It is safe to say that the film Straight Outta Compton has officially made [urban] popular culture history! With its weekend release, the film raked in a jaw dropping 60.1 million by the time the numbers were in on Monday morning.
But let’s talk about the real amazement, WHY. Why is it, that a film portraying the lives of African American men during a time of hatred and violence in black communities, drew so much attention? The film received support from people representing all ethnic backgrounds; black, Caucasian, Latino, Indian, Pilipino, Chinese, etc.
From 1989 to the early 90’s, NWA was exactly Urban Pop Culture. They used their talent to provide a voice of artistic expression for the real daily struggles faced in their community. In the film you witness their rise from beginning to end, while also witnessing the truth behind the content in their lyrics. They told stories that an entire culture of
people could relate to. Not just African American people living on the west coast, but their music reached people all over the U.S. Sold out shows from Compton to Philly made these gangster rappers adversely popular in American culture.
The story of NWA, coming up during one of the most chaotic times of American history, being hated by the entire community of law enforcement, and being able to reach such high levels of success is a story that speaks volumes to every person who ever thought there was no way.
Straight Outta Compton could not have come at a better time. Let’s acknowledge the reality that today, we are dealing with some of the very same issues that existed in the early 90s. In the film you witness the 1992 LA riots that were a result of the infamous Rodney King trial. Just months ago the city of Baltimore rioted in retaliation to the death of Fredy Gray – an African American man killed while in police custody.
There have been a string of police brutalities against black men and black women during the last two years. People have been shot, beaten, and even died with no real explanation as to why or how it happened. The causes are not probable and law enforcement officials are not being held accountable because they are protected by their badge. The fact that people are not willing to acknowledge what is happening and turning a blind eye to reality is only going to result in more violence and social uproar.
Here’s the difference between Ice Cube, Mc Ren, Yella, Eazy E, &B Dr. Dre in 1989 and the hip hop artists in 2015: rappers are no longer using their platform to discuss the REAL & RELEVANT ISSUES that are impacting urban pop culture on a daily basis. The issues that are causing people harm and death, especially considering the fact that a lot of these rappers consider themselves a product of the same environments. What happened to using music as a way to assert the opinions of people that don’t have a voice? Talking about why unarmed children are being killed and beaten by officers of law enforcement. Instead, everybody is in competition for wealth and meaningless recognition from their inner circle.
What NWA did in Urban Pop Culture, is monumental to say the very least. They created empires and opportunities while never allowing the criticism to silence the life that they came from and what they faced growing up in Compton. There is a press conference scene in the film with NWA, where they offer a defensive explanation for the content in their lyrics. This 49 second clip may be the most important scene in the entire movie.
The reporter’s ignorance is quickly rectified, making it clear that what they face on a daily basis is far from glamourous but exactly their reality. They are simply, vigorously expressing the actualities of their lives through the art of popular music of US black origin, featuring rap lyrics with an electronic backing – better known as hip hop music.