Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 F. Gary Gray directed film about NWA, an iconic rap group that helped launch gangsta rap. In some ways, Straight Outta Compton follows the path of the typical music biopic where you see the group living their lives and how they come together. We see the guys make their first forays into recording the songs that would give rise to gangsta rap. Releasing a hit song followed by a successful album brings the guys attention but shady business dealings and egos threaten to tear the group apart.
At the very beginning of Straight Outta Compton, we get insight into the day-to-day life of the future members of NWA before the group forms. Easy E is a drug dealer who is running the streets and getting into trouble. He has a near-death experience but it shows that he can figure things out and get himself out of tricky situations.
Dr. Dre is living at home with his mom and is at a crossroads. His mom is pushing him to get a regular job, go to school, or otherwise pursue a traditional path. But he’s working as a DJ and wants to continue along that path which leads to a confrontation and him deciding to move out. His younger brother is supportive of his dreams and functions as a go-between. Last, we see Ice Cube who is still in high school and seems to be a regular kid riding the school bus with his friends but he’s already writing rhymes.
There’s also some insight into the problems within their community. Eazy is first seen in a drug house and has an exchange with some other dealers that shows just how quickly you can lose your life. He is almost murdered but is narrowly saved by being caught up in a police raid. It’s a bit of a wake-up call and the stars kind of aligned for them. Had he been killed or arrested, he would have missed the opportunity to help start NWA. If that had happened who knows how things might have worked out for the other guys in the group.
It’s worth noting that the raid didn’t begin with a bunch of squad cars pulling up to the house. The police made entry with a tank. The people in that house were doing wrong, there’s no arguing against that. I can see police officers doing an investigation and then trying to arrest them. But they’re rolling into a residential neighborhood with a tank to knock down a door. Those are resources for the military, not things that the police should have.
But in the opening, there’s a voiceover, which sets the tone for what’s going on at this point in the mid-80s. There’s a war on drugs and crack is being positioned as a great menace. Crack is certainly not a good thing as it destroys lives and contributes to violence. But the war on drugs and its militarization of the police were not the right solutions. Police brutality and harassment had been an ongoing issue in the Black community for generations at that point. Yet, it seems they were even more aggressive with this new form of policing.
Cube is just a regular high school kid but already knows Dr. Dre and stops by after school. Dre isn’t a producer as yet or at least not in the traditional sense. As a DJ he’s practicing his scratching and mixing skills. Both are dabbling in music at this point but they’re not quite on the path to successful music careers or at least not in the form that it would eventually take.
But leaving Dre’s then home, Cube comes across police officers who are searching and arresting some other guys. For merely stopping and looking at what was taking place, the police grab Cube and begin speaking to him disrespectfully by being overly aggressive and using all kinds of profanity. It’s just another example of the unfortunate circumstances of growing up in Compton and having to deal with the presence of the police and their brutality.
I haven’t visited L.A. yet but there are a few things that have always tripped me out about people from that city. Black people from L.A. have what sounds to me like a very proper way of speaking. Each region and sometimes even cities have different accents. I’m from Brooklyn, New York, and have a primarily New York accent. It’s a little different from other Black New Yorkers because of the influence of my family being from the Caribbean and growing up steeped in West Indian culture. But for the most part, I have an East Coast / Northern accent.
Not to go off on a tangent but I just find accents incredibly intriguing as I like that everyone doesn’t sound the same. I sound different from someone who is from the South. And people from some parts of the Midwest don’t have accents. People from the West Coast don’t have an accent per se but their manner of speaking sounds like they take a lot of care to pronounce words. Like even the roughest gang member has seemingly perfect enunciation. It’s like years ago when I saw “Top Boy” for the first time and some characters sounded like the Queen of England but were up to rude boy shenanigans.
Another thing that always tripped me out about seeing L.A. on tv is just the appearance of the city. Being from New York everything is so condensed and packed in, especially the part of Brooklyn where I lived until junior high school. There are houses but a lot of people live in apartments.
L.A. looks like a beautiful place with sunshine and palm trees. The people seem to live in single-story houses and two-story apartment complexes which are in the hood but don’t look like the projects or other rough areas I know in New York. But as with other parts of the country they probably just build out rather than up even in poor areas. Poverty and related issues such as difficulties obtaining jobs and crime were still present. It’s just that the environment looks deceptively nice compared to the reality of what people were dealing with.
