Hip Hop heads all over the country were thrilled after learning a few months ago that a biopic documenting the iconic group N.W.A. would be hitting theaters soon. As the debut got closer, the buzz associated with the film continued to increase. As with anything in the Black community, the positive always has to have a polar opposite negative, which is usually started by Black people themselves. It seems to me, and this is just my opinion, that we just can’t help but criticize ourselves and each other. It’s sad, really. No matter how much good we do, someone always has to point out any negativity related to it.
Black people in the United States hold hip hop in high regard because it is one of the true art forms, along with jazz, that we personally created to tell our stories. Its roots went from house parties and having fun, getting the crowd hype, to chronicling some of the most important moments in our recent history.
N.W.A. was the group that put gangsta rap on the map. Yes, the music was violent. Yes, the music gave frequent references to drugs. And yes, it was misogynistic, but it told a story that was previously unheard from our perspective. It told of life on the street, how hussling seemed to be the only road out for many, and how because we were publicly devalued, we started to devalue ourselves and our own people. That is what came out of the music. Even in all of this, the group was epic. Period. Not to mention, many of its current critics were bouncing their asses and bobbing their heads to it when it was released.
Since the movie came out, memes like this featured image started hitting my timeline, along with stories about the “secret meeting in 1991” that changed hip hop forever. These are stories that have been traveling through the so-called conscious community for years, now. Why is it necessary to bring it up again instead of celebrating success of this movie and the contributions of this super group? The comparison being made in this photo is utterly divisive and does not serve anyone. You don’t have to put down and insult N.W.A. just because you like Public Enemy or feel like they contributed more to telling our story in the 1990s. That is very Kanye-esque to say the least.
Further more, the members and family members of the group didn’t wait for Hollywood to tell their story for them. They invested in their narrative and put it on the silver screen. So, that is why we have an N.W.A. movie and not a Public Enemy movie! If you want to see a Public Enemy movie, then go fund it. Otherwise, quit looking for ways to demonize every damned thing that we do. It’s a major accomplishment to have your story told onscreen. Not only that, but these men have grown up to be major influences, positive influences, in their craft and other areas of the entertainment industry and in their communities. They were young back then, like we all once were. We made decisions that seemed to fit us at the time, but we didn’t stay there. Neither did these men. Let’s applaud their success and their change.