I see that there's a movie coming out that's attempting to add the extra glamour that NWA still does not yet have. It is another brick in the wall of the edifice of the non-culture, non-community that is drowning out much of the civilized part of America. We have arrived, ladies and gentlemen at the point where we get to say 'Fuck the Police' with pride, as prompted by the likes of Niggas With Attitude. Some days you run out of ways to snark with reserve. After all, Donald Trump is ahead in the polls.
If we can credit the internet with anything, or the computer revolution, it is that it can be a damned fine archivist. We have the good fortune that there are others who will have seen in lurid detail what actually transpired and wrote it down and got it into the mostly eternal medium. I say mostly because even as you can read Byron Crawford's Beatings by Dr Dre , even in the process of relating the facts, facts have been suppressed. The fact that has been suppressed about NWA is manifest in the nature of their fan base, they all at some point in time, suppressed their own personal problems with civilization and let NWA speak it for them.
Don't quote me boy 'cause I ain't said shit.
Even from the beginning NWA's jokey lyricism had to admit it wouldn't look good in restrospect. I remember the first time I heard Eazy-E's squeaky voice exclaim. it reminded me of the cliff that crack and cocaine pushed LA off. It reminds me of how much misery those drugs attempted to suppress in people's lives and how much more misery it created. It reminds me of how so much of counter-cultural America wanted to interpret all that failure as black culture. The neighborhoods I grew up in, became 'The 'hood, and boyz got twisted and spelt wrong. NWA then got to represent. Gangsta.
It doesn't often pain me to think about the wars of representation men and women like myself waged in the wake of the sick popularity of the Mau Mau propgaganda that was the gansgta of the 80s and 90s. It's funny that you have to give a bit of credit to Ice-T rather than to Ice-Cube, where the former was real enough and close enough to the real destruction and death dealing to understand 100 reasons for getting away from it and cleansing it from his soul. Whereas the latter, like all wannabe little brothers sees glamour and glory, can't wait to tell everybody. They immerse themselves in the bad boy aura, talk shit as if, and subsequently hire bodyguards. It's not enough to pursue any American dream to leave impoverished circumstances. The Gangsta angle is to remain where crack and crime do their damage and wallow in it with perverse pride and then represent this as a world view, even as a 'culture' and then tell the world this is blackness. Of course they had Hollywood help, while my cohort were actually moving up in the world, disciplining ourselves towards mastery, the wayward sons' emergence fed right into a blaxploitation formula whose machine was just a little rusty. I look upon this with sadness for those poor lost baby brothers who copied our style, mixed in the profanity and never learned the meaning of love or life. What pains me is how that dirty deviant path to destruction has been widened, paved slick and lit with sparkle and laser beams. Now finally, NWA has a movie, as if Boyz in the Hood wasn't enough. Oh yeah. John Singleton. Let me not painfully digress.
It is odd and also sad, if not disheartening, that for poor reasons and half logic, people come to their senses about what's wrong with NWA and its two great successes Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. I count myself fortunate that I don't particularly need them, as black men, to represent anything. It's rather the same for them on the negative side as it was for Cosby on the positive side. Yes, they stand in American imagination as (here's that phrase again) representative of black culture. But. I actually come from a family and was not raised by TV and radio. I'm just riffing off them, not marching behind them, and certainly not placing any sorts of flowers on their alters. Still, what I'm getting at is this excellent Gawker(!) article that for the purposes of demonstrating an excellent example of sexism-spotting, puts us all in mind of what happened in the life of Dr. Dre that should make all of us who actually really truly properly love women, hate Dre and thus discredit his movie. I quote:
...Andrea Berloff and John Herman’s script omits any explicit discussion of N.W.A.’s open misogyny in their music and lives, while implicitly condoning it by keeping female characters on the outskirts of the story in small roles that service the film’s central men. They are mothers, wives, girlfriends, and sex objects at parties (the colorism in last year’s casting call for female extras is palpable in the movie). Though they were relatively low in number, the group’s female collaborators are nowhere to be found in Compton;singer Michel’le is mentioned twice in passing and rapper Yo Yo isn’t acknowledged at all. While audiences are left with a clear understanding of the social conditions that would drive young black men in South Central Los Angeles to write and perform “Fuck tha Police,” we have no concept of what propelled Ice Cube to write “A Bitch Iz a Bitch,” or just how much of the pornographically demeaning second half of N.W.A.’s 1991 album, Niggaz4Life, fit the group’s “reality rap” ethos.
I suspect that much of N.W.A.’s anti-woman rhetoric, and the ensuing, widespread criticism of it, is suppressed in the film to keep its heroes looking like heroes. Tabling the misogyny makes liking the men behind the group much less complicated. It keeps the narrative clean and straightforward, and it keeps the indefensible unmentioned.
We are talking about the Dee Barnes Incident. All the hiphop journalist worth a damn, like my boy Jimi Izrael, will relate the dirt of the deed done back in the day.
These days I am thinking about the extent to which our society is crippled by the excellence of its crafts and the deficits of its arts, about how poorly the promises of pop culture have turned out. I do indeed wonder if it is fair to say we have an American culture that is active and useful to the society in which we live. It seems only obvious that NWA is a tour de force of crude belligerence and that 'sexism' is hardly the charge necessary to see that. The impoverished idea that it represents anything other than the worser instincts of man only goes to show how well we can produce and craft dirt into monuments. All that, and we need to be reminded. Pity.
You can quote me.