The guys get together and start working things out in the studio. There are moments along the way which show that things not going according to plan helped everything work out in the end. The guys were supposed to create music for Dre’s rappers from NYC and Eazy was just supposed to be working in the background.
Eazy E was not a rapper. If you think of it he was the reverse of what a lot of rappers are. A lot of times you have the guy who puts words together well but he’s never really been out there in the streets. Basically studio gangsters. Eazy E is a real gangster but a studio rapper. He doesn’t write, he’s not used to rapping, and he’s a part of the Rhythmless Nation just stinking up the joint his first time in the booth. Some of it is a matter of him being self-conscious but that unease gets worked out and things come together.
By the time Eazy is approached by Jerry Heller, the group already has some momentum and their roles are fairly clear. Dre has the musical ability from a production standpoint, Ice Cube is the songwriter/rapper, Eazy is like the finance and marketing guy, and the other guys are also rappers or DJs. They’re able to put together a song that launches them and attracts attention.
Sure they were new to the industry and guidance would have been useful but they could have figured things out. Yet, that’s easy to say having grown up with the internet as a lack of knowledge or access to knowledge played a part in many artists getting ripped off. As with the story of a lot of musicians who begin this way somebody from within the industry picks up on their potential early and decides to get involved after seeing dollar signs. And thus begins promises to get your career started, taken to the next level, or some other variation of the moon and stars.
When Eazy meets Heller, he’s able to explain a vision that’s appealing to Eazy but then positions it as Eazy needs him to get there. Eazy (a fellow Virgo) was a smart guy although he might not have had an advanced formal education. But Heller used his street image to sow doubt that record labels would be willing to sit down with someone like Eazy. It’s unfortunate but was likely true to some degree at that time though things have likely changed over the decades.
But back in the mid-80s rap was still in its infancy. The first major rap song came about in like 1979 so the genre with regard to the recording industry was just about eight years old in 1987. Sure there were a few big names and groups such as Kurtis Blow and Run DMC. Things were bubbling but not anywhere near the level they would reach. Rap and hip-hop culture hadn’t gone mainstream as yet but some people were still very uncomfortable and that was with the music still being fairly tame at the time.
Corporations hadn’t gotten fully into the business. Sure, some artists had endorsement deals but it was still early days. The heads of record labels, especially the majors, were and probably still are predominantly middle-aged White guys. Heller was playing on Eazy E’s insecurities a little bit. Insecurities might not be the right word but he was touching on some possibly valid concerns. Eazy is a guy from the streets and he doesn’t know his way around the record industry. Heller promising to be his guide or entrée into the industry was a way of making himself valuable to Eazy.
Heller has seen something in what the guys have done so far and recognizes the potential opportunity to make money. He lists all of these big acts that he’s worked with but no one who has majorly popped off in the last decade. As Eazy points out, Heller is himself looking for a way back in. You would have to ask the question, how are you gonna help me if you haven’t helped yourself? People like people who help them make money. If Heller is so great and well connected, what happened to place him in the position of being on the outside looking in?
There’s no denying that he had experience in the industry and still probably has some contacts. Some of the basics were probably still in place for Heller to develop and/or launch an artist. But Eazy recognizing some of his disadvantages saw the potential value in having this middle-aged White man in his corner as the label heads and other business people might relate to him better.
This is something that you see throughout entertainment. You have naive artists quite often from some rough hardscrabble neighborhood or just outside the industry wanting to do something with their talent but not knowing where to start. Sometimes it works out and other times it doesn’t. But quite often because this manager/mentor has more experience in the industry, they have a better understanding of the inner business workings. And the artist, lacking knowledge and the confidence that they can learn what’s necessary become incredibly reliant on this advisor.
This can be a productive and mutually beneficial relationship when both sides are scrupulous and the advisor functions as a fiduciary or in the best interest of the artists rather than their interest. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when money is involved. This is a constant story throughout music history, especially with Black artists.
Being young and eager to make money but lacking the knowledge and/or resources to obtain independent legal and financial representation, they put their complete trust in this advisor. Things are seemingly great in the beginning as they get little trinkets (ex: jewelry, clothes, cars, etc.) but quite often they’re suckered out of the big long-term money that comes with retaining ownership rights. They sign layers of contracts which might include management, production, publishing, and recording with each one potentially taking a cut of whatever money is made.
