Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Straight Outta The News

This weekend I watched the movie Straight Outta Compton. I'd been wanting to see this movie since it came out. I was NOT disappointed. I was glued to my screen. The acting was excellent. The story compelling. And it was real.

Straight Outta Compton chronicles the rise of rap, specifically the group N.W.A. and the music icons that came out of it, such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Easy-E. It starts in the late eighties. Rap at that time was controversial on its own, but N.W.A. took it to new heights of performance and newsworthiness as their songs talked about life in the hood, poverty, and police brutality. It was dangerous music, in that it incited people to take a stand. And in this fat old white lady's opinion, it was poetry at its finest.

Yes, the music of N.W.A. was/is poetry. I went back and played some of the songs over after the movie ended.  The words and emotions are raw and real. It was the poetry of people living with injustice and surrounded by crime, and looking for a way out.

Up front, I'm not a big rap fan, although I do like and have bought some over the years. But I am a music bio-pic lover. I love knowing the stories behind the music and music makers, Hollywood-ized or not. Some of my favorites include:

Walk the Line (Johnny Cash)
What's Love Got To Do With It (Tina Turner)
8 Mile (Eminem)
Ray (Ray Charles)

These songwriters and musicians all faced their own demons and hardships as they struggled to do what they love. Just as many writers like myself do the same. Behind almost every artistic endeavor is a rawness and personal experience just waiting to bust out. When writers write words, whether books, poetry or songs, they are "bleeding on the page." Even a painting is someone's life on a canvas.

But back to Straight Outta Compton. I was in my late thirties when N.W.A was hitting big on the charts. I remember well the controversy over their music. It was a volatile time for Los Angeles that included the Rodney King beating and riots that followed. All over the nation, N.W.A. was demonized by main stream America for their music.

BTW - one of my favorite scenes/lines from the movie was when N.W.A. was watching a group of people destroying their albums.

Ice Cube: [watching a crowd destroy their records] Ain't that some shit? Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.

Eazy-E: See, the truth is, they can do whatever they want with them. They bought them motherfuckers.

Main stream America is pretty fickle and often far from open minded about things they don't understand or want to see. Often during the movie I was reminded of a big song from a monster hit musical. Here are the words from Do You Hear The People Sing, from Les Miserables, a musical that main stream America flocked to in record numbers, the same people who thirty years ago were burning and destroying N.W.A.'s records:

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes.

Those are pretty stirring words, but wrapping them in a big glitzy musical production about the French Revolution, sung predominately by white people, and charging a fortune for reserved orchestra seats made them acceptable. If N.W.A. had penned these words, they would have been condemned.

Finally, one of the most heartbreaking things for me about viewing Straight Outta Compton was realizing that while these events took place in the late eighties and early nineties, not much has changed in our society in thirty years.


1 comment:

Lifeat65 said...

Very interesting. Also, so true. Unfortunate.