I promise I’m capable of talking about things other than funky reverb, but not until I let you know about this AMAZING update, or should I say, fun fact that blew my mind earlier this afternoon.
I doubt you’d nerd out as much as I did about the fact that many well known actors were bona fide hip hop musicians in the 60s and 70s. They would either sample established beats or harmonies and arrange them differently, they’d cover popular songs, or create completely new music out of their discoveries and experiments. Imagining a suave, perfectly coifed, James Bond looking gentleman in a recording studio playing around with instruments, acoustics, and arrangements of popular music from that era just seems strange, and almost comical to me. I guess it makes sense to not build up a person’s name or previous personas for the sake of the music – Leonard freaking Nimoy released an easy listening album as Dr. Spock in the late 60s (oops, bad example, but you get the idea :P) – but, upon learning that this man
Who, coincidentally, is the same person as this man
“Ducky,” the cute but whip smart medical examiner from NCIS had also released a tiny, not quite LP but not full album of music, I actually lost my shit. Like spit out my drink and laugh-cried for a minute.
David McCallum’s his name, being a Renaissance Man is his game. Besides being a memorable TV, film, and stage actor from the 60s onward, McCallum is also a successful and influential musician. Along with legendary composer/arranger/Ren Man himself David Axelrod, McCallum released a whole bunch of instrumental work that you’d be hell bent to not hear on a regular basis, even today. Check out this track. The first few seconds represent one of the most recognizable openings and samples in all of recorded hip hop history. Here’s looking at you, Snoop, Dre, and other beaterific beat makers. Some of their most dank tracks are thanks to Ducky’s pounding and floaty take on the music of his day.
I’d recommend an album, but it wouldn’t do any justice to this kind of discovery to be quite honest. I’d listen to the entirety of Axelrod’s discography from roughly 1966-1970 onward to get a feel for this (as I did this week lol). I know, not a huge departure from the Ohio Players from a few days back, (by that I mean I’d listen to this indefinitely, though I’m just discovering this myself!), but I couldn’t pass this up. Happy listening and sampling!
Less than a week after its release, Straight Outta Compton is
already one of the most successful Rap based films ever. With that, it’s also
one of the most controversial and debated Rap films that I can recall. Most of
us have always felt that Rap films come off as corny or contrived, and it makes
it even harder to watch groups that you personally saw every week on TV, in
comparison to “What’s love got to do with it” and “Ray” where many of us weren’t
alive during the artist’s prime. This was surely the case when we saw the
Aaliyah film (shoutout to the memes), Notorious, and even the TLC film, which I
felt was solid.
In today’s post, I’ll discuss a bit of everything…my
thoughts on the film, the main complaints and controversies I’ve heard, and N.W.A’s
legacy to follow the film.
What I loved about it
-The cinematography was ridiculous. The cut scenes where
dudes rode their motorcycles and lowriders, the scene following Tyree’s death,
when Dre turned the corner and walked in the middle of the group, and the
transition between the Lench Mob vs. Ruthless fight into the Rodney King
beating were perfect.
-The lead actors did a stellar job, without question. Jason
Mitchell really did feel like Eazy throughout the movie, and I even think he
should receive nominations for it. Oshea Jackson Jr. made me forget I wasn’t
actually watching Cube at times, although his slight suburban accent still
showed at some points. Corey Hawkins sounded exactly like Dre.
Each time Eazy would go into business mode, it connected. I
loved the part when the protestors stomped on their records, and he essentially
says “They can do whatever they want to with them….they paid for them!” His
last days in the hospital were extremely believable as well…the crowd was dead
silent both times I saw it, as we were all caught in the moment.
-The studio and live performance parts were dynamic, and the
energy seemed to spread throughout the audience every time they started rapping
one of their classics. They could have played the entire “Boyz n da hood” song,
and the audience would have rapped along word for word. The scene in Detroit
was on point, and seeing Cube say “What’s up???” to Dre, as Jerry Heller
nervously hoped they wouldn’t perform the song that earned them free
advertisement from the FBI, was extremely well done.
-This felt like a completely authentic L.A. movie. The school
bus scene was literally perfect…every single Black male who was born in L.A.
has stories about being “banged on,” in which we fear for our lives as it
happens, but usually leave unharmed, and actually laugh about it when
re-telling the story. Even the random goons in the movie felt like the ones we
really see in the hood, and not just paid actors.
-The police brutality scenes seemed to strike a cord for all
of us who have dealt with it in some form.
-The DJ scene where young Dre (scratched by Jazzy Jeff) gets
off on that early 80’s Electro track “Al-Naafiysh” was fire! I’m a DJ nerd, so
I’ll probably rewind this part 50 times once it comes out on Blu Ray.
-The “No Vaseline” scene…man. The reactions from the group,
and the way Jerry Heller was ONLY concerned about the supposed “Anti-Semitism”
-The L.A. Riots scene was compelling. The slow motion effects,
Cube making eye contact with the police officer, seeing the peaceful protesters
in the same scene as the violent looters, and the red + blue bandana tied
together were all powerful.
What was left out?
I truly understand that it’s impossible to place every
single thing within a two and a half hour movie, so I’m not as mad as others
about the things that were left out. If they included all of the things I’ve
heard, the movie would be more like a 5 part series. The way I see it, the
movie is great at covering the main points, and for those who would like to dig
deeper, there’s plenty of history that can be found online and in magazines
from that period. Also, the director’s cut is three and a half hours long, and
I am hoping it is released on DVD.
