To my fellow comment-section commenters:
Like many of you, I had been very excited to go see Straight Outta Compton this weekend. I love rap and hip-hop, and from the preview they showed when I went to see Pitch Perfect 2, I understand that the movie is about a classic rap (and hip-hop) group called N.W.A that fights against the government with their music.
As Camus wrote in The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, “The spirit of rebellion can only exist in a society where a theoretical equality conceals great factual inequalities.” I certainly agree with that, and I am certainly translating it from the original French, which is certainly the language that I read it in first. N.W.A seemed to espouse a similar ideology. And since my dad likes them, I assumed they were like U2 or R.E.M.
Whelp, you know what they say about assuming (it makes an “ass” out of you and me). I did some Internet research yesterday and what I learned may shock you and change your weekend movie-going plans and lead to a Twitter activism campaign:
N.W.A, it turns out is highly #problematic.
First of all, the name. Do you know what the “N” stands for? I had thought it might be “National,” like it usually is, or “Nice,” as in “Nice Wholesome Artists.” It is neither of those words. It is a much, much worse word. It is a word so bad that all right-thinking human beings must never say or even acknowledge the historical existence of this word. You know what word it is. (Let’s whisper it together, shall we? Wait. Is there anyone else around?)
Do you know what the “N” stands for? I had thought it might be “National” or “Nice,” as in “Nice Wholesome Artists.”
Clearly, this is #problematic. All sorts of #problematic from all sorts of “racial” angles that make polite conversation more difficult. But that’s not all!
Even a cursory listening of the band’s first album reveals that these rappers have, shall we say, less-than-enlightened ideas about just about every serious topic you can discuss on social media. Gender equality, gay marriage, gun control. Even medical marijuana. (At one point, a man claiming to be a doctor asserts that smoking marijuana is known to cause brain damage. This theory has been widely disproved.) Song after song, rhyme after rhyme, in their lyrics, the members of N.W.A come down on the wrong side of progressive causes. They are really very unlike U2 and R.E.M.
The title track of the album features a verse from a fellow named Eazy-E that starts like this:
“Straight outta Compton
Is a brother that’ll smother your mother
And make your sister think I love her…”
Needless to say, the smothering of a mother or any other woman is extremely #problematic. And by the end of the song it’s more than apparent that Eazy-E does not love your sister.
I could go on. The instances are as numerous as they are #problematic. In fact, one might suggest that the group change its name from N.W.A to “B.W.P.” (Band With #Problematicness.)
At the conclusion of my research, I was left with the belief that this “heroic” troupe of revolutionaries had found their primary inspiration in something very distinct from idealistic left-wing politics.
It brought to mind another quote from Camus:
“It is not the nobility of rebellion that illuminates the world today, but nihilism.”
As Eazy-E put it himself, they don’t give a fuck. That’s the problem.