You’re Going to Hate Me for This Post

As many of you know, I’m not a typical conservative. Hell, I’m not a typical anything, really. I never was. I kind of do my own thing, and I have zero fucks to give if people don’t like it.

I’m a mass of contradictions. I love Camille Paglia, even though I may not agree with her on everything, and I hate the third-wave feminist douche tools. I hated the new Mad Max movie. I thought it was a cacophonous shitshow. I will spend my very last dime helping stray, abused, neglected animals and homeless people who just talk to me without demanding money, but I won’t give a dime to beggars who see it fit to demand my help. I strike up conversations with hobos, but at parties I’ll generally stand in a corner and not talk to anyone. I grew up on opera and Broadway music, and I didn’t even know what pop music was until I got to middle school. If you look at my iPhone, you will find a weird mix of Metallica, Evanescence, the music from the show “Nashville,” Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Josh Groban, Idina Menzel, and the music from “Glee.” I have a Broadway theater background. If you think I’m joking, I’m not. I played the Witch in “Into the Woods” my junior year in college. And yet, despite the brash stage presence, I’m one of the most introverted people you will ever meet.

Why did I just get into all that? Because there are quite a few fairly conservative readers of this blog, who will disagree with me on what I’m about to say: I saw the movie “Straight Outta Compton” on Sunday, and I loved it. I didn’t just like it. I absolutely loved it! And I know for many of you, that’s a shocking no-no. The misogyny. The violence. The disrespect for police. The culture. All of it. They glorify it, and the movie glorifies them.

The “them” in this case is N.W.A. or Niggaz Wit Attitudes – a rap group from Compton, CA – hence the movie title, which is also the title of their debut album, released in 1988.

The movie starred some relative unknowns, but also the great Paul Giamatti, who portrayed the group’s manager Jerry Heller with incredible delicacy, balance, and passion. Two of the group’s members, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, left N.W.A. after accusing Heller of mismanaging the group and only taking care of one member: Eazy E – the late Eric Wright. Heller also apparently completely mismanaged Wright’s earnings in an effort to make himself an easy dime. Despite all this, Giamatti’s portrayal of Heller was part paternal (Wright was a street kid who dropped out of school and became a drug dealer), taking care of Eazy-E, encouraging, nurturing, and protecting him. The portrayal was also one of moral courage, challenging the establishment’s and law enforcement’s treatment of black kids from the ‘hood, exuding pain and outrage at the discrimination and abuses, as a Jewish person not so far historically removed from the Holocaust would. And at the same time, there’s no doubt that Giamatti’s characterization of Heller was one of a cunning, shrewd, unethical shyster. To strike that delicate balance between those personalities is difficult and rare, and Giamatti – a massive talent – did it flawlessly.

I’d never heard of Jason Mitchell prior to seeing this movie, but his portrayal of rapper Eazy E was nothing short of flawless. He showed Eazy as at once a drug-dealing, unscrupulous thug, a naive little kid, a man whore looking for his next conquest, a lost boy looking for someone to care for and guide him, and a fragile soul looking for someone to love him. And in the end, as he was dying of AIDS, Eric Wright was someone who learned some hard life lessons.

Both O’Shea Jackson, Jr. and Corey Hawkins were terrific as Ice Cube and Dr. Dre respectively. I was actually floored at how much Jackson looks like his dad (If you didn’t know, he’s the real life son of Ice Cube and this movie was his acting debut). There were a couple of times during the movie, where I had to do a double take, because I thought Ice Cube was on the screen! Hawkins’ performance as Dr. Dre was very respectful. He understood the character. The Julliard-trained actor sat down with Dre. He made an effort to get in his head and understand his influences, both musical and family, and he played Dre with a sensitivity that went beyond just acting.

Did the film “whitewash” Dre’s brushes with violence? Well… yes and no. The film wasn’t about Dre. It was about N.W.A. It wasn’t about individuals. It was about the group and how the individuals’ lives made the group pioneers in gangsta rap. I think focusing on Dre’s multiple convictions in cases of violence against women would have been out of place in this movie. Tossing that issue in there just to portray Dre in a more accurate light would have been superfluous. So instead, the film focused on what made Dre, Cube, and Eazy the people that they were, which ultimately led to the meteoric rise of N.W.A. If you want to call that “whitewashing,” go ahead. It showed Suge Knight for the twisted, hateful thug that he is. Those are things relevant to the story.

Yes, “Fuck tha Police” was hateful toward law enforcement. But you know what? Back then, law enforcement was hateful toward black youths in the nation’s ghettos. Racial profiling, violence, and outright brutality – Rodney King – that’s what influenced N.W.A.’s art. They rapped about what they saw. They pulled no punches. And judging by the reaction to their songs, they touched a nerve in a lot of people. Sure, things have changed for the better, but as I always tell those who insist on taking down Confederate flags, history needs to be remembered… warts and all. And no, I’m not getting into the history of the confederate flat or its controversy here. My point is that like them or not, hate their music or not, N.W.A. had an indelible effect on our nation’s culture. They highlighted the realities they faced growing up. And they stood up to police and government intimidation and attempts to limit their freedom of speech and expression the only way they knew how: through their art. Like them or not, they spoke to millions of people. And like them or not, they did more to protect our First Amendment rights than any legisleech in Washington DC has done in the past 30 years.

