Thursday, 17 September 2015

NWA - Straight Outta Compton (1988)

Still one of the greatest rap albums of all time, maybe the greatest, and still annoying the living shit out of people three decades later. Since the NWA movie came out a few weeks back I've experienced a huge and repetitive upsurge in the sort of complete bollocks people always come out with in proximity to this record and those who made it. Amongst the less contentious observations has been the traditional suggestion that It Takes A Nation of Millions knocks and will forever in perpetuity knock Compton into a cocked hat, alongside every other rap album which the person delivering the statement hasn't heard, which is usually almost all of them. Public Enemy were great, for sure, but this sort of thing always sounds to me like well, I'd rather support the work of responsible black people who know how to behave in polite company, in other words, I want to hear what you have to say, beleaguered minority voice, but within reason, and nothing I wouldn't be able to repeat in church.

It's my own fault for replacing all of my former social interactions with facebook. Mere days after the film came out, someone had politely befouled my page with an article about all the women Dr. Dre has beaten up over the years. I'm not sure if he expected me to apologise or something, but I'm disinclined to even discuss rap or its failings with someone who only gives a shit when there are censorious fingers to be pointed. The article was further embellished with the following response from another facebook person, one I've been ignoring since they shared one of those Muslims who don't like the flag should fuck off back to Russia type opinion pieces masquerading as a news article.

I have always wondered why so people enjoyed their music, and why now so many people want to go see their movie. There are a lot of people in the music industry that I just don't understand how so many people go crazy over. Why does society think it's okay to be hateful to some people, and make huge celebrities out of such hatred spewing forth from their "art"? There is so much more to be asked, but it has given me such a headache. It is not okay to be hateful and hurtful, and yet there society goes making hateful people rich and huge celebrities.

I know: person who doesn't like rap fails to like rap, which isn't what I find so aggravating so much as the notion that an opinion formed in general ignorance of a subject is now so often held to be as valid as actually knowing shit. I'm not a huge fan of that dancehall artist who used to advocate shooting homosexuals, but then I can't even remember who he is or what the record was, and I know fuck all about dancehall so my opinion, beyond a few basics, probably doesn't count for a whole lot.

Probably Dr. Dre is indeed a horrible cunt. The music industry is hardly lacking in horrible cunts, most of whom seem to get a free pass, and this specific focus on Dr. Dre as a horrible cunt seems significantly informed by how strongly we disapprove of his records, none of which - it might be pointed out - waste much time in trying to promote the image of Dr. Dre as a more caring amalgam of Bono, Val Doonican, and Deputy Dawg. I personally feel the relationship of artist as horrible cunt to his or her work is most eloquently expressed in this instance when Ice Cube asks do I look like a motherfucking role model? on Gangsta Gangsta, the answer to which is, most realistically, no he doesn't; and I think he would be surprised and disappointed with you if you said yes.

I'm not sure it's possible to make it any clearer than that. Straight Outta Compton was never meant to constitute advice, and if it upsets you, that's probably because it's supposed to upset you. Whilst this doesn't make Dr. Dre any less of a horrible cunt, neither does it necessarily invalidate his art or what any of them were trying to do with it, any more than Alice in Wonderland is a bad book because of the author's poorly quantified regard of little girls.

Musically it's sharp as fuck, one of those rare discs which makes everything else you listen to that month sound shite, at least while you're playing it. The rhymes are tight, brutal, absolutely on point, and often very funny because the album is a bunch of kids talking shit to their mates on a street corner rather than an earnest political address unto all the nations of the world; and if you don't think bunches of kids should be allowed to talk shit to each other on street corners, or that it's okay providing they first check with a responsible adult to make sure there's nothing that would seem out of place on the Disney channel, then fucking screw you because you're the reason people still need to make albums like this one.

The bottom line here is, I would say, that if you've ever been in the position of there being another person or group of people having so much power over you that you really and literally want to break their arm, leg, head, skull, or whatever it takes for you to shift that weight, then you will understand this album and why it was made and why there are sexual swearwords. If you've never been in such a diminished position then be happy because you're pretty lucky. Regarding those sections of human society still getting the shitty end of the stick in the twenty-first century, either you want them to have a voice, to maybe have some sort of say so as to be able to elevate themselves by some means, or you want them to shut up and keep making your trainers or serving your burgers; and if you want them to have a voice, you don't get to pick and choose what they say.

...then again, what the fuck do I know? I probably only listen to this because I think it's cool.

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