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If Famous Penn Staters Were Members Of N.W.A.

In 16 days, the movie Straight Outta Compton has grossed over $140 million worldwide. The film depicts the life and times of one of the most influential and controversial musical groups ever, N.W.A. It was only a matter of time before someone asked the question, “What if famous Penn Staters were members of N.W.A.?” We here at Onward State took it upon ourselves to be the first to give you the answers.

Dr. Dre: Joe Paterno


Call him the backbone, the heart and soul, the legend, or whatever else you want. There’s no N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, or Eminem without Dre, and there’s no Success With Honor without JoePa. Dr. Dre won six Grammys, Paterno won 409 college football games.

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital,” Paterno famously said. His football teams believed in that mantra, and the greatest producer in the world has to as well.

Their names are among the first that come to mind when you mention ’80s rap and Penn State, and deservedly so. They’re legends.

Eazy-E: Herb Hand


They may be commercially underrated, but on raw talent, fans have to love these two. Dre and Eazy began feuding after N.W.A. broke up, and Herb Hand isn’t afraid of a fight either. When a student asked for his daughter’s number, he tweeted back, “46 6’2 250 / my age, height & weight cuz that’s what you’d be dealing with.”

If your professor, boss, parents, etc. aren’t around, listen to this Eazy-E song then listen to Herb Hand going in on Eminem’s “8 Mile” at a football camp in 2014. You gotta love them.

Ice Cube: Bill O’Brien

Bill O'Brien

Even though if you ask Bill O’Brien what rapper he’d want to be, he’d assuredly pick Rick Ross.

Ice Cube was only in N.W.A. for three years and O’Brien only coached at Penn State for two. Ice Cube wrote most of the lyrics on the “Straight Outta Compton” album, an under-appreciated fact that came to light after his departure. O’Brien recruited top players Christian Hackenberg and Adam Breneman in the wake of the football program’s sanctions. The casual fan who only follows the team’s on-field work only knows that his Nittany Lion teams went 8-4 and 7-5, and after he was gone he was heralded as Penn State football’s “Blue and White Knight.”

The duo’s short times in those organizations worked as springboards onto bigger things. Ice Cube’s solo career took off, and Bill O’Brien posted a winning season in his first year as an NFL head coach. We gotta say it was a good day.

MC Ren: Russ Rose

Russ Rose

I take back what I said about Eazy-E and Herb Hand being underrated. The first three rappers who come to mind when you’re talking about N.W.A. are the three above, and the first three Penn State head coaches who come to mind for casual sports fans (especially among students) are likely James Franklin, Pat Chambers, and Guy Gadowsky on behalf of the popularity of their sports. Meanwhile, MC Ren is oft-overlooked despite being a key player in N.W.A.’s most successful era and having been featured on most of their biggest hits.

Russ Rose, in the meantime, has a career record of 1,184-180 coaching collegiate women’s volleyball. He and his teams have won seven National Championships, including six of the last eight.

“I don’t ever say the goal’s to win a championship or the goal’s to go undefeated,” Rose said last spring. “Hey, the goal’s to get better. The goal’s to be a better person. You can’t guarantee success, you just want to guarantee that everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing and everyone knows what their responsibilities are and they know their roles.”

It’s that team-first attitude that characterizes the four Penn Staters and four rappers (at least at first) on this list. Though N.W.A. didn’t last past 1991, its impact is impossible to ignore, just like those of their Nittany Lion counterparts.

About the Author

Doug Leeson

Doug is a sophomore and Onward State's Assistant Managing Editor. Dislikes: popcorn, Rutgers, and a low #TimberCount. Likes: "Frozen," Rec Hall, and you. Contact him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @DougLeeson.


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