N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton: The Word Cloud

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From LA Weekly: N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton: The Word Cloud

In an ongoing effort to better understand the many classic albums of Los Angeles, we’ve come upon an equation that gets to the heart of the matter without much thinking, analysis, verbiage or any of those other “old-model” music criticism techniques that have become obsolete. Specifically, wordle, the “word cloud” generating website that analyzes lyrics based on the frequency of word occurrences.

Word clouds: We’re kind of obsessed with generating them right now. Each week brings a new challenge. Lyrics sites aren’t sticklers for spelling, usage or punctuation, so when feeding info into the wordle box we have to go through the words and rhymes line by line to make sure it’s all kosher.

That’s fine when you’ve got repetitive declarations like those in Black Flag’s Damaged, which we analyzed last week. And going through the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds line by line is a beautiful thing.

And then there’s N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton, a beast of a record with more lines than T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” with added frustration of lots and lots of word shortenin’ that you gotta fix lest the results get all screwy.

But we gotta suffer for our art, a notion that N.W.A put forth quite mightily when composing the 1989 masterpiece. One hundred years hence, when historians are trying to understand race relations in late century Los Angeles, they will refer to Straight Outta Compton to get to the reality behind the analysis — and it’ll still sound fresh as fuck. Herewith: Straight Outta Compton, the word cloud:

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