Straight Outta Compton

9 Feb

I watched this trailer for the Straight Outta Compton film with a mix of want and revulsion. I was only a kid during that era, and because of that proximity I couldn’t make sense of it. Everywhere I looked there was hyper-violence and men so masculine they were outlandish.

It occurs to me, years later while watching this trailer, that NWA’s impact was more of a salve. Their music offered an orderly fantasy to the fucked up chaotic hyper-violence of the time. This was on a local level, but on a national level, that was lost. Any sort of national appreciation of NWA veered dangerously towards macho grandstanding. What the hell would anyone at Rolling Stone understand about growing up in Compton? And yet they lauded NWA.

Sissies, trans women, “dykes,” “fags,” that was the worst thing you could be in 80’s nu-violence. Important to point out that gangsta rappers rapping about those types were talking about brown and black queers as a reference point, ie. the local queers, ie: me.

Read between the lines of any homophobic gangsta rap lyric and you’ll see that it’s only the obvious most “rapey” of queers who are unwanted. Hewing closely to Catholicism and mainstream gay acceptance, gangsta rappers were actually pretty simpatico with what most people of that generation felt. If you were in the closet, and cool, you had a pass.

And yet, the impact that NWA had on brown gays must have been astounding. I can’t speak for everyone, but the climate in South-Central LA was noxious, full to the brim with know-it-all gangbangers, wannabe gangbangers, friends of friends of gangbangers. You couldn’t really tell who actually-was-in-a-gang and maybe that was the point. A mob of hyper tough no-faggy scary brown and black folks could maybe fend off the police? Maybe protect the women folk? Maybe carve out a decent but short life in LA? Imagine being gay during all that, and having no money or direction to leave. There is no Weho in Compton or Inglewood for good reason.

Years later and we’re still dogged by this. Still finding each other through the internet, still bearing our straight outta Compton scars, sacrificed by our own people, thrown away into a holy kiln while the rest of the tribe continues to weather the exact same curses blighted onto them from the 80’s.

That trailer was something. That time was something. It wasn’t all bad, it was also home.

More – Black Trans Woman Killed in Compton


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