Posts Tagged ‘NWA’

Media Update 5/23/18

May 24, 2018


Straight Outta Compton

When I was a kid, I really bought into the whole “Rap is Crap” stuff and I bought into it being dangerous, vulgar, and pointless. However, when I really listened to it, I changed my tune. Like a lot of people, I had condemned something without really giving it a chance. One of the albums that really changed my way of thinking was Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. The music and the beats hit so hard and the rhymes blew my mind. This was the new street poetry and yes some of it was violent and sexualized but it was a reflection of a world that I was not a part of. It was a musical and political awakening for me. I used to listen to that album on a loop as I walked home from high school. I came to it years after the group had broken up and gone their separate ways. This movie is their story. Of course, I am not sure how much of it is fantasy and how much of it is real but it is a good story. There is enough truth in there for me. All of the actors are great at bringing both the drama and the music to life. In fact, Ice Cube’s son got to play his father in the story which must have been quite the experience. Whatever the true truth is, this movie at least reminded me that these legendary figures were (and are) flawed people just like I am. I definitely recommend it but be warned that the movie is two and a half hours long.


All Eyez On Me

The world was shaken when Tupac Shakur was shot in Las Vegas in 1996. His music was already helping to change the rap game. I talked a lot about it when I reviewed the first few episodes of Unsolved, the miniseries about the investigations into the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. Tupac is still a legend in my hometown of Baltimore because that is where he got his start. It was here that he attended the Baltimore School for the Arts (the same high school my brother went to). This movie is a trip through his life from before his birth to his death. It hits a lot of the highlights of his life including things I did not know like his engagement to Kidada Jones, the daughter of Quincy Jones. Far from “just a thug”, he was a poet who knew Shakespeare and other poets from his education in the arts. He obviously learned from everyone he worked with including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Biggie Smalls. The movie hinges on the performance of Demetrius Tripp as Tupac and he does a great job bringing humanity to the mythic figure. We also get actors really nailing figures like Biggie, Jada Pinkett, Kidada, the villainous Suge Knight, Snoop, Dre, Faith Evans, and many more. The script is a little messy but it gets the impact of the man’s life across and the difficulties and flaws he had to deal with. Most of all, it portrays the lost potential when he died. He could have been an elder statesman of rap or an activist if he had lived to maturity. I also recommend this one as it is a fascinating story about the rise and fall of one man who is still loved.


Roxanne Roxanne

This movie caught my attention as I was going through Netflix looking for the movie Notorious (which I will have to catch at another time). This movie tells the story of Roxanne Shante who was a battle rapper back in the eighties. She started rapping at age nine and started to get famous as young as age fourteen. This was in the golden age of hip-hop when everything was fresh and new. It is the world of graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping that formed the trinity of hip-hop culture. This world was reflected in the fictional story of The Get Down but this is a very real story. Roxanne was a hustler with a brilliant mind who was drawn to the streets where she thrived instead of school. Her life was difficult as she was black, a woman, and she came up poor. The movie is such a snapshot of life in the projects in Queens (and the rest of the east coast) in the eighties. The star of the movie is Chante Adams who just does such a great job bringing Roxanne to life. She is such a likable character. I definitely recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Roxanne Shante – Roxanne’s Revenge

Tupac Shakur – Hit ‘Em Up

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

The Chainsmokers – The Rookie

Imagine Dragons – Thunder

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Rap Biopics”
– I watched more iZombie Season 4
– I watched more Beauty and the Beast Season 1
– I watched a crapload of PBG Hardcore on YouTube
– I finished watching the Pinkertons
– I watched more Barry Kramer on YouTube

Just Music

April 11, 2015

(General warning for language in the videos attached to this post)

A couple of weeks ago, a friend surprised me by referring to rap music as ‘disgusting’. Now, everybody is entitled to their opinion but the thought ground my gears. It’s not disgusting. It’s just music. I didn’t respond immediately because that’s not the hill I want to die on. I also knew that I wanted to write about it but I didn’t want to write angry and I wanted to think about it for a while. Hopefully I’ve let my emotions sift to the bottom and my thoughts to the top.

Now the track in question was this little ditty:


Nicki Minaj – Anaconda

Would you say that’s disgusting? I asked the question of myself and tried to stay objective. It’s very sexual and I guess somebody who wasn’t comfortable with that would have issues with that aspect. Still, it’s no worse than I’ve seen Madonna put out back in the day so I personally have no issues with it. It’s heavily sampled so from a musical standpoint it’s not entirely original which I guess irks me just a bit. Still, it’s different enough that I can let it slide. So what’s left? Is it just that it’s rap music? Is that such a bad thing?

Let me be perfectly honest. I railed against rap music when I was a teenager at a time when rap music was exploding in popularity. I wanted nothing to do with it but looking back I think that’s because as a middle class white kid I was supposed to not like it. I was a supposed to be a good boy and listen to rock and roll like my parents and authority figures would prefer. However, once rap and hip hop became more mainstream I actually gave it an honest try. I was hooked. I loved it. I went through a period where that’s all I listened to. Now I listen to it when I’m in the mood or when something new is released. I’m no expert but I know what I like.


NWA – Fuck Tha Police

Listening to this track again I have to admit it goes way overboard in some parts and I do not condone violence against law enforcement in any form.  However, I wouldn’t even call that “disgusting” since the words are coming from a different perspective.  I see the police in an entirely different light than a person of color might especially during a period following the LA riots where there was a lot of anger and frustration over police actions. The only experience I’ve had with the police are a few tickets and knowing my uncle who worked for law enforcement.  The music and lyrics flow very well and if you listen there’s actually a fairly eloquent yet emotional indictment of police brutality/profiling if you get past the shock value of the name.


Kanye West – Jesus Walks

Now, this is one of the most political rap songs that I’ve heard (again, I’m no connoiseur) and it has a very high production quality. Of course, it comes from an artist who thinks he’s the second coming and a musical genius. All of that aside, it’s an interesting track about one man’s views on the world around him.


Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – Jimmy Iovine

This track comes off as violent and harsh at first because of the vocal effects and anger and some violent imagery. This is all apparent until you realize the artists are using the power of metaphor and symbolism. What they’re really talking about here is how the record companies give new artists a raw deal which is sometimes akin to indentured servitude. It’s a tirade against the current business structure that favors the record companies over the artists instead of a true partnership. It’s something they were obviously passionate about and it is a message I can get behind.


Trey Songz – Bottoms Up ft. Nicki Minaj

We finish off with the track that introduced me to Nicki Minaj in the first place. For the record, I was a fan of Nicki Minaj since the first time I heard this. The speed and accuracy that she achieves is amazing and I often find her funny and a little insane. Not all tracks are deep and meaningful. Sometimes you just want to party with a bouncy song about a night on the town.  It’s like the difference between American Pie and Highway to Hell. Sometimes you just want to listen to fun music.

So those are a few rap songs that I like. I feel like I could go on like this for ages but I think a small sampling makes my point well enough. Obviously I’m not going to change everyone’s mind but I feel that cutting off a whole genre is unfair and close-minded. I always give everything a fair shake before I condemn it. I don’t put down movies I haven’t seen and I don’t condemn a whole genre of music because I don’t like a few artists. I went through the same thing with country music, pop music, disco and so many others. It just takes one good track to open your mind. Maybe you can go find your track.


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