dose of toxic violence from which it has yet to recover (I’ve written about that problem too).
But putting the social impact to the side for a second, I was asked to give my thoughts on NWA this week for a BET documentary on the impact of hip hop on black culture. One thing that came to mind is the way Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were able to climb out of the war zone that was Compton and Death Row records to become captains of industry, while many of their homeboys simply perished. In that regard, their success makes for a case study that would be a fit for any business school in the country.
Here are some things that made Dre and Cube different from the rest:
1) The ability to see the bigger picture: The easiest way to stay broke and powerless is to think small and to be short-sighted. In fact, visionaries are regularly able to exploit the short-sightedness of those who have no discipline. While other members of the group were thinking about spitting rhymes, getting women, and buying yet another gold medallion, Ice Cube’s mind was able to visualize multi-million dollar franchises. I would much rather be a dumb person who thinks big than a brilliant person who thinks small. This can make all the difference.