Friday, February 05, 2016

Straight Outta Trashcan

“In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album, "Straight Outta Compton," stirs controversy with its brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles.” Wikipedia

I have 18 books in my library on black history which I have read. I probably know more about black history than the people who made the movie “Straight Outta Compton” and I have lived there also. As an 8 year old kid I used to walk down Long Beach Boulevard into Compton and we would buy tacos there. My usual approach to becoming acquainted with a subject is to immerse myself in it until I have a good grasp and this is how my journey into the slave trade began maybe 20 years ago.

Many of the books I own or have read were written by black scholars and depict the truth about the slave trade and the ransacking of Africa by… Africans. It’s not a pleasing picture and it is far easier to simply believe that non-black people raped the country instead of the truth – it was a joint effort. Like the X-file heading, the truth is out there.  We just have to go find it.

Ice Cube (in both photos) wrote the filthiest raunchiest lyrics for N.W.A.
So in search of the facts, I watched the gritty movie, “Straight Outta Compton” and I did find it fascinating. It depicts the struggle of a number of currently popular millionaires who hobnob with the Commander in Chief at White house galas, do commercials for major brands, make kids/family movies, and are quoted by church going folk. They host award shows and everyone there wants to be associated with them and giggle when they talk.

Straight Outta Compton’s group was N.W.A., and in a silly twist of the rules, I can’t spell out in this column what that acronym stands for. Talk about a travesty; that’s one for the books. In fact, I, being a white person could not repeat a large portion of the movie’s dialogue or I would be labeled as racist. All through the movie, the main characters are portrayed as being victims and this message is pushed to the nth degree from front to back.

Today, they are hailed as heroes for breaking down the language barrier in music. Wow, what a legacy. It’s not just the f-word that is now allowed, it is the rankest, raunchiest, filthiest, and violent-laden lyrics that they have propelled into modern mainstream music. Let’s back up to 1967 and The Doors appearing on the vaunted Ed Sullivan Show.
The Ed Sullivan Show was the grandest accomplishment a music group could attain.  After all, 3 years prior, the Beatles were introduced to America on this really big show. A few minutes before the doors were to sing their smash hit, “Light my fire,” they were informed that they had to change the lyrics from, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.”

The leader of the band, Jim Morrison refused to compromise and the band was banned from the show. This normally would kill the band, but The Doors were just too big and the only thing that stopped them was Morrison’s self-destructive drug and alcohol usage. Straight Outta Compton portrays the victorious struggle of Ice Cube, Easy-E, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren for the most part, but you get to see Snoop Dogg, and Tupac on occasion. Just like most successful rock and roll groups, fame brings lots of drugs, parties, hookers, and strife and I understand how that works and this didn’t affect me as a negative per say. What I mean, is that is pretty common and has nothing to do with the bent of this column. There was also some infighting and I suspect that was fairly accurate.

What I do draw exception to is the line of dialogue early on in the movie where Easy-E, a rich drug dealer, is brought into backing his peeps by using the logic that there is no difference in selling dope, than selling music. This is a monstrous message to young people. It effectively blurs the lines between right and wrong. Do this? You get rich. Do that? You get rich. There is no difference.

There’s a gigantic difference; simply gigantic. The message of this movie is blurry, but some of it advocates getting the lion’s share by hook or crook. You can do whatever you want as long as you succeed and you will get rich. It is another bizarre twist that these thug rappers, who openly advocated doing violence to the police are now respectable citizens who people appear to adore.

Dr. Dre sells uber-expensive headphones and every gym has fifty people inside wearing them.  He’s worth about 550 million bucks.  Ice Cube is not doing too shabby at 140 million, and poor DJ Yella and MC Ren only have a measly 1 million dollars each. They don’t have headphone and movie deals – poor guys. Easy-E, the Godfather of Gangsta Rap died of A.I.D.S. in 1995.

Hey!  I might have this all wrong. They may have actually done a good thing by tearing down the censorship barrier of music and this may be an Oscar worthy movie, but you’ll have to watch it and make that call for yourself, won’t you?


Anonymous said...

BAM: Interesting take and well written.I do not intend to see the movie.

Anonymous said...

The movie is what I thought it would be... Ice Cube and Dre's interpretation of how it all happened. It brought back alot of memories, and I was singing along in the theater with every song. I was impressed with Cube's son playing his Dad. I agree with most everything you wrote. I'm not sure its Academy Award worthy of a movie... but I enjoyed reliving some of my youth.

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