Artists align themselves with people that do a lot to help them along the way and it’s only fair that those people receive some compensation. But some of these managers and advisors go overboard and take advantage. This is a story that you see repeated over and over again and not just in the rap genre.
I’ve read a lot of artist bios and books about the music industry which detail how this has occurred during different musical eras. Not just musicians but entertainers and athletes who didn’t have the foresight to seek out independent counsel and weren’t about their business would often find themselves robbed blind by these business people.
Stories like this always remind me of when I was in college, one semester I went to my advisor for guidance and approval for that semester’s classes. We spent some time discussing what I wanted to do in the future. I’ll always remember that he told me that it’s fine to want to be creative but there’s nothing cool at all about being a starving artist. If you’re going to make a living being creative, it is within your best interest that you also understand the business side. Don’t just focus on your craft and being an artistic person. You need to also be business-minded. If you’re successful, someone is going to make money off of your creativity and that should at least in part include you.
Since then I’ve read a lot about people in different areas of the entertainment industry. I’ve noticed a stark difference in the careers and the long-term livelihood between those who are only interested in the creative/skill side versus those who are also fully versed in their business. So many people just focus on making songs/albums, preparing for their role in the movie, or working out or practicing for the next game. And unscrupulous advisors will encourage them to just focus on those things and let the advisor worry about the business.
But nobody is going to mind or manage your money with the care that you would or should. It’s in your best interest to be about your business. You need to understand the hows and whats of the money that’s being made as well as the expenses. If you’re checked out of what’s going on there’s a good chance you’re going to end up having problems.
To be clear, you can have advisors but I don’t think you should ever divorce yourself from that side of your business. Or that you should become completely reliant on someone else to manage your business. They can advise you, they can tell you where to put things, or how to structure things. But you should still be aware and have an understanding of what’s going on with your money and business. You’ll have to live with the consequences and handing off responsibility will not save you from accountability.
Legal terms can throw most people off so you might not be able to read and fully understand a contract in the beginning. But you should be able to sit down with your lawyer and have them break things down for you. Your accountant should be discussing revenue and expenses with you. In time you’ll develop at least a basic understanding.
Dre has issues with one of his children’s mothers and while there is no big commotion the police just have a habit of rolling up. When the police pull up on NWA, they aren’t doing anything aside from standing outside of a building. But based on how they’ve dressed an assumption is made that they’re gang bangers despite none of them throwing gang signs or flagging. And honestly, the way they’re dressed is quite normal for where they’re from and consists mostly of dark jeans, t-shirts, and Raiders gear. The real issue is that they’re a group of young Black men on the street and they stand out because they’re not in a predominately Black neighborhood.
But this was the reality of a lot of young Black males in America then and still is their reality in the present. Just standing on the street could be grounds for the police to draw their weapons and harass you by searching your pockets and throwing you up against the wall or down on the ground. The police see it as their right to stop and be completely disrespectful towards NWA. And this is because of who they think they’re dealing with. If the police had come across a group of young White men in Beverly Hills or on the campus of UCLA their demeanor would have been completely different.
This incident combined with other past experiences inspired what was arguably one of their most infamous songs, “F Da Police”. And with that came a great deal of backlash. This kind of stuff would pop up in the future with Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” and “187” by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. The general public which largely ignores or excuses the inner city’s complaints about police harassment and brutality gets up in arms about any criticisms of the police.
I’m not excusing criminal or violent behavior but I understand people giving voice to the problems that are plaguing their community. When you don’t come from those communities and have never personally had these experiences or know people who have it’s easy to dismiss them. You might not be able or willing to imagine what it’s like when you haven’t experienced police aggression. Your perspective is different when you have “the complexion for protection” and society as a whole doesn’t feel hostile towards your existence.
Profanity aside, some people who take issue with these songs are likely the same ones who take issue with the concept of Black Lives Matter. Back then people weren’t carrying around cameras in their pockets where they could easily record these interactions but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t happening. Even in the present where there have been numerous incidents of police brutality caught on video, it takes tremendous effort for the police to be held accountable and often mainstream media and the public try to explain away or divert attention from what is taking place.
Because they aren’t directly affected and don’t have to deal with these issues, a lot of people choose to be deliberately obtuse. They choose to ignore the intent or the situation being explained and instead focus on the language and violent imagery. Regardless of race, gender, income level, or address people deserve to be treated like human beings.
