Last Friday at 5pm, I got a call from a producer at Newsnight, who wanted to know if I'd be interested in coming on that same night to talk about the legacy of NWA, as their biopic Straight Outta Compton is released here this coming week.
He seemed like a pleasant enough chap, with the usual pre-prep researcher style questions, yet clearly the agenda was to be an apologist for NWA and Dr Dre, and focus on the groups misogyny and Dre's violence towards women in his past.
They wanted someone to apologise and justify the "dark parts" of the NWA story that have been "glossed over". The moment they have Rock DJs doing the same for the next rock band biopic, I'll happily do the same for the next film that comes out that purports to represent our culture.
DR DRE WITH JASMINE.
Photo copyright Jasmine Dotiwala.
Not that I'm not flattered to be asked, but it always feel strange when the BBC's own, very able music specials from this era, like Trevor Nelson, are more than capable of speaking eloquently, articulately and intelligently about this area. The BBC have the biggest newsroom in Europe but not one TV researcher that could find a decent speaker to represent black pop culture (which BTW is now the current generations MAIN pop culture) within its own walls.
After arranging time of arrival at NBH around 6pm, I then received a text apologizing for the late change in plans at 8pm, but they wouldn't be needing me any more. Intrigued and knowing they'd clearly found someone stronger than me to speak on NWA's affect on the eighties generation and their legacy, I was keen to watch later that night.
I watched a tragic, all too familiar car crash. Remember when Obama won the presidency and they got rapper Dizzee Rascal to give a political opinion and that bombed? Yes, it was the similar, but worse. (With the beeb anytime a 'diverse' opinion is sought- they reach out for a rapper!)
For NWA, they had asked two young people who weren't even born when Straight Outta Compton was released, and had clearly no articulate knowledge about the group's legacy.
A north west Londoner called Lady Chann did her best to reply to the pretty basic questions, but alas ending up telling the nation that no black people were killed on UK soil and that it was an American thing, as well as the fact that she wasn't a bitch and a hoe, but there were bitches and hoes out there. Feminist twitter, thousands of articulate Britain black people, white rap fans and more all insulted in one cringingly shocking segment.
Her male pundit 'Jay from Rap City' wasn't as offensive, but equally as uninformed on the whole topic. Frankly the American writer Zac Cheney-Rice, via skype was the only one making any sense at all.
Twitter blew up in disgust straight afterwards.If I had that feedback on my shows or one of my colleagues shows, it would bother me.
NWA's impact reaches way beyond this Newsnight farce. NWA gave a really important, defining voice to a generation. Misogyny was around in all cultures in the 70s and 80s...Dre was a product of his environment and a time. None of this is unique to NWA, hip-hop or America. Clearly, F*** the police is as relevant today as it was over 20 years ago, if we look at the horrific experiences coming from places like Baltimore and Charleston this year.
Regards the media constantly dredging up Dre's behavior at around the age of 20, haven't many people around the age of 20 have done things they're not proud of?
I find it culturally interesting considering what's going on in historic sex abuse cases in the bastions of British politics, that we refuse to allow a young black man from an impoverished background a second chance, after his mistakes over two decades ago.
Haven't we seen in recent years seen that our own British politicians and key gatekeepers in society have ugly, horrific secrets that are only just surfacing now?
Don't we often forgive other hero's for anti-Semitism (John Galliano), sexism (Tim Hunt) and homophobia (Mel Gibson/ Donald Trump)? Why isn't a young black man in the 80s in L.A allowed the same privilege? The elephant in the room just sat on the black square.
DRE has recently acknowledged that he's made some horrible mistakes in his life, that he was young and stupid and that he deeply regrets his actions back then. Isn't that enough? Do we not believe in chances to move on? Aren't we a society that says we believe in rehabilitation?
To be young and black in the USA in 1988 you were surrounded by negativity. You had bad education, bad jobs, bad housing, drugs, and violence and then multiply that tenfold to get a snapshot of life in Compton. It's not much different today.
Most social workers will tell you that abusers abuse. How then do you think your average black man is going to behave after being verbally and physically abused by police all his life?
Also, are we aligning violence against women to an art form and the rap genre?
Rap isn't the only music genre that has demeaned women...Duran Duran, Rolling Stones, Led Zeplin and more. Why aren't they ever in the dock when they have come back tours? Did you for example have acts like the Prodigy calling to be banned years later after 'smack my bitch up'? What about Hollywood and the casting couch- doesn't that demean women?
When it comes to their misogynistic language, I never felt that Dre and his peers were talking about me, I just assumed someone, somewhere had pissed him off. I knew who I was and so do other young, female music lovers. We need to give young people more credit.
Musicians aren't here to bring up our kids - that's the parents and family's jobs. Musicians have always existed to give us an outlet for escapism.
Many lazy news teams this fortnight have stuck to their agenda that NWA are the anti-Christ because they called women bitches and hoes. I'm not a huge fan of men demeaning women, but now even women are taking possession of this slanguage and it's taking on a life of its own...(E.G Rihhana BBHMM, Madonna - Bitch I'm Madonna). So is it now universally sanctioned, or has it taken its sting out of its tale since the NWA days, and if so, why are we still holding NWA 100% responsible?
We can't negate that those things happened, there's still a massive amount of misogyny and sexism everywhere, every community has its issues and extreme's, it's not confined to Dre/NWA/rap music. The BBC's very own former female BBC presenters will also tell you that, but the world is moving on and we need to move on positively together.
Some say that NWA were a black Sex Pistols. Anti-establishment, honest and angry. Where ever in the world you're from, most youth feel oppressed by adults. It transcends race and gender and music is an outlet for these frustrations.
In an era where successful films that cast black actors, but are labeled ''black films'', like Beyond the Lights, are still not given UK release dates; we need the political stance of angry rappers like NWA more than ever.
YES, maybe the biopic should have shown Dre's ugly past but as it co-produced by him I think his prerogative wins.
Considering that hip-hop is basically all that is keeping pop music viable, treating a biopic of one of the genre's giants as some sort of specialty,niche film is insulting at best.
Some detractors have called for us to boycott Dr Dre. So is this now about censorship? What you can't take away is Dr Dre's influence not just on black music culture but global culture.
With this terrible TV the BBC Newsnight show showed how bad its production team are.
Would they have the same level of pundits if say, they were making a feature about the historical biopic about The Smiths, or even the Spice Girls?
No. And that's the difference between respectful content, knowledgeable staff and viewers who have given up.
The current campaign by the BBC PR team to ''Love it or lose it' is hilarious.
We stopped loving it ages ago. We have already lost it.Suggest a correction