Driving through Compton in 2023 still isn't exactly a pretty sight. Rampant unemployment, poverty, and violence still exist with the city's infrastructure. However, the prospect of being in Compton is nowhere near as damning as it was throughout the '80s and '90s. The city had been overgrown with weeds for nearly a decade, with auto dealerships becoming safe havens for homeless people. Three decades later, there are signs of middle-class purpose in Compton. People worldwide now tour the childhood homes of Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E. However, albums from rappers such as MC Eiht brought the rampant issues of what was once considered the murder capital of the U.S. to light.
MC Eiht was born and raised in the city. He was subject to rampant drug dealing and violence by the time he was five years old. At 18 years old, he worked on It's a Compton Thang! through writing raps and recording demo tapes with Tha Chill. They later partnered with producers DJ Slip and The Unknown DJ. Soon, they formed Compton's Most Wanted, although still very much engrained in street culture. It wasn't until they experienced the success of MC contemporaries in the form of N.W.A. that they ditched street life. By 1988, the group was fully focused on recording. This process would eventually crescendo into 1990's It's a Compton Thang!
MC Eiht Embodies Compton Hip-Hop
If any rapper embodies Compton's aggressiveness and creative output, it's MC Eiht. Emerging as a member of Compton's Most Wanted in the early 1990s, MC Eiht quickly developed into one of the featured spokespersons for the Westside. The legend is more than just a rapper; he's expressed his connectivity with his city through a variety of mediums, even becoming the representation of West Coast gang life as Lance "Ryder" Wilson in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. He even played the role of A-Wax in the 1993 film Menace II Society.
Eiht's establishment of Compton's Most Wanted proved that the city was more than a one-trick pony spearheaded by N.W.A. Rather, Compton was a breeding ground for talented and motivated MCs. "Late Night Hype" was the first hit for the group, a smooth blend of R&B and hip-hop. By 1991, MC Eiht had established himself as a household name in Southern California. However, Compton's Most Wanted wasn't doing it through copy and pasting the sound of N.W.A. Noticeably more mellow, sensual guitar strings and smooth drums filled albums Straight Checkn 'Em and Music to Driveby from MC Eiht's Compton's Most Wanted. The group would become the soundtrack for lazy days at the pool. Their rich sound contrasted with their revealing lyricism, picturing their violent environment.
MC Eiht & DJ Quik Beefed For Years
However, a generation-defining beef was rumbling under the surface during MC Eiht's rise with Compton's Most Wanted. Surprisingly, this battle wasn't aimed at an East Coast MC. Instead, the half-decade-long beef would occur between two household names within Compton. However, the beef between MC Eiht and DJ Quik was ultimately a beneficial commercial endeavor for the two. The two dissed each other continuously throughout the 1990s, with it ending in the summer of 1998 when Snoop Dogg and other West Coast MCs helped the two reconcile.
Even if the beef wasn't real, the two's many diss tracks thrown at each other would cement their commercial success. DJ Quik's "Dollaz + Sense" is commonly held as one of the greatest hip-hop diss tracks of all time. Eiht conceded in an interview with Unique Access, "I think I've learned that sometimes beef is good in hip-hop... it sells records."
Later explaining the nature of their beef, he stated, "So for me to be sayin' I was Crip, and him to be sayin' he was a Blood, even though we were using our music as our outlets, it was still people around us who took it seriously to where it's not about the records." The two's beef was largely because they were in different gangs in the Compton area. Back in 2017, MC Eiht was featured on DJ Quik's "Central Ave," with the two now being on good terms.
He Sits Among The Greatest West Coast MCs
At his core, MC Eiht is complex and multi-faceted. He's a father but also an OG Crip. He may be associated with gangsta rap and violent lyricism, but he's also a huge jazz nerd. Coming onto the scene with defining tracks such as "This is Compton," MC Eiht stated, "Fresh off the streets from the underground / Nick-named MC Eiht, black brother gets down."
That same sentiment holds true today, as his persona permeates through the influences of hip-hop. A true OG of the West Coast hip-hop scene, he sits with Ice Cube and DJ Quik amidst the golden era of Los Angeles rap. That reputation is precisely why he delivered the interlude on Kendrick Lamar's "m.A.A.D city."