DR.DRE – EASZY-E –
ICE CUBE – MC REN – DJ YELLA – STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON – 2015
This film is first of all
nostalgic and that is good because we do not live on bread and water but also
on recollections, as much as on dreams and projects. You will get the allusions
to and mentions of “Boys in the Hood” and the famous video of the beating of Rodney
King by the police in LA in 1992. You will have the right to wonder if anything
has changed since now young black males are just shot to death by the police
practically every week and just like in 1992 the police officers so far have gone
through a judicial procedure that has cleaned them up of all charges or nearly.
You will also find the very
strange community life in Black ghettos in America and the systematic raids of
the police (be the policemen Black or white) to harass the young Black males
they can see anywhere including in some Black neighborhoods.
But the film is a lot more than
It is the real history of a group
of rap music, N.W.A., that was probably the first to dare produce that music
with these lyrics, the lyrics of the real street reality of Black ghettos and
attacking the white dominant society for being racist, criminal, lethal and a
few other nice totalitarian and dictatorial characteristics. Their most famous
song was “$...K the police” of course. They were arrested in Detroit for it and they defended their first
amendment rights, their total freedom of speech. That is the most important
element at this point: the first amendment to the US constitution was understood at
the time as being only for whites. Things have changed. But have they really?
Note the freedom of speech is one thing, but the freedom of the distribution
and circulation of all personal expression is far from being true because most
people don’t have the slightest possibility to really be circulated and
distributed as much as Trump or Clinton, even with the Internet.
The second element that is
interesting is that showbiz is a big stealing industry. You always find a
producer who will help you though he will help himself first. But at the same
time in your group there is always one who is going to help himself slightly
less equally than the others since he is the one who has the power to sign all
documents and checks. You will also learn that there is no contract for years
because as long as you are not untouchable you are not someone who cannot fail
tomorrow. So the producer prefers no contract since then he has none to break
if there is some kind of difficulty along the road.
The third element is that artists
like money but they sure do not know what investing and saving are. They get it,
then they have to spend it, and spend it they do on parties, women and who
knows what. So that Easzy-E is HIV positive and dies of AIDS because since he was
not gay he did not have to take any precaution, did he or did he not? As the doctor
told him a long time too late: “You can get the virus from a heterosexual
unprotected relationship.” Add to that alcohol and drugs and you have it. I
guess 80% of the income is wasted on mostly useless and vain expenditures,
including crazy ego-boosting cars and houses. Stardom in such cases is a long
shorter than the stardom of a real star in the sky. It is true it cannot be
taken to paradise in a backpack, but even so… If all industrialists were like
that we would still be living in caves.
The most fascinating fact is the
music. Some pretend that rap or hip hop is no music. It is just humdrum drum
machine noise plus a DJ scratching records in all possible ways. And worse of
all the songs are not even sung, are they? Or are they not? For me it is an
extremely strong and powerful form of music because the language is “manipulated”
with the lips, tongue, larynx and glottis to get a special rhythm and a special
cyclical flow punctuated by strong syllables or words generally carrying
rhymes. Maybe it is not what the “experts” will call operatic singing. Maybe it
is not what the connoisseurs will call music hall songs or even musicals songs.
But it is tremendous work on language, on rhythm and even at times the use of
melodious tunes on a guitar or some other instrument.
This leads me to say that when
Blacks were slaves they used such rhythmic chanting to make all the slaves work
at the same rhythm to avoid as many whippings as possible in the evening when
the final cotton collection was measured, slave by slave. That insistence on
rhythmic speech and rhythmic music is the purest African tradition that used to
have the only polyrhythmic music in the world before it started spreading to
the Semitic world first and then to all the places where African slaves were
imported. Rap and hip hop is the very soul of African slaves and we can
understand why in Europe so many second generation forced immigrants from the
Maghreb or Arab countries find in rap and hip hop a way to express their soul
wound, their historical alienation, their holocaustic traumas (colonization,
forced deportation to Europe as overexploited menial unqualified workers, total
alienation and deculturation of their own culture and the absolute
acculturation in the standard European culture of the various countries where
they are used as salaried chattel.
We are here at the root of the
future because the victims of these soul wounds and of these historical traumas
and genocidal holocausts are the future of this world. That’s why gangsta rap
is at least as important as Beethoven’s ninth symphony or Verdi’s Aïda.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU