The strength of street knowledge

I know exactly what you’re all thinking…Starbucks-pumpkin-spice-latte-white-girl going off on one about the creation of West coast hip hop = tragic. However, the recent film “Straight Outta Compton” (released in August 2015) has changed the way I look at old school and contemporary hip hop/rap. This biopic documents the rise and fall of the hip hop group N.W.A in the 1980’s in Compton, California, a town with a primarily black community and a violent reputation at the time. The group consisted of Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella, the father of hip hop Dr. Dre and Ice Cube (try and forget that he is now the comedic actor worshipping Korean Jesus in “21 Jump Street” because in his prime he was a lyrical genius).

Everyone knows the classic “Fuck tha police coming straight from the underground” line from the memes and vines that storm your newsfeed but its not until I watched how the song, “Straight Outta Compton”, came about that I realised how insanely powerful it is. Standing innocently outside their recording studio, the group members are assaulted by some cops and forced to the ground for no other reason than they’re black and they “look like trouble”. So what do they do? They create musical fusion and send a glorified message back to the police – literally a massive fuck you. The scene where they perform the song even though the police tell them that if they do they’ll intervene and arrest them is the most IDGAF moment in music history. Ice Cube says, “Our art is a reflection of our reality. Speak a little truth and people lose their minds” and they used their music not only to express themselves but to put out a political message that sent the public crazy. This is music being used in the best way possible and if you don’t want to become a gangsta rapper after listening to it then check yo self before ya wreck yo self.

I also now like to think that I know everything about hip hop after watching this (I definitely don’t but my iTunes would now definitely suggest so) and what amazed me the most is how influential Dr. Dre is. If, like me, you always kind of shrugged him off like “You invented beats headphones and are quite good at rapping” then feel ashamed because he is the big cheese of West Coast gangsta-funk. Snoop Dogg? Discovered by Dre. Tupac’s “California Love”? Created by Dre. Eminem? Produced by Dre. 50 Cent? Produced by Dre. Without him hip hop would simply not exist. There’s a super sweet scene in the film when Dre is playing around with a crazy-cool beat and Snoop Dogg walks down the stairs and starts freestyling over it without even thinking about it. It really shows how insanely gifted these guys were and how strong their connection with music was.

So yeah this is me saying you have to watch the film because it’s a reminder of how real and powerful music can be. N.W.A basically started a revolution by mixing funky sweet beats with in-your-face lyrics and they didn’t let anyone put them down. Although the biopic kinda glosses over all of the detrimental aspects of the group members’ lives like associations with drugs and rape it focusses on what’s important and that’s their talent and their serious ballsiness.

If my ranting hasn’t yet persuaded you to watch it, I made a lil’ playlist for y’all with some of my favourite hip hop tracks both from and inspired by the film. Even if you don’t think gangsta rap is really your thang, listen to the lyrics guys and release your inner badman…

Juliette x


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