Check It Out: Straight Outta Compton

August 24, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

I’m writing to really encourage people who read Revolution to catch the movie Straight Outta Compton—in a theater where you can interact with the audience. There’s a lot to say about this movie, and I won’t try to do that here, but the experience, the societal buzz (and no, I’m not just talking about social media, I’m talking about people talking to people), and the impact is something revolutionaries need to be in the mix of, especially at a time like this.

This movie is the story of NWA—the gangsta rap group from LA most famous for their 1988 anthem “Fuck Tha Police.” From the opening scenes, the movie jolts the audience with a visceral, intense feeling for what it means to live in Compton, California (a mostly African-American city about 20 minutes south of South Central LA by freeway). Or to live in Newark, or Bed Stuy, or Ferguson, or the South Side of Chicago, Houston’s 3rd Ward... and on and on. Early in the movie, a tank-like battering ram accompanied by a phalanx of LAPD fascist storm troopers tears the front off a house to effect a drug bust, terrorizing the community.

And over, and over, and over again, throughout the movie, we see police—white and Black—humiliating, beating, threatening, insulting, and generally treating Black youths worse than dogs. I have to say that in a quick survey of mainstream movie reviews, including by generally liberal reviewers, I haven’t seen hardly any mention of this. But it sure struck a chord in the theater where people—the audience where we saw this was mostly Black people—were crying out in stress and pain during these scenes in the movie and out in the lobby afterwards.

A highlight and in many ways the focal point of the movie is the whole story behind “Fuck Tha Police.” The song was banned, condemned, and censored. The group got a threatening letter from the assistant director of the FBI saying, “We in the law enforcement community take exception ... [to] this song and its message. I believe my views reflect the opinion of the entire law enforcement community.” Before a concert in Detroit, the group was confronted by a big gang of thuggish armed police who told them if they performed the song they would go to jail.

What happened next? You’ll see.

All Played Out by Bob AvakianListen to “All Played Out,” spoken word by Bob Avakian,
music by William Parker

I don’t know how consciously this movie was timed in relation to the current upsurge of outrage, protest, and resistance to police murder. I suspect the timing is not just coincidence. And it comes out in the midst of a lot of important artistic statements against mass incarceration and police terror. But at any rate, the movie (and the revival of the song) is intersecting with the times in ways we should be tuned in to.

And then, there are a lot of things in the movie—which as far as I know reflect the actual outlook and activities of NWA—that need to be sorted out and in many cases seriously criticized. We’re going to need to get into where this bullshit comes from, and what it serves: There is the promotion—almost celebration—of bling and capitalism (illegit or otherwise); disrespect and abuse of women (in crude or “civilized” forms).

The debate is already raging over all this, and how to sort it out. So we better be in the mix. But start out by seeing the movie.

Oh, yeah, one more thing: FUCK THA POLICE!



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