More than three decades after they were considered the most dangerous group in America by conservatives and their records deemed too controversial to be mainstream, N.W.A has been honored for their undeniable contributions to music.

Ice Cube, along with MC Ren, DJ Yella, The D.O.C., as well as Eazy-E’s son, Lil Eazy, and others, accepted the Recoding Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday (Feb. 3) during the Special Merit Awards ceremony held in Los Angeles. The group grew to prominence following their debut album, Straight Outta Compton, which was released in 1988 via Ruthless Records, founded by Eazy-E.

Their success, according to Cube, was his late bandmate’s vision. “He’s the one who allowed us to do this type of music,” he said. The iconic West Coast emcee passed away due to AIDS and pneumonia complications at the age of 30 in 1995. The pioneering gangster rap group was introduced by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, whose mega-hit “The Crossroads” paid tribute to the late Hip Hop star.

“We knew when we started to do music in 1985, ’86, ’87 that a Grammy was not in the cards for us with the type of music we was doing. We actually didn’t think we would ever even get on the radio. We was cool with that,” said Cube. The multi-hyphenate entertainer continued, “We can’t sing like Gladys or hold a note like The Clark Sisters. But we still wanted to express ourselves and try to make sense of the world around us, in L.A., Compton, South Central, Long Beach, Watts. It was a different world out there, and we were trying to make sense of it. And what we did is, we did music. We did music from our hearts.”

Also honored with the group was Dr. Dre, though he was unable to attend. Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. read a brief message on behalf of the producer. “I’m honored to receive this award with my N.W.A brothers. We’ve been together for a long time, so I regret not being there and being able to celebrate with you all,” wrote Dre, who noted that he skipped the ceremony to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

N.W.A became the fifth rap group to receive the honor from the Recording Academy, joining Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five and Salt-N-Pepa.

Also presented with the merit award were Gladys Knight, writer-composer Laurie Anderson, The Clark Sisters, Donna Summer, and singer Tammy Wynette. Additional artists were recipients of the Trustees Award, the Technical Grammy Awards and the Best Song for Social Change Award.