Here’s a list of things I’ve heard mentioned that were left
-JJ Fad and their song “Supersonic” which was one of
Ruthless’ first hit records, weren’t mentioned at all.
-Arabian Prince, an original member of N.W.A, wasn’t
mentioned at all.
-Michel’le was mentioned, but wasn’t depicted at all. This
has probably been the biggest complaint that I’ve heard, and this is one of the
few that I think should have been in there for sure. She was a factor in the
N.W.A/Ruthless era, as well as with Death Row.
-MC Ren’s contributions weren’t shown in depth, and D.O.C. seemed
to just be the homie who was around, versus the highly successful solo artist and
contributor that he was at the time.
-Dogg Pound/Death Row vs Ruthless beyond Eazy and Suge…in
particular, “Dre day” vs “Real Mothaph’kkin G’z” which was a major beef at the time. They
show the fight between Ruthless and Lench Mob, but make no mention of the fight
between Dogg Pound and Dresta/BG Knoccout that happened on the golf course (When Nate Dogg regulated for real):
-I didn’t realize
Chuck D was depicted in the movie until seeing it for a second time, but they
don’t speak much on how Ice Cube connected with the Bomb Squad in NY.
-As a whole, Dre and Cube were shown in the most positive light, while Suge’s character was one –dimensional and showed a seemingly overnight transition into the meme-worthy villain that he’s known as. Jerry Heller’s character showed decent balance, and left you with the impression that he cared for the group as human beings, but that his money was always more important than anything else. I guess he was right about Cube being Anti-Semitic (I’m being sarcastic).
-All of Dre’s domestic violence and assaults against women
were left out, and I will speak about this next.
Dr. Dre vs. Dee Barnes (and other women)
In 6th grade, I recall being in an American
History class that covered everything from Columbus’ claiming territory that
wasn’t his, up to the Reagan era. When we got to the Civil War section, they
only mention slavery in one paragraph. Not only did it not mention that slaves
were forced on a boat from Africa, but it said something about how most slaves
were treated with respect because it made them more productive.
I got home, and was furious. I told my dad, and expected him
to call the Principal, or confront my teacher. He sat calmly, and said “well….who
do you think wrote the book?”
Seeing this movie, and realizing that everything negative
that Dre did to women was omitted, I was reminded of what happened in class that day. Being that Dre and Cube were behind the movie, it
gave them a chance to sanitize their history as a group, and as individuals,
and many folks think this taints the movie. I feel that Dre was shown as being
the extremely focused, hard-working creative that didn’t care as much about
groupies or even money…yet, there’s folks who will say that he was by far the most violent, abusive person in that circle when it came to relationships with women.
This discussion has been extremely divisive in the last few
weeks. There have been some women who feel that Black women should boycott the
movie due to the omission, and others who have spread numerous articles on Dre’s
history. On the other side, many folks feel that this happened so long ago,
that it shouldn’t affect his current status, and they point out that he did go
to trial and settle with Dee Barnes back when it happened.
The 2Pac scene
One of the most obvious anachronisms was regarding Eazy-E
wearing the Sox hat before it came out, but the one that bothered most of us
was the timeline after 1993, especially concerning 2Pac and Death Row.
The years don’t show at the bottom of the screen after 1993,
but a lot of things were out of order, leading up to Eazy’s death in March of
1995. The main thing that confused us was 2Pac’s studio scene, which followed immediately after showing Eazy-E passing Tower Records and seeing The Chronic billboard, which was in 1993. 2Pac wasn’t
released in prison until after Eazy-E passed away, and he actually got married a month after Eazy’s death while he was still in jail. Along with that, Hail Mary may have been recorded
during the sessions of “All eyez on me,” but most of us figure that it was
recorded afterwards, most likely in Spring/Summer 1996.
Along with “Hail Mary” being recorded, it’s said that Dre
was going to feature Ice Cube on “California Love” and use it as his own first
single, but Suge made a change and put 2Pac on it instead. In hindsight, this
was a brilliant move by Suge.
Compton: The Album (and semi-soundtrack)
Dr. Dre, D’Angelo, and Jodeci actually released real albums
this year! I’m still in shock. With this album, it served as somewhat of a
soundtrack to the film, which was more than most of us expected when we first
heard that it was coming out. I would personally say it’s a 7.5/10 album…I
certainly wasn’t expecting a classic, but was hoping for more standout songs.
However, the album is worth it solely for “Animals,” in which the #1 and #2 Rap
producers in history finally linked up on a track, and made a potentially
classic song. I think they should create an intense video that captures the
essence of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, showing everything from Mike
Brown, to Sandra Bland, to Trayvon, to Rodney King and Latasha Harlins.
The film’s legacy
This movie is going to have a major long term impact,
especially with the younger generation that was probably born after N.W.A’s debut
album came out. I have already seen a lot of folks in L.A. dressing like they
were from this era, but I think the songs will actually become big with kids
who never listened to any Rap that came before the 90’s or even 2000’s. Seeing a Batman remake of the song “Straight outta Compton” itself, along with this Kids Pop video shown below, is proof that the movie has truly crossed generations and cultures:
This movie comes out at the most perfect time in my opinion, as L.A. Rap is finally back into the forefront after suffering a commercial drought for most of the previous decade. This movie shows the origins of the strongest family tree in Hip Hop, which includes artists such as Snoop,
Will.I.Am and Fergie, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, Eminem, and Bone Thugs, who all came
through the N.W.A tree in some sort of way. I hope this film will lead to more high
budget, polished Rap Biopics that show other legendary rap families, such as
Native Tongues, Def Jam, Wu-Tang, and No Limit/Cash Money.