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With albums by Ice-T, N.W.A, the Geto Boys, and Eazy-E having popularized gangsta rap in the late '80s, the stage was set for the success of Above the Law. The members of this South Central L.A. group had close ties to members of N.W.A -- Above the Law produced their own debut album, Livin' Like Hustlers, with Dr. Dre, and recorded it for Eazy's Ruthless label (which was going through Epic as well as Priority and Atlantic). Though not in a class with Ice-T's or N.W.A's work, Hustlers is a sobering depiction of ghetto life in L.A. Violent, profane, and graphic, songs like "Another Execution," "Menace to Society," and "Murder Rap" let listeners know exactly what life in South Central was like. The imaginative Dre's input as a producer is consistently beneficial, and he sees to it that the CD comes alive musically. ATL's lyrics would sound increasingly clichéd as the 1990s progressed, but Hustlers shows that at the dawn of the decade, the Angelenos had some freshness.