When news broke earlier today that three of Dr. Dre and Eazy-E’s kids are teaming up for the Sons of N.W.A. and rebooting the music of their famous fathers, the Internet responded with its usual mix of bemused skepticism and flat-out hate. And understandably so. The gangsta rap pioneered by Dre, Eazy, and the rest of the N.W.A. gang was all about self-empowerment and standing tall in the face of harsh ghetto realities. It had nothing to do with taking handouts or piggybacking on your daddy’s success.
That said, the Sons of N.W.A. teaser video is short, and it’s too soon to tell whether Curtis Young, Lil Eazy-E, and E3 will crap all over their dads’ legacies or deliver a worthy next episode. If music history is any indication, it could go either way, as the children of rock icons have been responsible for some truly great and absolutely terrible songs. What follows are five of the best, followed by five of the worst.
Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers – “Tomorrow People”
Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” hits harder, evoking papa Bob Marley at his most badass, but the reggae icon is best remembered for his utopian jams, and that gives the edge to this 1988 hit for eldest son Ziggy and his band of siblings. Thanks to the positive message and fluffy production from Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads, “Tomorrow People” is a hard song to hate. That goes double for the video, which features lots of smiling and kids holding hands.
Assjack – “Redneck Ride”
Hank Williams III is a third-generation rebel shit-kicker, so it makes sense he didn’t stake his career solely on the old-school country he so easily could have coasted on. Over the years, he’s split his time between irreverent solo twanging and the bonkers hillbilly metal of Assjack, his much-loved side project. “Redneck Ride” is breathless and brutal, the perfect song to play while trying to outrun the cops in your mobile meth lab.
Rosanne Cash – “Black Cadillac”
The eldest daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto Cash Distin, doesn’t muck with her family’s legacy quite as much as Hank III does, but her rootsy rock and country have established her as an artist in her own right. On this 2006 tune, she reflects on the recent deaths of her birth parents, as well as stepmother June Carter Cash, singing with the kind of steel that’s become synonymous with her surname: “It’s a lonely world/ I guess it always was.”
The Wallflowers – “One Headlight”
There’s only one thing worse than being pegged as the voice of a generation, and that’s being the musically inclined son of the voice of a generation. Indeed, life would have been easier for Jakob Dylan if only he’d been a surgeon or a trapeze artist or anything but a hat-wearing folk-rock troubadour, but the Son of Bob is a great singer and songwriter, and this Springsteenian 1997 smash is better than anything Bruce did in the ‘90s.
Miley Cyrus – “We Can’t Stop”
She can’t stop, and she won’t stop, so don’t fight it. Resistance is futile. Miley and her tongue have come to party, and thanks to some ace hip-pop production work by Mike Will Made It, she crafts a more credible anthem than any daughter of Billy Ray ought to.
Wilson Phillips – “Hold On”
Somewhere in Brian Wilson’s DNA, there’s a mutant gene that enabled him to make Pet Sounds and SMiLE. Sadly, he didn’t pass it down to daughters Carnie and Wendy, who join with Chynna Phillips—daughter of John and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas—for this enduring vocal “supergroup.” “Hold On”, the first of their three No. 1 singles, is all hammy three-part harmony and Hallmark sentimentality. If someone’s up on a ledge, and you play this to get ‘em down, expect the fadeout to be followed by a splat.
James McCartney – “Angel”
The only rock icon bigger than the Beatles is Elvis, and there’s a reason the King’s only child, Lisa Marie, didn’t make this list. Her mid-‘00s singles were inoffensively bland—vanilla like you taste on a pretty decent ice cream cone. The only son of Paul and Linda McCartney does vanilla more like an amateur confectioner, and for as flavorless as it is, “Angel”, from his 2010 debut EP Available Light, leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.
Nelson – “Can’t Live Without Your Love and Affection”
As the great Ricky Nelson once sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” Here’s hoping his twin sons Matthew and Gunnar were happy with this chart-topping 1990 single. People dug it at the time, when hair metal was cool and it was OK to dress like contenders for the WWF tag-team belt, but grunge was right around the corner, and these guys found themselves on the wrong side of history really, really fast.
Willow Smith – “Whip My Hair”
This wasn’t Willow’s fault. The Fresh Prince’s daughter was only 10 when it came out, and when you’re that young, your options for acting out are fairly limited. She couldn’t have sung about Molly like Miley or gone the risqué Rihanna route, so she had to assert her youthful freedom by swinging her hair back and forth. In the video, she dips her locks in paint and uses her headbanging to create Jackson Pollock paintings wherever she goes. No matter how bad Willow may have wanted it to look like vandalism, it’s totes arts and crafts.
Miley Cyrus – “Hoedown Throwdown”
Before she was old enough to unleash the crazy, Miley could only do hip-hop by fusing it with the kind of hokey country-pop that made her daddy a millionaire. It’s hard to judge Miley too harshly, since she was only 17 and still playing Hannah Montana, a Disney character whose legions of tween fans hadn’t yet learned to roll their eyes in disgust. But songwriters Adam Anders and Nikki Hassman actually wrote this thing on a piece of paper, and that’s something they’ll have to live with for the rest of their lives.