Criticism of the glorification of violence and misogynistic lyrics are valid. NWA was before my time but I later became aware of the three main guys in the group. I primarily know Dr. Dre from Death Row and Ice Cube as an actor and filmmaker. I knew they had been in this group NWA as I’d seen pictures of them and Eazy E when they were younger but this was several years after NWA first appeared.
From late elementary school to early college, I was into rap. But at present, the music is not for me. I don’t fully agree but I’ve grown to understand the issues that adults had with the music when I was growing up. Yet, that doesn’t mean it should be banned or censored.
The FBI trying to censor NWA was an overreach. NWA nor other rappers called for listeners to go out and commit acts of violence against the police. You can disagree with what people say as I think some of the songs are immature, ridiculous, and ignorant. But at the same time, they have a right to express themselves. And people had a right to voice their disapproval by not buying their albums or tickets to shows. You vote with your pocketbook or wallet. I might not agree with all or most of their content but I don’t have a right to tell them not to make it.
Eazy’s response to this backlash pointed to his intelligence or more accurately, his knack for business and marketing. His first good idea was having the guys wear black so they’d look more cohesive than if they were wearing random colors. And then he refused to give in to the FBI’s demands when a lot of other people would have just buckled under the pressure. Instead, he turned a threat intended to stop their momentum into something that pushed them forward.
Yet, Eazy wasn’t the only smart one in the group. Sometimes when thinking you’re smart, you can outsmart yourself. And we see this in the case of Ice Cube picking up on Heller’s shenanigans. Cube was still in his late teens or early 20s but had the foresight to realize that the jewelry, cars, and moments of debauchery with random women were fun and interesting. But if he’s writing a lot of the records for an album then he should be sharing in the profits of that album. And throwing a few little trinkets or knickknacks his way is not enough.
He was the youngest guy in the group and like the others hadn’t attended college and didn’t have years of experience in the record industry. But all he needed was to pay attention and apply common sense to question what was going on. He proves that the idea of not being from a particular background or not having specific experience makes you unqualified to learn about the industry and advocate for yourself is ridiculous. You might not know all of the inner workings of directly managing your business contracts and finances but you should be able to pick up on things feeling off. Eazy is a cool character but I was rocking with Cube here.
In a sense, Heller took Eazy under his wing but that was likely because Eazy was the business leader. Controlling him would have at least theoretically made it easier to control the other members of the group. Heller appealed to Eazy’s ego by hyping him up and separating him from the other guys. He became the favored child which drove a wedge between him and Cube first and then eventually the rest of the group.
The guys were hood rich but weren’t balling out. Eazy was receiving preferential treatment in the sense that he was enjoying certain benefits and experiences that the others weren’t. Heller was in Eazy’s ear telling him that he’s the smart and talented one and everyone else was jealous of him. But the reality was that he had a good head for business and hustling so deserved credit for that but he wasn’t musically inclined. He was not a creative talent.
It might be difficult and require more work but artists can survive without a label. But labels can’t survive without any artists. Everyone had their own little thing that they brought to the pot but the moment one person starts thinking that they’re bigger than the team it creates problems. Heller put a bug in Eazy’s ear so that even when the guys were still talking to him and trying to point out issues to him, he was less inclined to listen because he saw it as them hating or being jealous.
These were young guys who outwardly appeared to be making money and being immature and excited about their newfound celebrity some were irresponsible. Dr. Dre didn’t have a place of his own and was between living with his mom and aunt yet already had a bunch of kids by the time NWA took off. Likewise, Eazy E would also end up having a lot of children. Ice Cube got married relatively young and seems to have only had children with his wife. I’m not sure about the rest of them.
You can have one hit song and that money if managed properly can provide a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of your life. But a lot of people go broke because they adopt lifestyles that require constant infusions of cash. They live as though the money is going to continue flowing at this generous rate forever. Male entertainers and athletes (even some regular guys) often dig a hole for themselves with these lifestyles of trying to have and maintain multiple women and children all about the place. Hope that your money keeps coming because the moment it stops your lifestyle and child support, in particular, will bankrupt you.
The tragedy of Dre’s beloved younger brother dying was sad. And as one would hope friends and family would do at such times, the guys pull together to offer him comfort and support. There are these protestations and promises that they’re always going to be brothers. Somehow it seems to be easier to pull together when everyone is broke and struggling. You would think that when money is flowing everyone would be happy and it would be easier to maintain relationships. But money can divide people, even the closest of family and friends.
