I laughed. I laughed really hard. It felt good to laugh.
Straight Outta Compton was not a comedy. It portrayed a time, much like today, of oppression. It showed the less glamorous side of life. The time where cops were not always the good guys. Where women were objects of pleasure. See, “Bye, Felicia.”
There was violence. There was misogyny. There was betrayal. There was a disease.
There was pure anger.
Can You Rap?
After a line-up of gang life and gun violence in the first moments of Straight Outta Compton, the movie portrayed a softer side.
Eazy-E invested $250,000 into his music company, Ruthless Records. The talent left and one of Eazy-E’s friends, Dr. Dre convinces him to take the mic and rap his song, “Boyz N Tha Hood.”
He tries to rap the first line, “Cruisin’ down tha street in my ’64,” and it’s the funniest moment of the whole movie because Eazy-E couldn’t rap his song. It was pretty bad.
It took him a minute or two and then Dr. Dre says, “Now we just have fifty-nine more lines to punch in.”
It was just a cute moment. This rap business is a lot of hard work and it showed that you can have fun with it.
Straight Outta Compton took me to a world that I had never known.
I felt like I learned so much about rap music. I understood where the lyrics were coming from and in turn, I am beginning to appreciate it on an entirely new level.
Drugs and gang violence have never affected my life. I haven’t woken up to gun shots. The scariest thing that I have witnessed is innocuous compared to the harsh realities of Compton. My scariest Chicago moments include a knife fight on the redline train or a man masturbating or a drunk guy following me home.
The guy next to me grew up in Chicago, and he had a different story to tell.
“I’ve lived this. I grew up in Uptown in the 90s.”
He went on to divulge that thin women would push baby strollers throughout Chicago’s northside neighborhood, Uptown, and people would come up to them for a drug exchange.
I felt for N.W.A. every time an officer demanded that they get on the ground and put their hands behind their head.
I put my hand up in the air when N.W.A. took me to Detroit and said put your finger in the air and sing with me, “F*** the Police”.
I was mad at the way the police officers treated innocent people. But I was also mad that a car stopped a school bus and walked on the bus with guns. There was no good guy on N.W.A.’s team. They had to find another way to survive. N.W.A. survived through their music.
In a world that made them feel powerless, their lyrics gave them power.
Eazy-E’s response to the FBI’s warning about their rap song, really portrayed the distrust. They didn’t want censorship. They protested with their words. They protested through an audience of thousands. They said “no more”.
“Our art is a reflection of our reality,” Ice Cube explained in an interview. It’s an expressive outlet for them. But with that said, their lyrics and their beats have meaning. They were revolutionary. Is there message going to change things for the better? Are they drawing attention to racism and oppression and creating positive change or are they simply meeting negative energy with negative energy?
In one Straight Outta Compton movie review from PluggedIn, the author asks “’So is chanting ‘F— the police!’ really the moral equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech (as Jerry Heller insists to this day)?’”
The Business Side of Rap Music
N.W.A. had a phenomenal work ethic.
I think the most incredible part of this movie is that these rappers were entrepreneurs. They were very smart business-savvy rappers. Yes, they made mistakes. Yes, they made partnerships and signed contracts that they wanted to nullify. But at the end of the day, these guys were smart and driven. They didn’t let circumstances or authority pigeon hole them into a reality.
There weren’t mere puppets. These guys knew no safety. If you have to have a bodyguard outside your hospital room, you probably have never felt safe. They saw the light. And they made a light for themselves when everyone else blew out their candle.
Compton Thugs to Heros
But, I will admit that I gravitated to Dr. Dre. He was the hero. And we do, we venerate Dr. Dre and what N.W.A. did.
I was rooting for the gang members. Though, in this movie, this group of guys were always depicted as good guys, only hand-picked by the police because of how they looked. But, they beat up their friends, they had guns, they abused women, they were not heroes. And that’s the thing. If I was in their same situation, how would I have handled myself. Did they make the best of their situation? Should they be our heroes?
What Are We Fighting For?
In the end, even though Eazy-E died shortly after being diagnosed with AIDS, his life was full. He had an honest wife, he had children, he gave a voice to his circumstances, he made amends with his friends Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
It was enjoyable to watch this movie. It made me question a lot of things beginning with, “how do you create positive change?”
One of the most interesting parts of this movie, is that even though girls were portrayed as playthings, N.W.A. respected their mothers and respected their families. Whenever their mother was threatened, it was definitely a real threat.
I think we all just want to be heard. We need a community of support and we need an outlet to express what we are going through. N.W.A. had all of that.
Most of us have that means of expression, but N.W.A. did it when they were being censored.