Review: Straight Outta Compton Pt. 2

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Did you miss part 1? No worries. Read it here.

Image of Women
Thee BIGGEST gripe people have with NWA is their misogynistic lyrics. Let’s be honest, NWA, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and MC Ren all have had their fair share of “bitch this, ho that” lyrics. There’s no way around it. We clearly heard and saw Eazy-E perform “So what about the bitch who got shot, f** her. You think I give a damn about a bitch, I ain’t a sucker” in the film. Honestly, I didn’t expect the movie to dive too deep into the issue. In the latest Rolling Stone magazine to hit stands, Cube explains his thoughts on his misogynistic lyrics:
“If you’re a bitch, you’re probably not going to like us…If you’re a ho, you probably don’t like us. If you’re not a ho or a bitch, don’t be jumping to the defense of these despicable females. Just like I shouldn’t be jumping to the defense of no punks or no cowards or no slimy son of a bitches that’s men. I never understood why an upstanding lady would even think we’re talking about her”.

Riiiiiight, but in A Bitch Iz A Bitch Cube says:
“Now the title bitch don’t apply to all women / But all women have a little bitch in ‘em.”

So Cube claims to be only speaking about a select group of “despicable” women, yet fails to acknowledge that he as a man plays a part in whatever “despicable” act these “despicable” women are participating in which in turn would make him despicable as well. You are referring to women. Period. That’s somebody’s daughter/sister/mother/niece you’re talking about, and if it were one of the special ladies in your life you’d probably feel some type of way.

Prior to NWA, Public Enemy and KRS One were known for having heavy hitting beats with uplifting lyrics. Artists such as the aforementioned were working to rectify issues within the black community. With the introduction of NWA it is argued that they drew attention from the positivity coming from the east coast, ushered in the age of gangsta rap and gave way to the normalcy of degrading women in rap music. If you look at Straight Outta Compton versus Niggaz 4 Life you can definitely hear the change in lyrics. Not just the absence of Cube, but just the absolute ridiculous amount of misogynistic lyrics in the later release; as if they were becoming caricatures of themselves. One would question how much influence Jerry Heller and Priority Records had in shifting the content in NWA’s music. While NWA’s misogynitic views of women began to domniate their music, we can see Cube’s continue to create socially conscious material as Chuck D was featured on AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and Khalid Abdul Muhammad was featured on Death Certificate. He was still calling us women bitches though. And there’s still that Rolling Stone quote…..

Also conveniently left out of the movie was Dr. Dre’s infamous encounter with Dee Barnes, where he brutally beat her in response to her Ice Cube interview on her show Pump It Up. Once again, I wasn’t expecting Dre to include this in the movie, or any other disparaging images of himself, but it needs to mentioned that even though Dee Barnes and Dre settled outside of court, Dre, who has had a few cases of physical abuse against women brought upon him, still went on to have an extreme successful career while Dee Barnes faded into the background as a result of being blacklisted. Barnes recently spoke with Gawker and had this to say about the incident not making it into the movie:

“That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”

With the amount of criticism that Dre has been catching lately, he said this in a New York Times Article:

“Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”

Welp….seeing as how Apple has chosen to stand by Dre, I can only assume that this will not cast any shadow on his career.

The fact that Ice Cube can write lyrics about bitches and hos and Dr. Dre can physically assault women and both continue to have glorious, prosperous careers speaks to the level of (dis)respect that is given to women in rap. It’s a complex subject, one that could be a dissertation itself. In the movie however, the producers chose to portray the opposite of what was expected . We see Ice Cube’s wife of now 30 years, Kim, being very involved in the progression of his career. Eazy’s widow, Tomica, went through all his paperwork and began to help him resolve his debt. Now none of these circumstances justify any actions that may have happened in hotel parties (as well saw in the movie), what happened in their real lives, nor does it justify the things they have said about women in their music, however from a cinematic and sociological viewpoint, to see the images of rappers being with one woman who supports them and holds them down is quite important and powerful.

We all know about the infamous casting call put out during pre-production. I don’t even need to get into that. The casting call and others like it is the result of the mindset that is deeply root in our psyche. Thanks PTSS.

What Beef?
For those of us that know the history of NWA, we know about the beef between Ice Cube and the remaining members after the Cube’s departure as it is played out in many tracks between the two sides. What I did appreciate about the film’s adaptation of the situation was how they chose to end the beef. Granted Eazy and Dre were still at odds at the time of Eazy’s death, the film showed them reaching a reconciliation. In media we are often shown images of black men in conflict, and the history of hip hop is full of beef between rappers. However given the time frame this movie takes place and the soon-to-come East Coast/West Coast rivalry, seeing black men who were childhood friends make amends and decide to reunite is revolutionary in itself, as it challenges the “black folk can’t get along” myth.

Keep it…..Real?
As with any film “based on a true story”, there are some aspects of a story which are exaggerated to further dramatize the film. Let’s not forget, it is a movie. One of the most climactic scenes in the film was NWA’s stop in Detroit on their 1989 tour. In the scene, we see the Detroit Police tell them the group they can’t perform F*** the Police, and if they do, they will be arrested. Of course they perform it, and the scene goes on to show loud popping noises which sounded like gunshots ringing out in the arena and the crowd frantically dispersing. As the group is running backstage to safety, they are met by Detroit Police Officers who arrest them and throw them in the paddywagon to be hauled off to jail (we assume). While this is happening, fans are throwing bottles and other items while chanting “f*** the police.” While this scene is quite compelling, the actual events of the evening didn’t quite go that way. Firecrackers that sounded like gunshots did go off, however, NWA actually made it back to the hotel where they were greeted by Detroit Police who, according to Cube, took them into a small room and talked to them. No charges pressed. They were fined $80.
Another scene that may or may not have been true was the hotel party. While I haven’t found any evidence to confirming it’s truth or not, it was a great setup for the ode to Friday. Bye Felicia.

Unity

Unity

Other points in the film:

  • The first performance scene where we see Dre and Yella working in the club and bringing Cube out to perform does highlight the importance of the DJ to the hip hop culture. Originally, it was the DJ who was the star and the emcee who was the supporting act. This speaks to Dre’s ear for recognizing talent as well. Also, I think this was Dre’s way of hinting at his World Class Wrecking Crew days with Yella, Michel’le, and club owner Alonzo. Clever, as I’ve seen most people on my timeline saying it wasn’t included in the movie.
  • The first scene where the dude tries to check Eazy about disrespecting his house and Eazy calls dude out on him disrespecting his OWN house. Gives insight into how Eazy saw the environment he was in. Also spoke to how we perceive our own environments.
  • Rodney King Verdict/LA Riots served as a direct connection to the events of 1992 and of today in regards to Police Brutality and community response. We saw the image of two gang members walking side by side with their respective rags tied to together, promoting peace, unity, and being able to come together despite our differences.
  • No Arabian Prince?
  • Hopefully this movie forces young artists to be more careful when making deals with record companies.

All in all, I thought the film was great. Even if it weren’t based on a true story, it is a story that isn’t often seen in cinema. Images of black men finding their own way out of their circumstances, going through personal struggles, and in the end being successful. The NWA story itself can will continue to be discussed and debated probably for eternity, however this film will go down in history as showing the possibilities of success and giving the youth of today something to see and think about as it pertains to their own freedom and expression.

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