The movie “Straight Outta Compton” is receiving a hero’s welcome.
The memes on social media are jovial, playful, and even witty: “Straight Outta Melanin,” “Straight Outta Breath,” and “Straight Outta Wisconsin” are some of my favorites.
The marketing campaign is lofty and dignified — the story of urban youth rappers who played by their own rules, fought against the establishment, and ultimately prophesized the police violence against unarmed, young people of color.
The critical reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Straight Outta Compton is as important as ‘Selma’ in terms of putting the now on a similar plane as then,” writes one critic. “Prophetic,” another critic says.
And when the Universal Studios movie is released later this week, experts predict that its box office receipts will exceed $40 million.
As I watch and listen to the mainstream culture and even communities of color gush about “Straight Outta Compton,” I ask myself, “Self, how in the hell did we get amnesia?”
Where I’m from, NWA isn’t prophetic. The group is and has always been public enemy #1. Yes, they created the song “F*ck Tha Police,” which spoke to the injustices many people of color have faced when interacting with police officers.
But, real hip hop cats know that the moment the world was introduced to NWA, hip hop culture changed. For the worse.
With tracks like “Gangsta, Gangsta,” “Dope Man,” “Appetite for Destruction,” and other titles too illicit to name, NWA glorified drug selling, killing, materialism, and debauchery.
They provided the world confirmation of widely held stereotypes that black men have been lazy, shiftless, and violent. They gave politicians ammunition to marginalize black youth.
And they demeaned black women for sport. Who could forget Easy-E bragging about slapping, beating, and dragging women by their weaves in the song “Boyz-N-The-Hood” or any number of other tracks he created?
This is the NWA I remember. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t see the movie or be excited to revisit NWA. But, let’s not romanticize the past and forget the NWA that actually existed.