NWA has a successful album and tour both of which generate a lot of money. But the structure of record and promotional deals makes it possible to excuse or explain away artists not getting much money by pointing to expenses. This is where advances and things like that typically come into play.
A song is split into three parts: the performance, production, and lyrics. Cube and MC Ren were the writers and Dre and likely DJ Yella were the producers so they should have made a killing off of publishing. Eazy fronted the money to get records made until they established the deal with Priority. To a degree, they all performed on the records. From a creative standpoint, they were doing things the right way in the sense that none of them were just waiting on the label to take care of things.
$75,000 is a good chunk of change especially if you’re getting it in a lump sum. But $75,000 for all of that work that had been done and would be done in the future doesn’t sound like a fair deal. Especially not when you take into consideration publishing and all that other stuff. During the press conference in Detroit, Ice Cube is asked by one of the journalists about all this money that he’s supposedly making.
Imagine you’re at a pool party, not off in a room somewhere having a meeting but sitting poolside while there is a party going on. And your business advisor is there with a stack of random checks for you to sign. Why couldn’t this wait for Monday? How likely are you to be paying attention to what you’re signing?
Sure, you can trust people but you also have to be cautious and safeguard your interests. Ask questions and verify the responses rather than just blindly putting your faith in this person. Eazy was a bit too trusting. All of the guys were a bit too trusting. Cube was just the first one to smarten up and start asking questions. The other guys might have asked questions but Heller having Eazy in place as a buffer meant that he could run interference and ease the guys’ concerns without even being aware that he was being used.
Dre finally smartens up and takes steps to leave the situation with Heller and Eazy. But instead of hiring a lawyer to find a way out of his contract he once again abdicates responsibility for his business affairs, this time to Suge Knight. It’s just a repetition of what was going on before. The only difference is that Suge is now Heller and Dre is now Eazy E. I guess people have to go through things and learn at their own pace.
I don’t think that any of them had anything to fear, as far as a physical threat from Eazy E. Whatever they might have said to each other on wax, I don’t think they had to fear him personally becoming violent with them. But with these factions forming and other people entering the picture who didn’t have the same connection with the other guys, there is greater potential for things to take a violent turn.
Eazy was a little guy but he had a lot going for himself most important was that he was smart. He had at least some understanding of business, marketing, and promotions. Eazy saw opportunities where other people didn’t.
People say such and such is a drug dealer and would be able to use their street smarts to run a Fortune 500 company. Sure, maybe under different circumstances. But the reality is that business functions and the smarts required are different when you can sort out disagreements with rivals by beating, stabbing, or shooting them. Having to use your mind to outmaneuver them and knowing how to handle things legally is different.
The guys might not have as much money as they should but they’re not in the hood living hand to mouth. Their survival at this point is almost guaranteed. Why would you risk that by killing someone over your hurt ego and pride? So many people are sitting in jail doing years (decades really) over hurt feelings. At the moment it probably felt really important. But looking back on it 30-40 years later it would seem so insignificant. That’s not to say don’t get revenge but rather be smart about it.
The attack on Eazy showed the importance, desperation really, of getting Dre out of his contract. Suge had some vision but was more of a bully than a businessman. If Eazy wanted to be petty he could have tied Dre up in legal red tape. Until Teena Marie fought Motown, artists and albums got put on the shelf and left there to rot all the time. You can often devastate someone by disrupting their career and that’s far better for you than literally trying to kill them.
For example, the other members of NWA came at Ice Cube but instead of cowering or physically striking back he manhandled everyone in one fell swoop with “No Vaseline”. As vulgar and inappropriate as the song might have been, “No Vaseline” was exactly the type of response that Eazy and company deserved. It was one guy against four (arguably five others) and he still managed to punch up everybody.
Conversely, Cube’s temper tantrum at Priority Records was a result of him mismanaging his business affairs. What is it with these guys and this handshake promises nonsense? It’s like nobody is learning their lesson. You just dealt with this situation with Heller and Eazy. Cube should have hired a lawyer to go in and work out his agreement with Priority.
