25 Years Ago: N.W.A. Carry On Without Ice Cube on ‘100 Miles and Runnin’’ EP
It’s well-documented that N.W.A., the self-declared "World’s Most Dangerous Group," had something to prove when they released the 100 Miles and Runnin’ EP, which celebrates its 25-year anniversary today (Aug. 14).
A year after the skyrocketing success of their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, royalty disputes led to the highly publicized departure of lyrical force Ice Cube, who was hot on the pace of pursuing his own solo career with the release of his AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted LP in 1990. Not only did it incite a cutthroat ricochet of some of rap’s most storied diss tracks, the EP, released on Aug. 14, 1990, left N.W.A. laser-focused on proving that the show must go on.
From the first razor-sharp intro of the title track, N.W.A. is quick to reminisce. “I didn’t stutter when I said ‘F--- tha Police’,” raps MC Ren in homage to the infamous attack on use-of-force that helped usher them into the spotlight. But unlike the lack of radio play they experienced with Straight Outta Compton due to the scrutiny swarming the genre of gangsta rap, “100 Miles and Runnin'” became their first true stride of air wave momentum.
Though the song would only crawl to No. 51 on the Billboard US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts, “100 Miles and Runnin'” infiltrated stations for quality more than controversy. The EP itself would go platinum within two years of its release.
The video for the song inevitably fueled the flames between Cube and his former bandmates. Featuring the four members arrested and held in a jail cell, a fifth member who happens to be an Ice Cube look-alike walks away scot-free. Over it all, Dr. Dre raps the scorching allusion to Cube, "It started with five but yo one couldn't take it / So now there's four 'cause the fifth couldn't make it / The number's eve. / And now I'm leaving."
Watch N.W.A.'s "100 Miles and Runnin’" Video
The relentless attempts to vilify Ice Cube ran rampant throughout Miles, at one point likening him to America’s most notorious traitor: “We started out wit too much cargo, so I'm glad we got rid of Benedict Arnold," riffs Dre on "Real N----z."
Though direct and to the point in their animosity toward Ice Cube on the EP, in interviews, they let the record do the talking. When asked if Ice Cube’s departure was a major loss for the group in a 1990 SPIN magazine feature, Eazy-E coolly replied, “No, it means we get more money.”
Not to be outdone, Ice Cube jabbed back on his Kill at Will EP, released a mere four months after 100 Miles and Runnin'. “And if I jack you and you keep comin’ / I'll have you marks a 100 Miles and Running!” he threatens at the end of “Jackin’ for Beats,” a track he willfully admits is a shot at N.W.A. Still, his most merciless and memorable diss would come on his second solo album, 1991’s Death Certificate in the form of the slur-laden assault on N.W.A. and the Ruthless Records label, “No Vaseline.”
100 Miles and Runnin' wasn’t just felt between hip-hop fans, though. The album, and its title track, became embroiled in a landmark court case revolving around the use of samples. A looped two-seconds of guitar lifted from George Clinton and Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” that was used in the title track became the centerpiece of the U.S. federal appeals court hearing Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films. “Get a license or do not sample,” the court ruled. “We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way.”
The EP tread comfortable ground, which incited mixed reception for not venturing outside of the expected gangsta rap territory, relying on shock value and even for drawing on the fiery stylistic techniques of Ice Cube in his absence. "Sa Prize (Part 2)" even serves as an extension of Straight Outta Compton’s “F--- tha Police,” just cutting Ice Cube out of the mix.
In spite of the critiques of the lyrical range – some longing for edginess likely unreproducible with or without Ice Cube in comparison to the groundbreaking Straight Outta Compton -- N.W.A. reemerged with a platinum-selling album that cemented their reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
Three tracks from 100 Miles and Runnin' would later reappear on their sophomore full-length and final album, Efil4zaggin (or N----z4Life), a hint of what was to come. The album would debut at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and go on to become the first hardcore rap album to conquer the No. 1 spot.
Ultimately, 100 Miles and Runnin' may just go down as the most notable, and searing, stepping stone in rap history.
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