When I was a student at Hampton University in the late 90’s, I went to the Student Council Building and met Dr. Dre. He had signed a piece of paper that I had taken out of my backpack. I told him it was for my brother and to tell him to not give up and stay in school. I don’t know where that piece of paper is today, but I’ll never forget how he was when I saw him. I think he had just come back from Africa. He looked as if he had already lived 2 lifetimes. I had remembered that he was a part of NWA (Niggaz Wit’ Attitudes), which was one of the most influential groups of American culture.
“Straight Outta Compton” begins with Eric “Easy E” Wright trying to escape from a drug deal gone bad. He’s running from the law…and running to stay alive. A young Dre was looking for something better for his life and had great vision about the kind of music that he wanted to do as a DJ. Fed up with his monotonous, R&B slow-jam DJ job, Dre decided to meet up with Ice Cube and Easy E to join a group. MC Ren and DJ Yella joined the group also in 1986-87. They made their own label called “Ruthless Records” and created a single called “Boys in the Hood”.
These young boys were determined to change their fate and knew that if they stayed in Compton they would never make it. A man named Jerry Heller found NWA and signed them to Priority Records exposing them to the tour life and other promotions, while taking them on a ride by seducing them with lavish parties, big concerts, and women. Under Jerry’s management, NWA creates their first album “Straight Outta Compton”.
NWA gets threats from the government and the police for playing the song “F*** the Police”. This song generated a major media frenzy and outraged the authorities. The song was created by NWA because of the unwarranted disrespect by the police toward people of color. Later, Ice Cube became restless with “Ruthless and Priority” Records for not giving him and the other artists their due share of royalties. Not long afterwards, Dr. Dre follows suit leaving NWA and creating Death Row Records.
Suge Night the “Bully”, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Warren G, The D.O.C. and Bone Thugs N Harmony come into the picture at crucial points in this NWA narrative. When Easy E finds that he has HIV it’s not long after that they must say their goodbye’s to an old friend…..
When the smoke has cleared Ice Cube and Dre begin again on a long journey of self-discovery, reflection, and recreation…..looking back on all they had accomplished and changed the lives of millions. NWA had just started out as young boys that wanted to make a better life for themselves and their families, to take a stand for civil rights and freedom of speech. Although, NWA was considered violent by some because of their emotionally charged lyrics. However, they stood for realism, creativity, and self-expression representing a people that had been ignored, victimized, and highly oppressed. NWA decided nothing was going to stop NWA from telling the world the truth.
“Straight Outta” the story line points
1. Who knew that some black kids out of Compton would go platinum and sell millions of records?
2. Observing the story was like reliving the past. I remembered where I was when certain events happened. Many lives were lost due to violence and ignorance. There are lessons to be learned from this. Yes. But black lives are still being lost and mistreated. So what have we accomplished? NWA’s words are still poignant today. We are still revisiting these issues. Police violence and brutality, humiliation of minorities…when will it end? Civil Rights violations of every kind….
3. We must remember who we are. Telling the truth isn’t easy. Standing up for what’s right and being who you are will make you better. What if there was no NWA? The face of Hip Hop would have been different. There is a long legacy of music to reflect upon, the culture was contagious. Eric Wright died from Aids. This was the beginning for many of a long struggle for this disease. He made us all aware that there are consequences for even the people that we love and look up to. The rules are the same. Aids does not discriminate of creed or color.
To date Ice Cube has written and performed several platinum albums, acted and done music for TV, movies, commercials, produced and directed many projects.
Dr. Dre has also written, produced, and performed several platinum albums, as well as finding/creating platinum and gold artists, and becoming the first African American male billionaire with his audio technology “Beats”.
by Seven “Okema” Gunn