Tuesday, 15 September 2015

With Attitude - Straight Outta Compton.

We finally made it to see 'Straight Outta Compton' the story of N.W.A. ; "The World's most Dangerous group" or as it was called by a frightened white world....'Gangsta Rap'.

We'd been looking forward to it for a while and it's obviously the most significant movie of the year.

You don't often get Hollywood Movies made about young black men so this was always going to be a big deal.

In fact I've found it really hard to review and it's been bugging me - so I started off by getting Robyn G. May to do one for me.

Here it is;

Tuesday night da N Dawg and I headed back in time (actually to Slough) to see “Straight Outta Compton”.  

I left the theater in a strange mood feeling like I had just made a round trip voyage to the USA of the 90’s and back.

I felt great!  

It was as if the movie had brought out my inner ghetto girl.

I was acting silly using slang that I hadn’t used in twenty years. I was hyped up about things I saw around me, like how the woman next to me had smuggled in a huge bag of food to avoid paying a fortune for Movie Theater food. Neil couldn’t believe his eyes, he’d never seen such a thing.
I was strolling as we walked back to the parking lot, trying to teach Neil how to stroll properly, like we do in the hood.

You see Gangster Rap was never really my scene. I never really got into Rap, sometimes a song hits me and I like it but overall I don’t really appreciate it. There must really be a divide in the Rap community. When I did go for Rap coincidently it’s always East Coast artists that get my attention. Whoodini, Salt N Peppa, Naughty by Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Busta Rhymes, Nas, DMX; really the only exception is Tu Pac. I do like a few songs by Ice Cube as well. But I think for me what draws me to the music is the content. I never knew anything about being on the streets, so that music didn’t appeal to me. Also the West Coast is a little behind in the times.

But this movie was set in my childhood. I never knew any songs by NWA but I always knew who they were, I always knew what the letters stood for. I knew who Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were, and later Easy E. I remember the implementation of the “Parental Advisory” sticker on albums.

I remember the East Coast - West Coast wars on the rap scene. I remember the tragedy of Easy’s death. I remember Shug Knight getting arrested and all the stories of the way he “managed” Death Row Records.

I didn’t know that Dr. Dre was a DJ and that was how he started, I thought he was a writer, producer and rapper. I didn’t know that Ice Cube was bused to school in a better neighborhood. And it appears from the movie that he’s a bit younger than the rest of them. I didn’t know that Dr. Dre lost his younger brother early in their career. And I didn’t know that Easy E was really about that life (as we say) aka he was a drug dealer before he started rapping.

I wanted to cry watching the movie. Partly because I know how it ends. I know that they split and that Easy E died of AIDS only a few weeks after being diagnosed. I know that several of the people in the movie later died including Tu Pac.

I also wanted to cry because I realized how lucky I am.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a women (although it’s happened to women as well), or maybe because I don’t look threatening. I’ve never been stopped by the Police for no reason other than the color of my skin. I have friends who were pulled over for 'Driving While Black', and I served on jury duty where four black men were arrested basically for having a car, but there was no evidence to connect them to the crime they were being tried for.

But seeing the reality of fellow citizens being harassed, threatened, frisked, slammed down to the ground or arrested for no other reason than being black really upset me.

The movie showed how money changes people. It showed how ‘Ruthless’ the music industry is. A man can steal your income but claim he was looking out for you. He says he works for you but yet treats you like you work for him. He eats lobster while the band eats McDonald’s. I’m sure they never got the money they were due.

Plus the soundtrack was amazing! Of course it featured the songs of NWA and then Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, but throughout the movie old school hits were being played, mostly songs by George Clinton (whom I love!) but they also played a song by Roy Ayers that I’ve been jamming to ever since “Everybody loves the sunshine”.

How about you N Dawg, did you dig the movie?

Oh that's very difficult - I wanted to like it but I came out of the film frustrated.

My journey to Hip Hop came two different ways;
In the early 1980's I was working in a record shop and suddenly this incredible, alien music hit us straight in the face; classic Hip Hop from 'BBQ'....Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens.

This was the music of people like Grandmaster Flash, Melle Melle, Africa Bambata and we'd heard nothing like it.
It was a completely new language to learn... all about DJ's and Scratching, Rapping, Graffiti the whole package.
Then again if you like reggae you already knew about 'Toasting', which isn't a million miles away from Rap.
It was incredible music. All of a sudden people who never had a voice were being listened to and they really had something to say.

I don't care where you come from, it changed everything. For a start, we didn't have a category to put it in.
Years later I was on a completely different planet - representing West London kids who were in trouble and from 1989 onwards all they were talking about was the music that was coming out of 'The City of Compton', which I had never heard of.

Oh, how they wished they lived in the 'Hood'.
I was forced into an instant introduction to this music and as a middle aged white guy in England I obviously had problems with it;
I didn't like the celebration of violence, couldn't stand the contempt for women and the domestic violence that was a part of that and homophobia is definitely not where I'm at.

Also, I've met more than my fair share of drug dealers, muggers and gangsters and glamorous it ain't.

I suppose the biggest problem I have is this; no one in the states would listen to NWA and become a gangster....but here?
That's exactly what happened.
We always had gangs but during the 1990's this started to become a problem. All of a sudden kids who should never have gone near a gang ended up in one - because if you aren't in a gang you're a victim.
Colours started appearing and we never had that before.
So that's the baggage I was carrying with me when I went  to see the film.
The cinema was full - all ages and races from young kids messing about with their mobiles all the way up to me.
As far as I could see apart from Robyn (who really enjoyed it) there was me and one other guy whose heads started to move when the music started....and that was it.
Otherwise I think everyone else was fairly stunned by it all.
I think the reality of Compton is just a bit too, well, extreme for most people here. Certainly, if you took the kids I was representing and dropped them into South Central Los Angeles.....they would want to come running home.
No fairy tales in Compton, no happy endings.
I was disappointed with the film but that was probably because I wanted it to all be different.
N.W.A. was a huge cry of rage at the conditions people were living in and the oppression they were suffering from at the hands of the police - it got an immediate response all around the world where ever people could relate to that - which is where my West London kids came in.
The film didn't get the excitement of it all - so when I got home I checked out the real thing on YouTube - and it was better.
The real thing just grabbed you by the throat and shook you.
I'm not the first person to link N.W.A. with Punk - it was that kind of thrill. Suddenly someone was singing the things you thought only you were thinking.
The film didn't get that.
N.W.A. were given the Hollywood treatment - the songs were re-recorded and edited to take out the unpleasant stuff.
Instead we had a lot about the fallings out - the fights over credits, copyright and money. That really didn't matter; the old saying "Where there's a hit there's a writ" is a universal.
Old friends fall out when money's involved.
These were articulate people - after '#$%£ tha Police', 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'Boyz-n-the-hood' what did they do?
With all the money they made (and Dr Dre is nearly a billionaire) what did they do with it?
I suppose part of the problem is that having spent most of my life fighting to give people who have no voice a chance to speak......they don't always say what you want to hear.
I suppose I wanted N.W.A. to be Malcolm X or the Black Panther Party. 
Really, I wanted them to be 'Public Enemy' and they weren't.
It was still a good film and the heroes were all the kind of people who never normally end up in a movie....so you definitely should go and see it.

                   Straight Outta Compton!

N Dawg.
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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