Hip-hop changed forever after a chance meeting at an unusual place: the Roadium swap meet in Torrance, California. There, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, a young man with a high-pitched voice, bought used records every weekend. He constantly asked the seller for an introduction to a producer by the name of Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. With Eazy-E’s insistence, introductions were finally made. Ruthless Records was born. N.W.A was unleashed. And nothing was ever the same.

Straight Outta Compton, the group’s first studio album, was released in 1988. In one fell swoop, these rappers peeled back layers, showing the world how an American war zone had developed in their streets. N.W.A served as Compton’s reporters, first-responders, documentarians and community organizers. It was a world many did not know existed but, over time, would never be able to forget.

1. The Elephant in the Room

Sure, James Brown raised a few eyebrows when he endorsed Richard Nixon back in 1972, but Eazy-E’s foray into Republican waters lifted the curtain on political fundraising and inadvertently exposed the power of money in politics. On March 18, 1991, the 22-year-old rapper was personally invited to an official luncheon in the White House with then-President George H.W. Bush—less than two years after the FBI blasted N.W.A over “F*ck the Police.” How did a Jheri-curled former drug dealer end up dining on poached salmon with the blue-blooded elite of the Republican Party?

The story goes that Eazy-E either donated $10,000 to the City of Hope charity or $2,490 directly to the Republican Party (at the urging of then-Senator Phil Gramm of Texas). Either way, a computer flagged his government name from fund-raising lists, popped out a White House invite, and that was that. For the record, the late Eric Wright was no Republican. “I ain’t a Republican or a Democrat,” he later said. “I didn’t even vote… I don’t give a f*ck who’s the president.”

Read the rest in the August issue of EBONY, on stands now!