Law enforcement targeted them. A Minnesota Attorney General wanted to prosecute stores that sold their albums. Their songs were banned from radio. And politicians, being the opportunistic whores that they are, all rushed to denounce the group’s music – probably without real understanding of what the movement they started was really about. And while the FBI sent a letter to the group, supposedly speaking for the entire law enforcement community, condemning “Fuck tha Police,” they ultimately had to justify the blatant attempt at intimidation.

Whether you like the music or not… whether you agree with the lyrics or not… whether you consider them offensive or not, is irrelevant.

What they accomplished was bigger than just songs with a whole lot of offensive language and themes. And that definitely warrants its own bio pic in my book – especially one so wonderfully acted!


By the way, ff you want to watch my “Into the Woods” performance, you can do so below, and yes, that is definitely me.

22 responses

  1. I loved it, too. Great film.

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  2. I certainly don’t “hate” you for liking this film, Nicki (or Rob, for that matter.) Everyone’s taste is different. I don’t think I’ll go see it–in large measure because I’m something of a music snob and don’t consider “rap” to even BE music. I dislike EVERYTHING about it including a lot of its filthy language which I deem to be UN-musical in the extreme. I enjoy some Jazz and 40’s pieces, lots of the 50’s and 60’s Rock–and one of two from the early 70’s, by my favorite music to just listen to is classical on which I was raised, thanks to an aunt who decided early in my life to “see to his cultural up-bringing.” In 1945, for my THIRD birthday, she gave me a season pass to the local symphony’s concert series and then took me to all the concerts!

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  3. By the way, like Elvis, I consider the greatest singer of his era to be Roy Orbison.

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  4. I don’t like rap, but I do appreciate the thematic setting in which it originated. However, the one thing that is NOT addressed in the media, and has not been for some time, is that the violence displayed by the police is not, and has not been, solely aimed at blacks. It is aimed at everyone and is growing into a poisonous part of law enforcement. That is something that needs to be addressed, because it has gotten so out of hand that it is almost a war between the cops and the rest of us.
    It may have started growing in Watts, but now it is everywhere.

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  5. Wouldn’t cross the street to listen to any of ’em – for free. Just not my cuppa. But you are spot on about their first amendment rights and the fact that LEO harassed ’em way too much.

    OC

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  6. Well…..hell. No way was I ever going to take time away from rearranging my sock drawer to watch this….but perhaps you’ve persuaded me to give it a shot. I won’t pay for it mind you….but perhaps there is a plane ride to undesirable places in my future, where this will end up on my tablet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You don’t have to be a fan of the music to appreciate terrific acting and a good story. These guys were trailblazers in a lot of ways.

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  7. Right about the harassment by LEOs and the first amendment, but at the same time understandable. No one likes to be called vile names, but one oversteps the boundaries when advocating the killing of LEOs, which much of their stuff did–and does.

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    1. Well, not “does” since NWA doesn’t exist any longer. But despite all this, it really was a fantastic movie.

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  8. Ok…that’s it. You like a film about sick people and music I don’t generally enjoy. You’ve decided to be authentic and real and unique.

    I can’t tolerate any of that stuff in my life from my friends, so we are through.

    -Jim+

    PS: I’m gonna tell the John Birch Society to revoke your membership card.

    Have a nice day…

    šŸ˜³šŸ˜‚

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  9. No hate from me.

    I won’t ever see the film, mostly because I’m not a fan of rap in general, and especially not a fan of N.W.A.’s style of rap. But like I told my now ex-coworker, a self-described “left-wing hippie who never quite grew out of the 60s,” that’s what makes this country great: we can have disagreements and differences of opinion and still get along just fine. And besides, how boring would the world be if everybody liked exactly the same thing?

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    1. True dat. Here’s how I look at it. Mafia were some sick thugs. Ancient Roman society was violent as fuck. But Goodfellas and Spartacus are amazing! This movie was very well acted and written, so I’m happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Have not seen the movie. Just glad to see a post from you. ’bout time.

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    1. Awwww. I’ve been trying to do it more lately.

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  11. we’ve missed ya. you’re on my bookmarks. hat-tip. have a good eve.

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  12. Rap annoys me, but so do a lot of things. My fundamental reaction to Rap is “What, exactly, is this saying that wasn’t already said in 1959 by “We Real Cool”?” But I also wonder what Punk Rock had to say that wasn’t already said, rather better, by The Who in “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.

    If these guys deserved a respectful bio-pic, and they got one, good on them, and good on Hollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Actually, Nicki, “does” is accurate. THEY may not be a group any longer but their “music” still exists and is still played.

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    1. They don’t do anything as a group any longer, but they did start a movement.

      Heck, “Fuck Tha Police” was played at protests against totalitarian regimes worldwide!

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  14. Paul Giamatti is indeed a formidable talent. If you want to see more of his recent work (as a psychiatrist/manager no less) watch the Beach Boys biopic “Love and Mercy”. Giamatti did such a good job that Brian Wilson remarked he was intimidated watching him onscreen, because it brought back memories (of the character he was playing).

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Go Blue Jays!

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  16. I’m not going to hate you for this; nor do I hate your opinion of this film. I will say, however, that much of your opinion – especially all of it surrounding the interactions of police and the ghetto – thought you’d particular “appreciate” the term – are based upon willful ignorance and denial.

    I can’t see any real difference between police serving in Comptom, Ferguson, and other ‘hoods and our serving in Falulah, Lashkar Gah, and other areas. In all cases they’re burdened with keeping the peace in hostile territory while surrounded by enemies, albeit mostly enemies that won’t shoot at them.

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