Last weekend the biopic of Compton's own N.W.A was released "Straight Outta Compton." The musical biopic was the 6th No.1 opening for Universal this year and the best R-rated August opening EVER! The seemingly controversial movie took in 60.2 million at the U.S. box office, shattering the movies estimated 29 million dollar projections. Of course being deemed a "black movie" the expectations of paying movie goers interested in Hip-Hop was underestimated. Of course the national stereotyping is another issue I'll get into later. I would like to start off by giving praise where it's most certainly due. The movie was great. Impeccable writing and stellar performances delivered by young actors. Most notably the son of original N.W.A member and Hip-Hop icon Ice Cube. The story was obviously told from the perspectives of its two most heavily contributing members of the music and lyrics, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. The film did a fantastic job remaining broad and focusing on the group as a whole, highlighting the cultural significance and impact they had on all of America. But there are many underlying issues addressed and ignored in this portrayal that I would like to highlight and have a deeper conversation about. Some of those issues remain at the forefront of the national conversation being had today. Also issues that Black America refuses to acknowledge.
The first scene of the movie we are introduced to Eric Wright Jr. AKA Eazy-E. Founding member of N.W.A and CEO of Ruthless Records. He was in his local trap house in Compton California participating in a transaction that was rudely interrupted by an armored tank with a battering ram that famously ruled the streets of Compton during the (still ongoing) war on lower income minority communities better known as "the war on drugs." We saw a heavily militarized civil force, paid for by tax dollars of U.S. citizens. Similar to what we see every week on the news in response to protestors in the cities of Ferguson and Baltimore. Insert Cliché here > The more things change, the more they remain the same. In 1988 on the debut album of N.W.A there was an iconic song that resonated with so many in the black community and terrified main stream America. "Fu** tha Police" was every disgruntled youth's battle cry in response to police brutality and immunity that was given to the perpetrators of violence towards people of color in America. "Straight Outta Compton" was pretty much the soundtrack to the infamous L.A. riots of 1992 that took place after the acquittal of the police officers that brutally beat motorist Rodney King during a traffic stop. Sound familiar right. How many unarmed black men have died this year during routine traffic stops? That’s another post all together. N.W.A was bold and unapologetic in their sentiments. As the movie depicted this did not come without a cost. Media scrutiny, FBI investigations, arrests, censorship, etc. They held up a mirror to America and forced the country to see the harsh realities that people were living all over the country with abuse from police officers. So in conclusion to the topic of police brutality in America, there is no conclusion. N.W.A is more than a rap group from the 80's, N.W.A is now a mantra. We're all Ni***s With Attitudes in response to our continual unfair treatment in the criminal justice system. The issue affects us all whether your in chucks and a khaki suit, hitting the switches in your 6-four or a distinguished professional in an E-class Benz.
WE ARE NOT ALL GANG BANGERS! This goes for both sides of the issue. In the movie Eazy-E and Dr. Dre expressed misgivings about how their brand of "reality rap" was going to be received. N.W.A was first... pioneers in what media and pop culture would call "gangster rap." As the music and culture spread perception of all young black people would change as well. Internally and externally. It was now cool. Kids in the suburbs from middle class families were now visually indulging in a culture that wasn't necessarily their own. This music was reality rap, a reality that these individuals were accustomed. A complex environment not uncommon to many inner cities across the country. Places where gang violence was the everyday normal. A world built of systemic disenfranchisement and unemployment. Turf wars fueled by the narcotics trade due to the policies of the government in the 80's, instituted by the beloved republican demigod Ronald Reagan. The music that was bread out of this environment would grow to permeate popular culture. Only to exacerbate the fears of white America toward young people of color. The music changed the course of Hip-Hop, popularizing the misogynist gangster and his dealings. It lives today in what we call trap music. It changed us as well. Being a child of the 80's I grew up with this as popular music. One cant help but to identify with it. It's a stigma that we must all deal with. Around the country movie theaters beefed up security with off duty police officers in preparation for violence. Anywhere young blacks congregate is cause for concern.
Insert cliché here ------> "Birds of a feather flock together or where there’s smoke there’s fire."
WHEN WAS THE LAST MOB MOVIE THAT HAD BEEFED UP SECURITY?
On a positive note there was an unappreciated silver lining. An uncanny foresight and sense of self-worth. The movie showed a teenage Ice Cube who turned down a 75,000 dollar check from the groups unscrupulous manager Jerry Heller. He wrote the majority of the album, had a platinum selling album, and sold out shows across the country. He knew he was worth more than a mediocre check and a long term binding contract that would cripple him. He walked away. Achieved success on his own as a recording artist and now a shining star as an actor, writer, and director. Or Dr. Dre who walked away from thugged out Death Row Records and took his destiny in to his own hands to build his brand on his own. After his most recent deal through Beats by Dre and Apple, is now hip-hop's first billionaire. They took a broken system and used it to their advantage. With nothing more than a belief in themselves and their talent. How do you feel about it? This is my take on the film. In the words of Eazy-E "Don't quote me boy cuz I ain't said sh**."