Dre doesn’t look like a little guy but he did look a bit fluffy back then and I don’t buy him beating up all these people. The only people I heard about him tussling with were women. It might be my personal bias but he and Cube had some involvement with Straight Outta Compton and told the story from their perspective. That might have played a role in this depiction of Dre tossing people around Death Row.
I completely believe that Knight was on a power trip and there are countless stories of him doing the most. Knight is a large and physically intimidating guy who used to play football. But some of the stuff that he got away with was a matter of him having money and being surrounded by yes people. These entourages often include random people from around the way who might not have much else going on in their lives. Desperate to be down they’re just itching for an opportunity to show the boss that they’re committed and valuable to the team. So their way of contributing might be beating people up or committing other acts of violence at the least provocation.
It’s said about boxers that you can be a great boxer but if you box long enough, and especially if you face challenging opponents, you are guaranteed to meet someone that has your number. Every fighter who has entered the ring, might not have been knocked out cold but has touched the canvas before. Mike Tyson seemed invincible until he got put down by Buster Douglas. After years of being a bully Suge got knocked out by some random guy in a club. Eventually, you’re going to run into someone who is not afraid of you. But I digress.
This goes back to my earlier point of believing yourself to be so smart to the point where you outsmart yourself. If you’re thinking short-term and taking advantage of your biggest artists, they are going to leave you as was the case with Ruthless Records. If you’re beating up everybody on the label and taking advantage of your artists, they’re only going to be loyal for so long. Conduct yourself professionally and treat people fairly.
Artists can become independent or move to another label. But a label will have problems if it has no artists. The label should be working to keep at least its successful artists happy rather than giving them problems and making them want to leave.
Imagine if instead of being greedy Heller and Eazy had been fair with the members of NWA and they remained with the label. There’s a good chance that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony would have ended up working with Dre as the in-house producer. And Snoop might have ended up there are well. When Cube began to get involved with movies the label and the other guys might have been involved with that as well. But things probably worked out for the best as leaving NWA and Ruthless, pushed the various members out of their comfort zones and made them available for different opportunities.
A good amount of their drama was due to a lack of experience and immaturity. But by the time things settled and they were tentatively on speaking terms again they’d lived a bit. For the most part, there were still missteps but they were married or at least a bit more settled in their personal lives.
I would think that if your bandmate tells you that your business manager is stealing money that although you might be in disbelief, you would take a second look at everything just to be certain and prove them wrong. These guys were so trusting that it took forever for them to get around to doing that. Turns out that even Eazy wasn’t getting the money that he should have been receiving so the problem likely wasn’t a matter of greed on his part but more so being naive.
This is about intellectual property when it comes down to songs and albums. On a huge album, nine times out of ten you’re going to be able to continue eating off the publishing because the songs will get played on the radio and the album will move units. Eazy was complicit but it sounds like Heller was probably taking advantage of all of them. Thus at the very moment that Cube and Dre are re-inventing themselves outside of NWA it seems that Eazy is falling off.
Straight Outta Compton was quite sympathetic to Eazy as he doesn’t come across as the bad guy as much as he seems to just be naive. Instead, Heller is portrayed as being the greedy mastermind pulling strings from behind the scenes. It’s kind of sad.
Eazy is sitting around in his house, a beautiful house, which shows just how far they’ve come. But all of the artists have left his label so he’s not bringing in as much money and is forced to downsize. On the surface that doesn’t seem too bad because he’ll be in a smaller house but still has a roof over his head.
But his situation is even worse than he realizes. After reviewing his and the business’s finances, his wife, Tomica, discovers that not only was Heller taking more than his fair share but he also wasn’t paying bills. Heller robbed everyone else by shorting them on their share of the money but he was especially grimey with Eazy because he left him with the debt of delinquent bills.
People can have differences of opinion. I might like and have a positive relationship with someone that you can’t stand and don’t get along with. This is because the relationship between people can vary. If one person tells you that John is a thief you should probably try to verify but you might be inclined to dismiss the accusation if you haven’t had any issues with John. But if five people around you, especially people you trust, tell you that John is a thief, there’s a good chance that he is a thief. At the very least you should keep an eye on John.
Eazy was around Cube and Dre, guys he called brothers and they were complaining about money and their contracts. Why did it take so long for him to take a closer look at his affairs? It’s important to be loyal but you also have to be smart. Legal language can make contracts difficult to understand so you might have questions. But that’s why you reach out to a lawyer. And you get independent counsel to avoid a conflict of interest if the person presenting the contract also stands to benefit from the contract.
