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After spending three weeks at No. 1 at the box office, Straight Outta Compton has become the highest grossing music biopic in history - and I’m cheering along with everyone else.
To everyone’s surprise, Oprah herself tweeted to Ava DuVernay that she not only saw the film but called it “powerful!” I can hilariously envision Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella appearing on an episode of Super Soul Sunday, drinking tea under an oak tree on her estate to talk about life in the hood.
Many women, however, who feel sour about NWA’s music couldn’t give a damn about the critics’ praises or award buzz for their depiction of boys in the hood to history changing pioneers. Besides Dee Barnes’ powerful article about the film and her abuse at the hands of Dr. Dre and the other women, like Michel'le and JJ Fadd, who were vocal about their part of the Ruthless Records success, there were many thought-provoking articles and videos by women voicing their disgust for NWA’s misogyny, gun-toting filled lyrics and attitude towards women.
They’re justified. One message was made loud and clear on why Straight Outta Compton should be boycotted by women: “No self-respecting woman would go see this movie.”
I’m here to say just as clearly that I’m a self-respecting black woman and hell yeah, I loved Straight Outta Compton. So much so that I saw it three times and recommend that you do too. It's so damn good.
I’ve seen a noticeable divide on social media among the black women who’ve enjoyed the film for what it was and the black women who are anti-NWA and the message they brought into music and black culture. While I don’t have judgement for their arguments against supporting it because it’s their choice, I don’t think that a woman’s self-respect is kicked to the curb for wanting to watch five guys make music history. Now whether you think they did for better or worse? That’s your opinion. I've enjoyed NWA's music the moment I popped in Straight Outta Compton in middle school.
After being enticed by the trailer and good reviews by friends on Facebook (many who proudly changed their profile pics for the "Straight Outta Somewhere" campaign), I went to the theater on August 14 already aware of the stories and controversies over the years, yet still wanting to get a fresh new narrative. I got that and much more: inspiration.
On my third visit, there were a majority of women in the audience who cackled loudly along with me during humorous moments, and I felt their cool-ass energy for 2 ½ hours. There were no boos or protests, even when a naked groupie named Felisha, served with an infamous “bye,” was kicked out the hotel party because her boyfriend confronted them with a gun. All I gave was an “Aww damn,” and then moved on. Groupies are so ingrained in the culture of Hip-Hop that it didn’t faze me.
I remember during the first showing, one female was hilariously vocal when Jerry Heller and Suge Knight came on the screen and danced in her seat during concert scenes. I guess she didn’t respect herself for buying a ticket and clearly getting her money’s worth, right?
I rapped along in between laughs when the handsome O’Shea Jackson, Jr., who eerily embodied his dad Ice Cube, dissed NWA with “No Vaseline” with a flawless victory and cheered when he smashed up Priority Records' office over his album advance, screaming, "Give me my money Brian!" I watched the incredible “Fuck Tha Police” performance in Detroit on the edge of my seat, in awe, like I was really there. I was even teary-eyed when Eazy-E was diagnosed with AIDS -- an incredibly moving performance given by New Orleans native Jason Mitchell, who I am now crushing on. There were so many dope moments that lived up to the hype and the women around me were in support just as much as the men.
Straight Outta Compton showed these men living with the brutality in an era that fueled the lyrics they wrote, and didn’t dip too deep in their personal lives, but stayed in tune with the music. My attention was so locked on the on-screen chemistry and performances of Jackson, Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and Mitchell (and the remarkable Jheri Curls) to even think of the politics surrounding it.
Do I agree with everything NWA says about women and their take on the argument of women vs. bitches? No, especially songs like “One Less Bitch,” “A Bitch Iz A Bitch,” “Findum, Fuckum and Flee” and “She Swallowed It.” When I first listened to it, my jaw dropped and I thought these dudes didn’t have a damn to give. I would’ve liked to see them making those songs as much as “Fuck Tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton,” and what females they knew sparked them to say “bitch” as strongly as they did the n-word.
Despite some women’s feelings of not supporting this movie and why I shouldn’t, I say that it spoke on the level of these guys being restless in their reality and using their music to share their experiences as authentically as they could, even if it meant rubbing people the wrong way. Them wanting more for themselves than what others thought they should settle for spoke to me the most, as Dr. Dre once rapped, “Fuck flippin’ burgers cause I deserve a 9 to 5 that I can be proud of/that I can speak loud of…”
I left the movie theater every time buzzing with excitement and feeling inspired about trying to make a needed change in my life to get to where I want to be. Though some of the remaining members have achieved insane success, seeing them pull themselves up and out of their situations made me look at my own struggles to get out. That’s what I took away from my experience, period.
The movie is continuing to break records, giving the late Eazy-E’s legacy as the Godfather of Gangsta Rap the acknowledgement it deserves and introducing new black talent to the masses. I can find no negativity in that and I'm already bracing myself for all the NWA and Eazy-E costumes I know I'll be seeing in October.
Most importantly, my self-respect as a woman is still intact, even when I cranked “Gangsta Gangsta” on the drive home.