I had no interest in watching Straight Outta Compton.

I’d become so fed up with the consistent portrayal of sex, drugs, money, gangs, and violence in the Black Community.

Boyz in the Hood, Menace II Society, Juice, Poetic Justice and South Central are a few of the many classic ‘hood films’ produced in the late 80s and early 90s with an all black cast, telling the same story ‘hood story’.

According to me, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, right? So, how would Straight Outta Compton be any different?

I believe it was… well in some ways.

A brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles.

A brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles.

It introduced Ni**az Wit Attitudes (NWA) as one of the first Hip Hop groups to live the rags to riches dream. Thereby, paving the way for many other musicians to join the mainstream music ranks. Alike many of the films mentioned above, if you’ve grown up in the ‘hood’ your main aim is to get out – usually through music or sports. During the early 90s NWA shot to fame, allowing them to leave their so called ‘hood’, using music as a platform to tell stories about their gangster lifestyles and poverty stricken communities. Tracks such as ‘Gangsta Gangsta‘, ‘Dopeman‘ and the notorious ‘F*ck Tha Police‘ taken from their ‘Straight out of Compton’ album ultimately redefined the direction of Hip Hop and has been considered groundbreaking by musicians and music writers alike.

It celebrated the ‘ghost writer’ in mainstream music. Ice Cube wrote lyrics for Eazy E which was a revelation to me – as I never really followed NWA.  A ghost writer is hired primarily as a professional freelance writer, in order to produce high quality copy or lyrics. In this case, Ice Cube wrote lyrics for Eazy E to ensure quality control. But in doing so, it led to Ice Cube and the rest of the group to ultimately become exploited by Eazy E and Jerry Heller – the groups former manager. Maybe if Eazy E wrote his own lyrics, the group wouldn’t have gone as far. Which in turn wouldn’t have fueled Ice Cube and Dr Dre to go independent and create such successful legacies. Eazy E was clearly the business brain behind NWA which Jordan Hoffman describes uniquely as: ‘Eazy-E is the heart, Ice Cube is the head and Dr Dre is the central nervous system.‘ There are numerous ghost writers who have written lyrics in the past and continue to write and make music for artists today. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with being the brains behind a creation, not everyone can be a rapper nor can everyone be a poet.

It highlighted the fatal effects of promiscuity, that most ‘hood’ films so readily glamourise. STIs and HIV is real, and having unprotected sex with multiple partners puts you at risk of catching one of the two, and maybe even encountering an unintended pregnancy. In Eazy E’s case, he got all 3. On February 24, 1995, he was admitted to hospital under the impression he had asthma, which later turned out to be AIDS. He openly announced his illness in a public statement on March 16th 1995 stating :“I just feel that I’ve got thousands and thousands of young fans that have to learn about what’s real when it comes to AIDS. Like the others before me, I would like to turn my own problem into something good that will reach out to all my homeboys and their kin. Because I want to save their asses before it’s too late.” He then died one month later on March 26, aged 31, from complications with HIV. Eazy E allegedly lost his virginity at the age of twelve and fathered seven children with six different women. His death was a direct reflection of his promiscuous behaviour. 

For me, Straight Outta Compton was powerful. Despite my distaste for the ‘hood story’. Looking past the guns, gangs, drugs, sex and violence, I felt NWA’s hunger for success, commitment to family, as well as their dedication to improving themselves and communities through music. In a way they made history accidentally, by doing, exactly what everyone else in their community was doing – using music to paint a picture of their realities of poverty, police brutality and the crack cocaine epidemic in America. Notable musicians of the same era, namely 2PAC and Snoop Dogg also played their part – in the film and rags to riches narrative – successfully securing their place in history as icons, revolutionaries and artists, which is something we can all admire.

I do understand that for some people, of all races, the ‘hood’ is a reality, but for the select few it is a non-existent fantasy, and this is exactly what worries me. Unfortunately, some people are drawn to the ‘hood’ identity and go out of their way to imitate a life of hardship and struggle, making it seem as though being a gangster is fun, fashionable and lucrative. Clearly it isn’t. Straight Outta Compton shows us that this lifestyle threatens personal security, infringes freedom and ultimately leads to imprisonment or death. In what way is that fun? With that being said, I would love for Hollywood to try their hands at creating a story that didn’t include these themes. There is another side to the world that doesn’t deal in drugs, have family members in gangs and want to be more than musicians, wouldn’t you agree?

My thoughts and my thoughts only. Let us know yours via Twitter  and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch Straight Outta Compton trailer below.

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About Rianna Raymond-Williams

I am the Founder and Managing Director of Shine ALOUD UK. I started the magazine in 2011 as a part time uni project and since then it has grown from strength to strength accumulated 40,000 readers, a host of contributors - both international and international - and financial backing from the likes of 02, Starbucks, The Alec Dickinson Trust and Lloyds Banking Group.