This song is about the ghetto life in Compton, California, where N.W.A is from. It's describing a day in the life of a gangsta as rapped by Eazy-E.
The tale of thug life in this song is something that its writer, Ice Cube, witnessed from a comfortable distance. Cube grew up in South Central Los Angeles, but in a middle class home with supportive parents (his father was a groundskeeper at UCLA). The song is a great example of Cube's talent for writing and observation, which led to a very successful acting career. He is skilled at taking on whatever role will earn him the biggest payday, which throughout the '80s and early '90s was the gangsta persona. With his Friday movies, he played his baleful side for laughs, which endeared him to a wider audience and opened up more marketing opportunities.
This song predates N.W.A. Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson) was 17 years old when he wrote the track and took it to Eazy-E, who had started Ruthless Records in Compton with money he made selling drugs. Eazy recorded the song in 1987 and released it as a solo single (titled "The Boyz-n-the-Hood"). A short time later, Eazy and Cube formed N.W.A with another rapper/writer, Dr. Dre, and later that year they included this song on their debut album, N.W.A and the Posse. Eazy-E released yet another version of the song the following year on his 1988 solo album, Eazy-Duz-It.
The songwriting credits have varied by release. The original Eazy-E version lists just Ice Cube as the writer, with Eazy as executive producer. The N.W.A version has Eazy, Dre and Cube credited, and the 1988 Eazy-E version is listed as written by Cube and Eazy. Ice Cube, six years younger than Eazy-E, was far less astute in business matters, and later claimed that he was cheated out of royalties with N.W.A.
Eazy-E was far more accomplished as a businessman than as a rapper when he recorded this song. His forte was hustling, which gave him the street cred to deliver this song, but not the flow. When his solo single of this track started selling in the Los Angeles suburbs, Eazy assembled N.W.A so he would have some help when it came to performance. His rap skills certainly improved, but at the time Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were far better as MCs and showmen, and formed a solid posse for Eazy to work with.
This song was the inspiration for the 1991 movie Boyz n the Hood, which starred N.W.A member Ice Cube as Doughboy, a street-smart teenager who had already spent time in prison. It was Ice Cube's first acting role, and a very successful one. The film earned over $50 million on a $6 million budget, leading to more roles for Ice Cube and a spate of similar movies. His next film was Trespass in 1992, followed by The Glass Shield and Higher Learning.
The lyric, "Rolls down the window and he starts to say, it's all about making that GTA," helped inspire the famous video game series, Grand Theft Auto."
Eazy-E scored his third Hot 100 hit when his solo version of the song debuted at #50 on the US Hot 100 in 2015. Its arrival on the chart was due to renewed interest following the release of the N.W.A biopic film, Straight Outta Compton.