#SurvivingCompton Michel'le Biopic Review

Last night, the Lifetime television network showcased 1990's singer Michel'le's biopic "Surviving Compton". Michel'le was an r&b singer well known for her one of a kind "squeaky" voice, yet amazing vocals during her career in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The biopic showcased the songstress's upbringing, career, and her tumultuous relationships with superproducer Dr. Dre and secretary of the Illuminati and former Death Row Records H.N.I.C., Suge Knight.

Overall, the film was decent, but I do wish there was more focus on her career than just her relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. I could see how that could overshadow her actual underrated talent, great voice, and artistry. Michel'le narrated her biopic and even showed up in scenes from time to time. Honestly, the acting was pretty good. The actress who portrayed Michel'le  (Rhyon Nicole Brown) sounded and looked just like her in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The actor who played Dr. Dre (Curtis Hamilton) also sounded just like him. Obviously, Lifetime heard my cries about using decade appropriate fashion because the costumes were on point! The jacket's that the actress had on were everything, just had to point that out. 

Michel'le's relationship with Dr. Dre started when she hooked up with Ruthless Records in the late 1980's. The producer singer duo created hit records such as "Nicety" and "No More Lies" on her 1989 self titled debut album. I actually didn't know Michel'le's presence was so strong during the beginnings of NWA and even in Death Row Records. Although the film "Straight Outta Compton" was strictly about NWA, I could see why she and others felt left out of the biopic. I mean, even a mention of her would have sufficed. I found it interesting how Suge Knight triple O,G, scan artist basically eased and manipulated his way into Michel'le's life. He saw that she and Dr, Dre's relationship was toxic and falling apart, so he knew the exact words to say and things to do in order to win her trust. Once Suge Knight went to prison in the 1990's, it was revealed that he was married. In one scene, Suge's wife stated that it was "her day" to visit him in jail.

So we scheduling visits to see niggas in jail now?

Michel'le even had two children by both Dr. Dre and Knight which is an interesting dynamic since both were enemies at one point. It was cool to see the Great Value 2Pac in the film as well. I did hear that Michel'le had an association with him. But what did make me clutch my pearls was the scene where Suge was talking crazy to 2Pac. Um, did that really happen? It was also interesting how Jerry Heller was portrayed in the film, almost like a "savior" figure, especially since he had beef with all of the members of NWA. I suppose his relationship with Michel'le was on better terms than with the fellas. Seeing how there were so many people surrounded by the main characters makes me wonder if anyone ever tried to step in to cease the abuse or was it that normal for people to turn a blind eye? 

The movie went by quickly and honestly seemed to be all over the place, but I got the gist of it and appreciated it for what it was. What really sparked my interest was the documentary styled Beyond the Headlines special after the movie. The special featured interviews from some of Michel'le's colleagues like Tichina Arnold, Kevin Powell, rapper Yo-Yo, and journalist Dee Barnes. Like the film, the special told the story of Michel'le's upbringing in California, her career, and association with the legendary west coast hip-hop acts. 

One thing I found interesting about Michel'le's upbringing is that she spoke about witnessing her mother being physically abused. She mentioned that her mother basically assured her that that's "how men act". A lot of times people ask why do victims of abuse stay with abusive partners. When witnessing abuse has been psychologically embedded in one's psyche, especially at a young age, and they're told the actions are acceptable, it's hard for them to stray away from their partners. As strange as it is, it's almost like abusers know which victims to pick out. I also think self-esteem, and environment comes into play in these situations. For Michel'le, growing up in poverty with a lack of resources could have added to why she accepted abuse from her former partners.

Photo Credit: pitchfork.com

While watching Beyond the Headlines and listening to Michel'le's story of how she dated Dr. Dre, created music with him, was abused by him, bore his son, and how he left her to marry another woman, I couldn't help but to compare it to Lil' Kim and Biggie Small's relationship. Like Michel'le and Dr. Dre, Lil' Kim and Biggie Smalls started off as friends, dated, Kim was verbally and physically abused by Biggie, Kim was impregnanted by him, and he later married another woman. Besides the similarities, I also noticed how Dr. Dre's wife is a lighter skinned woman, just like Faith Evans who Biggie married is a lighter skinned woman. I know, I know, what does skin tone have to do with this? Actually the theme of colorism is heavy within hip-hop, not only in lyricism, but also with who some rappers chose as their "trophy wives" verses the women they belittle and abuse. 

What "Surviving Compton" showed us was the other side of hip-hop culture, the dark side. Poverty, misogyny. anti-Blackness, and abuse and how all of these untreated issues within our community have been sewn into the culture in a harmful, unhealthy manner. The hypocrisy of rappers who affiliated with NWA and Death Row Records calling Michel'le everything but a child of God for being with Dr. Dre then Suge Knight, but falling silent on the abuse the men placed on her, as well as the infidelity. No matter what people claim Michel'le did in regards to "ruining Death Row" (again, the irony of people blaming her and not big bad Suge), that still doesn't give anyone the right to abuse her and anyone condoning it is an imbecile. 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the voices of women's interactions and contributions in hip-hop has been put on mute for so long. This is not to state that every rapper, emcee, producer, within the hip-hop community promotes or condones abuse and misogyny. As a matter of fact, hip-hop didn't even start off that way, so let's keep that clear. However, the negative aspect of hip-hop has been very powerful in the last few decades, specifically with the help of corporations infiltrating the art form. Perhaps women are not lifted in the hip-hop community as they should be because it will exposes instances such as the troublesome relationship between Michel'le and Dr. Dre. Nonetheless, I'm glad Michel'le was able to tell her story. As I stated in my previous blog, we can't keep yelling about how "the man is trying to keep a brotha down" if the brotha is laying his hands on a sista, and not in a prayer-like manner. "Surviving Compton" showed us how real abuse is and that it comes in many forms; physical, psychological, emotional, and financial. I hope more narratives of Black women in hip-hop come forth, 


Did you watch "Surviving Compton"? What was your favorite scene? 



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