America Needs N.W.A Now More Than Ever

Standard
This is a poster for Straight Outta Compton. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.

This is a poster for Straight Outta Compton. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.

I’m a 40-year-old white lady from the suburbs who just saw Straight Outta Compton at a Sunday afternoon matinée. (I know, it doesn’t get less gangster than that.) But you know what? I couldn’t wait for Straight Outta Compton to come out, and I wasn’t disappointed. The performances were genuine and electrifying. The story was sometimes joyous and sometimes heartbreaking, but always compelling. But I’m not writing this to give you a review of Straight Outta Compton – there are dozens of people already telling you how amazing it is. This isn’t about why it was great, but why it’s important.

I first heard of N.W.A in 1988 when I was in eighth grade. I was sitting in Ms. Davis’s English class when my friend, Tracy (who happens to be black if it matters), passed me a note that said, “Do you know what N.W.A stands for?” I shook my head. She wrote: “Niggas With Attitudes.” I had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew that the N-word wasn’t something people around me said. We lived in the suburbs. We watched The Cosby Show. The only rap on my radar at that point came from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.

Then the show Yo! Mtv Raps came out. I watched it after school and found a whole genre of music I had never heard on the radio. I discovered Public Enemy, Ice-T, Eric B. & Rakim, and of course, N.W.A. I wouldn’t have had any exposure to hip-hop back then if it weren’t for Mtv. By extension, I wouldn’t have known anything about inner-city life either. Crips versus Bloods. West Coast versus East Coast. For a white girl from Kalamazoo, Michigan, there was a lot to learn.

Then in 1991, four LAPD officers beat Rodney King, and it was caught on videotape. I had been hearing about police brutality in the rap music I was listening to, but I had never seen it before. That didn’t happen in my neighborhood. Remember, this was before cell phones, social media, and even the internet. If your local news didn’t think you needed to hear about something, you didn’t. I was seeing this because a citizen was in the right place at the right time and was able to catch this happening with their VHS camcorder. It was shocking.

When the unthinkable happened and those four LAPD officers were found not guilty, it rocked the country. Los Angeles exploded with frustration and burned with the deadliest riots to happen in this country in over a hundred years. I saw the coverage on television. Rappers had been telling us about police violence for years, but now we were seeing just how tumultuous the situation had become. Ignore a problem long enough and eventually someone is going to make you pay attention.

Fast forward to now. In the twenty-five years since the mainstream explosion of rap music, hip-hop seems to be moving in a different direction. Eminem, Dr. Dre’s prodigy, exploded onto the scene and white suburban kids everywhere were enamored with the white rapper who got constant radio airplay. (Although Eminem didn’t rap about gang life, his rhymes were every bit as dark and violent as N.W.A’s ever were.) After the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, gangsta rap seemed to be winding down in favor of auto-tuned club anthems. For a long time, we stopped talking about inner city life and police violence, at least in the suburbs.

Until now.

With the prevalence of smart phones ensuring that most citizens have a video camera with them at all times, it was inevitable that someone would shine a spotlight again and force us to pay attention.

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was put into an illegal chokehold and killed by a NYPD officer. Garner was unarmed. The incident was captured on video. The officer responsible was not charged. The following month, John Crawford III was shot and killed by a Beavercreek, Ohio police officer as Crawford shopped at a Walmart holding a toy BB gun he had picked up while there. The incident was captured on store surveillance video. The officer involved was not charged. A few days later, on August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. There was no video evidence this time, and the circumstances were in dispute. Wilson was not charged, and Ferguson erupted in protest. By this point, anyone who was old enough to remember watching the Los Angeles riots after the acquittal of the four LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King (on videotape) was wondering how it’s possible that in over twenty years, not a damn thing has changed.

From N.W.A’s song “Fuck Tha Police”, released in 1988:

“Fuck the police, coming straight from the underground,
A young nigga got it bad ‘cause I’m brown,
And not the other color, so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority.”

There have been many, many more victims.  On April 12, 2015, Freddy Gray was arrested in Baltimore under questionable circumstances, sustained injuries while in police custody, and died days later. This time, the death was ruled a homicide and the six officers involved were indicted. The population of Baltimore is primarily black. What about the police officers involved in the death of Freddy Gray? Three of them were white and three of them were black.

From N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police”:

“But don’t let it be a black and a white one,
‘Cause they’ll slam ya down to the street top,
Black police showing out for the white cop.”

So, were the members of N.W.A prescient? Of course not. The same police brutality that was happening in 1988 is still happening nearly 30 years later. I don’t know how we stop it, but I know we have to keep talking about it. We might have 24/7 news coverage and “citizen reporting” via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels, but maybe what we really need is another N.W.A – somebody reporting from the front lines to tell us what’s really going on outside of our own neighborhood, and packaging in a way that people will listen to. We need someone to keep us informed and keep us angry.

Listen, just about anybody my age is going to love the movie Straight Outta Compton. We were listening when N.W.A came out and we remember how revolutionary it was. But I hope that young people are going to see it too. We need to acknowledge how far we haven’t come in racial equality, particularly when it comes to treatment by the police. (Maybe you think we’ve made progress. Watch that Rodney King video again and you’ll see that we haven’t.) So, everyone, go see Straight Outta Compton for the groundbreaking music and the compelling story. You’ll get a valuable history lesson at the same time.

The 5 Stages of an R. Kelly Song

Standard
rkelly

This man is disgusting.

The other day I was driving to work with the Spotify app playing 90’s era tunes through my car stereo. I only have the free version of the app, so sometimes I have to listen to songs I don’t really like. This is what happens when “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly comes on.

