Last Friday at 5pm I got a call from a producer at Newsnight called Max Deveson 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.
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 in 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 from ’Paul at Newsnight’’ at 8pm, apologizing for the late change in plans, 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.
NEWSNIGHT PRESENTER KIRSTY WARK BEGINS THE TRAGIC SEGMENT.
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.
They had asked two young people who weren’t even around when Straight Outta Compton was released and had clearly no articulate knowledge about the group’s legacy.
A north west Londoner – 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, black people, white rap fans and more all insulted in one cringingly shocking segment.
LADY CHANN AND JAY FROM RAP CITY – REPRESENTED HIPHOP AND RAP CULTURE, LIKE TWO LAMBS TO THE SLAUGHTER.
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.
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 20years ago, if we look at the horrific experiences coming from places like Baltimore and Charleston this year. #BlackLivesMatter!
Regards 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 our 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? 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 thought someone, somewhere had pissed him off. I knew who I was and so do other young music lovers that are female, 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. Did you for example have acts like the Prodigy calling to be banned years later after ‘smack my bitch up’?
I find it hilarious that hip hop culture is still presented as some sort of new danger to our children. These guys are in their 50s. Do we blame The Prodigy for problems with today’s white kids? What about films like the Avengers or Superman where a mostly white cast illegally use incredible vigilante style violence to solve all their problems and are regarded as heroes? It’s embarrassing Newsnight still approach it in this way when the BBC have otherwise excellent music resources.
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 its 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.
AMERICAN WRITER ZAC CHENEY-RICE MADE OUR BRITISH PUNDITS LOOK DIM, DUMB AND UNARTICULATE.
Ice Cube recently told Sunday times culture writer Jonathan Dean he wanted to make the film “so people understand why we wrote the lyrics we did”. Cube said “this film is always going to be timely as situation between the police and black people is always contentious. When we did FTP people didn’t have cameras and thought we were being anti-inflammatory. Then they saw Rodney King’s beating on tape. And now it’s nearly daily’’. Cube educated as he declared that once upon a time “conscious rap was purposely pulled out of media outlets for escapism rap and all that Bull Shit”.
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.
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.
EVEN THE AMERICAN WRITER ZAC LOOKED BEWILDERED AT THE CRAZYNESS IN THE NEWSNIGHT STUDIO.
Some detractors have called for us to boycott Dr Dre. Imagine. 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.
The BBC Newsnight segment showed how bad its research team are. Afterwards, twitter was blowing up condemming the BBC for such a terrible piece of TV production. 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.
MY OPEN LETTER TO THE BBC…..
I wish I were writing you this letter for other reasons, but I just can’t continue our relationship feeling the way I feel right now.
We’ve been together for three decades but the time has come for us to go our separate ways. Lately it has gotten to be too much for me, especially when I realize that nothing will ever change.
When I was a child, you helped bring me up after school when mum was still at work and I had to let myself in. I still recall how much I loved you and made a date with you nightly after school and college.
Whenever I visited my relations in Kenya, India and the USA I’d be proud that my family would religiously tune in to you daily for the ‘’real world news’’. I loved that you stood for values and I championed you dearly with pride for many years. However now my once deep passion has fizzled out. Its over, and alas its you, not me.
When we were first together, I thought everything was going really well. We had good and bad, but mostly good. I loved CBeebies, but hated The Lenny Henry show with its awful awkward buffoonery and tired jokes. It was my earliest realisation that you were great at representing my ballet-school mates values and points of view, but never my communities in Harlesden or Southall.
You made it up slightly when you gave me Desmonds, which was truly representative of talent and topics of its era, and even won awards like BAFTAS. Then you messed up and horrified many of us when you gave me content like Babyfather and The Crouches. Remember when New Nation newspaper editor Michael Eboda told you that you were patronising to blacks back then? And still you continue.
In recent years, since my eyes have been opened to fresher broadcasters like Channel 4 and BET, I’ve realized how incompatible we are. I invited friends over to come hang out with you for the recent Javone Prince Show debut, and you made things really awkward. I knew you were uncomfortable with young, black programming, but you weren’t even trying to be friendly, and you didn’t even make an effort to get to know them or talk to them about what young people are really like and enjoy. There are loads of British young black comics out there that have deserved a slot on the BBC but you really messed it up with this idea.
I also have to be honest. Since hanging out with new friends, including your brother Radio1Xtra, I’ve realized that my feelings have started growing for one of them. I tried to deny it and tried to make things work with you, but the more I tried, the more I realized we just aren’t right for each other. The last thing I would want to do is hurt you by cheating on you or lying to you.
So much has happened between me and this other love; like the amazing Grime Symphony show at Royal Albert Hall which you didn’t even deem big enough to give a TV platform to, hence half the seats were empty and real fans- millions across the UK- missed out due to poor PR and marketing. I’m also worried that if things continue with you the way they are, my feelings will continue to get stronger for others and I’ll start resenting our relationship. I don’t want that, because I think you can make someone else really happy, preferably those you mostly cater to from the Home Counties.
The Daily Mail reading 60+ Home Counties audience are a lost cause. Luckily BBC Radio1Xtra’s DJ’S broadcast to their children who are infinitely more educated on the realities of our culture than they ever will be. So much so, these days they share it, represent it and are part of it more than they ever have been.
You should be with someone who enjoys doing the things you like to do (someone over 50 with antiquated, slightly racist, ignorant views), and who can appreciate you for who you are (tired, offensive and boring). You can often be offensive and clearly have an agenda when it comes to black pop culture.
If there were any saving our relationship I may have considered counseling, but after last weeks Newsnight disaster, where you brought a generation to its knees with your awfully poor attempt at a feature about Straight Outta Compton and NWA, I realize there’s no saving us. We are done.
I wish you well. Perhaps you could stop taking money in license fee’s from those of us that you do not cater to with information, education, entertainment or respect?
Think about it. Let me know. If you can be bothered.