#StraightOuttaCompton REVIEW & #NWA Legacy (VIDEO+ BLOG)

This past weekend, the highly anticipated N.W.A. biopic "Straight Outta Compton" released in theaters resulting in the largest August box office opening for an R-Rated film. The "SOC" biopic followed the story of the notorious, Compton, California gangsta hip-hop group NWA ("Niggaz With Attitudes") from 1986-1995.

"SOC" told the story of five young Black men facing the harsh realities of the Crack Epidemic Era Compton. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I appreciated the fact that the cast consisted of newcomer talents instead of regular faces we've seen in Hollywood. This gave a chance for new actors to get their foot in the door and establish themselves in the entertainment industry. My favorite actors were Jason Mitchell (Eazy E), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella), and Marcc Rose (2Pac).

Some of my favorite parts included the "F*ck the Police" scene, the L.A. Riots scene, and the "No Vaseline" scene. I think this reminded us of how dope and underrated Ice Cube was and is an an emcee and his contributions to hip-hop music. We know him today as the actor and producer of Hollywood films, but have forgotten how nice he was with the lyrics and how slept on the "No Vaseline" diss track is. The latter scenes also complimented the ongoing issues of police brutality faced in urban areas especially towards Black men and women. The "F*ck the Police" scene resonated with the power that hip-hop had and continues to have on the masses and how it can ignite change and influence political, social, and cultural views in an entire generation. Hip-hop has always been revolutionary.

Photo Credit: indiewire.com

In regards to hip-hop, I'm a bit more knowledgeable about East Coast hip-hop than West Coast hip-hop. Seeing this film has really opened my eyes to how impactful the West Coast has been to hip-hop culture. I never was a huge Eazy E fan, but learning about his formation of "Ruthless Records" made me see him as a businessman as much as a rapper.

Some parts I was a bit iffy about within the film included the wardrobe (specifically on the extras), the, in my opinion, a bit unnecessary look into the personal lives of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and leaving out Eazy E's diss track "Real Muthaphukkin G's". Some of the clothing that the extras and even some of the primary actors were wearing were not exactly late 1980's/early 1990's. I think that creating a very on point authentic feel to films set in particular eras are extremely important. I did not really see the purpose in having the scenes of Dr. Dre's love interest (I'm guessing his future wife Nicole Barnes) or Ice Cube's wife Kim Bauer. In my opinion, none of those scenes added any depth or relevancy to the film and did not lead to anything. Seeing that Eazy E's widow Tomica Wright was aiding him in his legal and financial issues and by his side during his unfortunate death, I could better understand her presence. I would have also liked to see more about Eazy E's business activity with Ruthless Records such as signing Bone Thugs 'N Harmony.

I also wish we got a chance to see more about the lives and the contributions of MC Ren and DJ Yella. It's common knowledge that Dr. Dre, Eazy E, and Ice Cube were the most popular members of the crew, which is also seen in the movie. Perhaps showcasing MC Ren and DJ Yella would have been "fillers" and added no depth to the film. I feel that the film also should have had an emphasis on how controversial N.W.A. was at the time. Because of it being normalized, vulgar lyrics and images in rap and hip-hop are not cringed over as they once were, but during the time, hip-hop was already a scorned and demonized genre by the American media. So to have a group like N.W.A. come out of Compton and "glorify" subjects like drugs, violence, criminal activity, and misogyny was a huge deal.

Upon the release of the film, reports of Dr, Dre's past involving domestic violence was shared via blogs and news articles on social media. In the early 1990's, it was reported that he assaulted a reporter named Dee Barnes, and his ex-wife, an r&b singer named Michel'le. I honestly have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I understand why it is important this is discussed, but on the other hand I'm not sure if I agree with digging things up from the past. Yet, I can see this very thorough connection of domestic violence and the aggressively misogynistic lyrics that N.W.A. endorsed when they were active.

Photo Credit: moviepilot.com

Another controversial topic that arose on social media was the negative impact and legacy that N.W.A. had on the future on hip-hop and continues to have. N.W.A. was the primary rap group used by record executives to neutralize the conscious movement that had been established within the beginnings of hip-hop. Hip-hop is a direct result of the 1960's and 1970's Black Power Movement. N.W.A. was the exact opposite of what the KRS-Ones, Rakims, and Afrika Bambaatas of the East Coast had been doing for the last decade. Although we must be honest of the negative impact N.W.A. had on hip-hop culture, we also must realize the climate that birthed N.W.A. (U.S. government created Crack Epidemic, the engineering of HIV/AIDS in the Black community) and take account for the music industry executives like Jerry Heller who took advantage of the youth in order to promote these messages. This continues to happen today.

In the movie, the theme was "reality rap". Young people rapping about the reality of growing up in Compton during the Crack Epidemic, gang activity, poverty, crime, and violence in their community. The premise of hip-hop, specifically the element of emceeing also involves storytelling and speaking your truth. With these in mind, we still cannot ignore the negative messages that many of  N.W.A.'s lyrics sent to youth. But in reality, the only "gangstas" of the group were MC Ren and Eazy E who were both apart of the Crips street gang and involved in drug dealing.

The question that poses is eventually, how long will rappers continue to spit about the street life once they have made it out the hood? "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash was reality rap. Even tying into the context of many rap songs today, how long will the same topics of bitches and hoes be "reality"? This overall theme of hyper masculinity and misogyny in hip-hop and emphasis on disrespecting women, drugs, violence, and criminal activity are direct results of the emasculation of Black men in America, the cycle of ignorance, and many other themes relating to the destruction and war on the Black family that has been brewing since Black people were put into America as slaves.

The discussion of N.W.A. and their legacy of negative and neutralization of hip-hop is a very loaded and complex one. Depending on ones' lens, there could be no right or wrong answer to why the group was created and why they celebrated certain themes in their music. Although these are accurate notions, we must be honest about the legacy that N.W.A. left on the future of hip-hop as well as the timeline that lead up to their formation and the factors of poverty, drugs, and violence in urban areas. In regards to the film, I enjoyed it and I definitely would like to see it again. I hope this discussion on the climate of urban living and poverty in connection to culture and music continues to occur.



Post a Comment