Stage 1: Denial

I don’t want to listen to an R. Kelly song, damn it. I was having a pretty good run with this 1990’s playlist I’m following: Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, that sort of stuff. Oh well, I’ll just skip it. I don’t have to listen to this.

Stage 2: Anger

R. Kelly is such a scumbag. Didn’t he pee on some underage girl or something? Nasty-ass pedophile. How is he not in prison? Fuck him.

Stage 3: Bargaining

I don’t have any skips left. Why can’t Spotify just let me skip whenever I want? What do they care? I still have to listen to their commercials either way. I’d switch to another playlist, but seeing as how I’m driving 70 mph over a bridge, I should probably keep my eyes on the road.

Stage 4: Depression

Well, I guess I’m listening to this song. At least that bastard isn’t making any money off of it, right? I remember this song from…high school? College? It was a big hit. I think that was before Kelly started getting into trouble and we couldn’t listen to his music anymore without feeling guilty.

Stage 5: Acceptance

At the top of my lungs while driving: “I BELIEVE I CAN FLYYYYYYYYYYY!!!”

 

Coming Out of the Dark

Standard
Mike Patton - Faith no More

Mike Patton – Faith no More (Photo credit: /amf)

The first time a guy went down on me I was lying on the super-single waterbed in my teenage bedroom, across the hall from my parents’ bedroom, watching Gloria Estefan singing her hit single, “Coming Out of the Dark” on the Arsenio Hall show. It’s funny how these seminal moments (no pun intended) in our lives become frozen in memory like Polaroid snapshots. I remember how, even at the time, I noted the absurdity of the moment in conjunction with the song that was playing.

The man’s name was (for the purposes of this blog) Dave Garvey. And he was a man: he was 23 years old and I was sixteen. I’d met him through a friend or a friend of a friend. I don’t remember exactly how anymore. We didn’t have anything in common, but I was attracted to him because, besides the built-in allure of being older, he looked remarkably liked Mike Patton, the lead singer of Faith No More, my favorite band at the time.

I was sexually inexperienced, i.e., still a virgin. It’s not that I had anything against having sex; I was as horny as any other sixteen-year-old. I had kissed a lot of boys. I’d been felt up in the eighth grade. I had touched my first penis months earlier, but things hadn’t gone anywhere with that guy. I wasn’t guarding the treasure between my legs like it was the golden idol in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but I did have a sense that I wanted the first time to be somewhat special. Translation: I at least wanted to be in a relationship when I did the deed. So, the big show hadn’t happened yet. I also hadn’t engaged in any, uh, oral action until Dave sneaked up on me during the Arsenio Hall show musical interlude.

It was summertime. We were lying on my bed, fully clothed, making out. One minute we were kissing, and the next minute Dave had his head buried between my legs, maneuvering around my shorts and introducing me to cunnilingus. He went from kissing to oral faster than you can say, “jailbait”. I was stunned at this progression, to say the least. It wasn’t even dark in my room, so that doesn’t explain my confusion! Things that make you go, “Hmm…” indeed. And then there’s the issue of how Dave accomplished all of this without taking off a stitch of my clothes. I mean, I was wearing shorts, but still. I guess he just pushed them aside. Yes, I know – this is getting graphic. Just wait. There’s more.

Calla Lily Awakening

Calla Lily Awakening (Photo credit: Bill Gracey)

Before you worry that my teenage honor was being assaulted, I was fine. I was fucking surprised at the turn things had taken, but I wasn’t being tongue-raped against my will or anything. As I lay there soaking in my ridiculous “Coming Out of the Dark” experience with Dave eating me out, I noticed him slowly maneuvering his bottom half up toward me. Hold the phone! I was still trying to mentally process my thoughts about Dave which included:

1)      I was really only dating him because he looked like the lead singer of Faith No More. I liked looking at him, and occasionally kissing him, and drinking the alcohol that he was old enough to buy for my friends and me, but other than that, we didn’t have shit in common, his being a 23-year-old semi-homeless guitar player and my being a 16-year-old honor student/virgin.

2)      As soon as school was back in session, I would obviously break up with him. This was just a summer fling with no long-term potential, and pursuant to the “special” rule of giving up my cherry pot, that means I wasn’t going to have sexual intercourse with him.

3)      Even if #1 and #2 didn’t apply, we were in my bedroom ACROSS THE HALL FROM MY PARENTS’ BEDROOM. They were totally home. Gross, right? I didn’t even have a lock on my door. (I hope they’re not reading this. I still might get grounded.)

So, like I said, I happened to notice that Dave was maneuvering his ass toward me. He was still going down on me, and I have to admit, I was kind of blasé about it. (I have since revised my opinion on this particular sex act, for the record.) Even at that young age, I had seen enough pornos to figure out what was going on. That sneaky turd was trying to scoot himself into a 69 position! The nerve!

Here’s the thing: He may have been able to stealth-eat my pussy, but there was no way he was going to accidentally put his dick in my mouth. I don’t think so. Besides, he was still wearing his clothes too. (Although his shorts were sagging, and I caught a glimpse of hairy ass crack. Ugh. If he had ever had a chance at this working out in his favor, that sight killed it for him.)

I sprang up and said something to the effect of, “Okay, then!” I honestly have no idea exactly what I said, but I know I unceremoniously put the kibosh on our romantic interlude. The rest of the evening has faded from my memory. But it was that night that made me realize that I really wasn’t into Dave. I broke up with him soon after. Months later he got two different women knocked up within months of each other. I guess he was making up for all of the sex he didn’t have with me.

I wonder how Dave is doing now. And whatever happened to Faith No More?