It looks like N.W.A. is going to re-form after all--sort of.
Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and M.C. Ren--three of the four key members of the rap group whose 1989 "Straight Outta Compton" album popularized the gangsta rap movement--have reportedly agreed to work together on a new album.
What about Eazy-E, the original leader of the group?
Don't look for him to be invited to join, which is why there's speculation about a slight vowel change in the name. Some some sources say the "reunion" album will be titled N.W.E.--Niggaz Without Eazy--instead of the original N.W.A., for Niggaz With Attitude.
The new name reflects what is reportedly continuing animosity between Eazy-E and the other three rappers, a conflict fueled by various contract and financial squabbles. Ice Cube left the group in 1990 and the situation within the rest of N.W.A. has apparently been volatile for some time.
Lillian Matulic, head of publicity for Priority Records, which distributes N.W.A. albums and the solo albums by all four principals, has heard the N.W.E. talk, but said there's nothing definite. "I've learned that if something is speculation, it's not a story."
Unless, of course, the speculation is true.
"N.W.E. is definitely on," says one source close to the project. "Everybody had their problems with Eazy, but they really united after he supported Ted Briseno (the Los Angeles policeman who was acquitted in the recent federal civil rights trial growing out of the beating of Rodney G. King). What was (N.W.A.'s song) 'F--- tha Police' supposed to be all about?"
Although N.W.A.'s "Compton" album was a massive hit, both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre subsequently attacked Eazy-E and his manager, Jerry Heller, after leaving the group. Eazy-E declined to comment, but has said repeatedly in recent weeks that things are fine between the old N.W.A. gang and that there'll be a reunion album soon.
But things don't seem so smooth if you watch "Dre Day," Dr. Dre's latest video, in which he and cohort Snoop Dog ridicule Eazy-E and Heller.
Snoop Dog and Kam, who's an Ice Cube rap ally, are reportedly expected to also be part of the N.W.E. project. The album could be a commercial blockbuster because solo albums by both Dre--an acclaimed producer--and Ice Cube--who is an equally heralded rapper--are huge rap and pop hits.
"As far as N.W.E. is concerned, I think someone came up with a cover name," says one industry executive who is involved in the L.A. rap scene. "Whether or not they'll use it, I don't know. But the real news is that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube will be working together. That's an album that everyone will run out and buy."