Heller tries to discredit Tomica (and she even questions herself) by pointing out that she doesn’t have experience in the industry. She might not have experience and hasn’t worked in this field. Yet, she was able to figure out that a lot of Eazy’s bills were overdue by just simply sitting down and looking through the paperwork. Regular people read and pay their bills all the time, what would there be for her to misunderstand? Heller was the problem but Eazy being too trusting and reliant on him made it easier for Heller to swindle him and the rest of the group.
He was smart and certainly had potential but seemed to lack confidence in his abilities to manage things. Even in trying to figure out the true nature of his situation, Eazy didn’t sit down and go through his paperwork and bills. Instead, he once again delegated the task to someone else, in this case, Tomica.
Business is business and it needs to be handled as such. There should be no such thing as that someone else is managing your business interests and you never audit anything either personally or with outside independent advisors. Not staying on top of your business is the easiest way to become a target. When people see that you aren’t taking an active interest in the business or that you aren’t looking into the financials and contractual terms, it might motivate them to skim money or try to pull a fast one.
Finally opening his eyes offers Eazy an opportunity to turn things around and handle his business the proper way. Things were looking up as he began working with one of my favorite rap groups, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. There’s also a conversation about the guys getting together and doing another NWA album. Unfortunately, things began turning around for Eazy right when he became ill and passed away at just 30 years old.
Here he was living in this rough neighborhood until about the age of 20. He achieved a degree of success that allowed him to move out of Compton. Even with his financial and career setbacks he had done and was doing quite well for himself. But 10 years of living comfortably doesn’t seem like a long enough amount of time. So many entertainers shine very brightly for a few years or even a decade if they’re lucky. But it’s a brief moment in the grand scheme of things as so many don’t make it past the age of 50 and if they do, they’re shells of their former selves.
On a basic human level, Eazy died when the average person’s life is just getting started. He achieved some success but didn’t live a full life and while he had a lot of kids, he didn’t get to experience the joy of watching them grow up. I’m sure he would have liked to live a longer life.
Sometimes having matured and grown wiser, adults find themselves dealing with the consequences of their actions from when they were immature teens or young adults. By no means am I blaming Eazy for what happened to him because nobody deserves to get HIV, AIDS, or any other illness. How people choose to deal with their illnesses is their right and celebrities shouldn’t be pressured into becoming poster children for a particular disease.
There was ignorance around HIV/AIDS at that time. The inaccurate perception that it was a gay man’s disease, led to a lot of people not wanting to be associated with the disease or not taking necessary precautions. But it was admirable that in his last moments, Eazy publicly revealed that he had the virus and attempted to use it as an opportunity to educate other people.
There were five guys in the group and for at least a time, they were having sexual contact with random women in different cities. Given the number of kids that at least he and Dre would end up having with multiple women, they weren’t using protection. Now I’m no prude and I’m not saying you need to be married at 20 or save yourself for marriage. But you need to be responsibly sexually active.
There’s a lot to be learned here about handling your business. And, unfortunately, some of the topics that they were touching on back in the 80s with regards to the police are still relevant problems today. 30+ years later we’re still having conversations about police brutality and harassment. Though they touched on, enough time wasn’t spent discussing Dre’s problem with alcohol and his violent behavior towards women.
When Straight Outta Compton was released the movie received a lot of attention. In part because it was nostalgic for people who were around back then as well as people who found NWA’s music later or knew the members from other areas of entertainment. It’s a cool movie to watch for just the entertainment. But there is a lot to take away from the story for people in the music industry or other creative industries. Sometimes movies about Black artists can be thrown together haphazardly but this was well put together. F. Gary Gray directed Straight Outta Compton and his projects are usually really good going back to when he used to direct music videos.
Despite Dre and Cube being involved, it seems Straight Outta Compton was fair for the most part in its portrayals. Though there were some things about Dr. Dre that were left out. Ice Cube nor the other guys seemed to be particularly problematic. And Straight Outta Compton extended some grace to Eazy by portraying him as being naive while placing a good deal of the blame on Heller.
I first watched Straight Outta Compton a while after it came out and thought it was good. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around when I was watching it for this review so it has replay value. It’s not quite in my group of movies that I watch every year but it’s a movie that I would watch if I came across it flipping through the channels.
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