Yesterday I finally saw “Straight Outta Compton”. I had been waiting, not so patiently, for this movie to come out. I know many people didn’t care for NWA’s music (misogyny, violence, etc…) but I was a huge fan. They were the first rap group from the west coast I got into. And it was very different from the rap and funk I had been exposed to.
For a white girl from the ‘burbs this was an entirely different America than I had ever seen. It opened my eyes to a world I was sheltered from. It showed me my white privilege, although at the time I did not know what that was, I only knew my life was different. It wasn’t just their sick beats (and they had that) it was the words, like beautiful poetry, that tapped in to something deep.
I surprised myself in the theater when I could still lip sync their songs almost word for word. Watching the movie was like reliving parts of my teen years. I remember their music getting banned. I remember parents so upset that they were a bad influence. I remember the news saying they were vulgar and leading the young people down a violent path. And damn! Too Short and 2 Live Crew weren’t even mainstream yet.
I remember some saying rap was a fad and we would outgrow it. I also remember those that reminded folks that many of those same things were said about Elvis Pressley back in his day. But what I remember most was these “poets” were people my age telling it how it was for them. They were sharing their lives and their experiences with the world.
I remember the Rodney King beating like it was yesterday. I remember the riots. I remember feeling sad and confused then angry and helpless. I remember thinking this cannot be happening in America.
It was about the time that NWA broke up that I officially changed from a republican to a democrat. It was around that time that I had become a mother. What I knew was that I wanted to live in a world where freedom of speech was accepted and people listened. I wanted a world where everyone was equal. I was tired of conservatives telling my generation how to think and feel. I was tired of inequality.
I am 44 years old and I still listen to rap. I introduced my children to rap music. Rap music. I remember when rap wasn’t considered music. I remember when rappers weren’t considered artists. They were beyond artists. They were poets that put their words to music. They changed a generation. They changed me.
I remember where I was when Eazy died. I cried in the theater yesterday and felt grateful I had the sense not to wear mascara. But what stood out most to me is that all these years later not much has changed. Almost 30 years after NWA was formed and 27 years after the song “Fuck tha Police” was released we still need the hashtag BlackLivesMatter.
I’m still just a white girl from the ‘burbs and I can empathize, I can listen, and I can be an ally but I will never know what it is like coming Straight Outta Compton. But I do have a voice and I can use it.