“You could make five different N.W.A movies. We made the one we wanted to make.”
That’s director F. Gary Gray during an audience Q&A after a recent screening of Straight Outta Compton, the long-awaited N.W.A movie. In our review, Amy Nicholson writes that there’s much more to the group’s story: “It’s as if the story of these real-life legends was so unruly and dangerous that the filmmakers became the cops, forcing it into submission. The true tale of N.W.A won’t be told on film until all of its members are in the grave. Hang on to your Raiders caps, kids of 2070.” That didn’t stop audiences from flocking to the movie on its opening weekend, as it made $56.1 million at the box office.
Here’s a rundown of nine big things the movie leaves out:
9. Dr. Dre’s 1987 Arrest
At the beginning of the film, Dr. Dre is arrested in the parking lot of the Dooto’s for defending his younger brother Tyree. In reality, Dre was arrested for thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets for his Mazda RX7. This happened often enough that Dre was already in debt to Dooto owner Lonzo Williams, who typically helped Dre pay bail. Finally, Williams refused to help Dre come up with another $900. Instead, Dre called Eazy-E. At least the next scene of Straight Outta Compton is true enough: Eazy-E bailed Dre out of jail and the two agreed Dre would produce tracks for Eazy-E to work off what he owed him. As part of his repayment, Dre produced, along with DJ Yella, “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” Eazy-E’s debut single. And thus, rap legends — true and false — were made.
8. No One Went to Eazy’s Funeral Except Yella
Eric Wright’s headstone at Rose Hill cemetery is hard to find, but during his funeral so were members of N.W.A. Only Antoine Carraby, a/k/a DJ Yella, reportedly attended, and was a pallbearer for Wright’s casket. Straight Outta Compton is careful to suggest that the members of N.W.A had mostly reconciled by the time of Eazy-E’s diagnosis, much less his death.
7. Eazy’s Seven Kids
When he died of AIDS in April 1995, Wright reportedly had seven children from six women. This is in keeping with the movie’s vagueness about the consequences of unprotected sex. Even after Eazy-E’s diagnosis, Straight Outta Compton has nothing to say on the topic. Eazy-E at first argues with the doctor that he couldn’t possibly test positive, as he’s no “fag.” The doctor assures him he has, but the movie still presents HIV as a random and out-of-nowhere stroke of bad luck.
6. Eazy-E’s Foreclosure
In the film, Eazy-E loses his house as karmic payback for trusting Jerry Heller instead of going independent like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Fiction, according to Phyllis Pollack, the publicist for the Straight Outta Compton album. Pollack went on to work with Eazy-E for several years before his death and insists that the rapper died with approximately $30 million in the bank. There are no news reports of Eazy-E’s house going through foreclosure before his death. His widow Tomica Wright did lose her 6,700-square-foot Calabasas mansion in 2012 when she could no longer afford the mortgage payments. However, the ten-year-old home was purchased new in 2005 — at the time of Eazy-E’s death, it wasn’t even built.
5. Dre’s Video Feud with Eazy
Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day,” featuring Snoop Dogg, was released in May of ’93, and features the premiere of “Sleazy-E,” a caricature of Eazy-E, who fumbles through life post-N.W.A, looking for new rappers for his label, “Useless Records.” Eazy-E responded in August with the video for “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s,” which referenced “Dre Day” in a bizarre way: Eazy-E and his crew run down and apparently kill the “Sleazy-E” caricature — he’s seen face-down along the freeway at the end. “Dre Day” was the song that won the chart match-up: It peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100, while Eazy-E’s song only hit No. 42. The two videos seem even more similar now, 22 years later. It’s not just the standard-def, sun-soaked shots of either rapper, backed by a few hundred supporters/people there to party. The skits featuring Sleazy-E provide a basic narrative for each video; likewise, each rapper seems genuinely hurt by the actions of the other. Dre’s rhyme of “Used to be my homie, used to be my ace” is met with this from Eazy: “And now you think you’re bigger/But to me you ain’t nothing but a bitch-ass n——.”
4. Michel’le Toussaint
R&b singer Michel’le Toussaint, the squeaky-voiced singer of the 1989 hit “No More Lies,” is name-checked once in the film, glossing over her importance in Dre’s life. Toussaint began dating her labelmate Dre in ’89, the year her self-titled album went double-platinum on Ruthless Records. Toussaint stayed with Dre for seven years and agreed to follow him by switching labels from Ruthless to Death Row. In 1991, she gave birth to their son Marcel, which put a halt to her career. After Toussaint and Dre split in 1996, she spoke out about his physical abuse: a broken nose, several black eyes, and a near-miss when Dre attempted to shoot a bullet through a bathroom door. “I did five videos and we had to cover three black eyes,” Toussaint told Wendy Williams in 2014. She later became romantically involved with Suge Knight in 1999; the two have a daughter named Balei.
3. Vanilla Ice
In an excerpt from Welcome to Death Row, a memoir of the rap record label published in the LA Weekly, a musician named Mario Johnson, who went by the name of Chocolate and who worked with Suge Knight, was frustrated he wasn’t being paid for his contributions to Ice’s hit song “Ice Ice Baby.” Johnson and Knight visited Ice at his hotel room as a way of sorting it out, where Knight convinced Ice to invest in Death Row Records. The myth is that Knight dangled Ice from the balcony, but Ice says not so fast: “He didn’t hang me off from any balcony, OK? The story’s been kind of blown out of proportion, and I want to clarify that Suge and I have no bad feelings towards each other.” Nonetheless, it remains a fascinating story about the discredited white rapper who funded Suge and Dr. Dre’s record label, willingly or not.
2. The Detroit Arrest
The Detroit Free Press dug into its archives to get the truth on this story, which in the movie seems to portray the group as First Amendment champions standing up to bullying cops during a 1989 concert in Detroit when they finally attempted to perform “Fuck tha Police” live. The true motives weren’t quite as clear, though: As Ice Cube told a British talk show host in 2014: “We agreed to [not perform ‘Fuck tha Police’ on tour] until we got mad at the promoter. We were like, ‘Tonight we’re going to do that song.’” He continued: “We saw the whole Detroit police department rush the stage. They threw fireworks and stuff onstage. We took off running. Some guys ran out of the arena, to the hotel. They corralled us, arrested us all, and all they wanted was damn autographs for their daughters and sons.” In the film, N.W.A are arrested in front of the auditorium and the crowd nearly starts a riot. However, in reality the group weren’t arrested until they made it back to the hotel. Reportedly, the police waited in the lobby until N.W.A went down to gather up that night’s groupies, and then calmly made their arrests.
1. Dee Barnes
In November 1990, Pump It Up!, the rap television show hosted by Dee Barnes on Fox, ran a segment on N.W.A that spliced in footage of a previous interview the show had done with Ice Cube, who had by then acrimoniously left the group over money disputes. N.W.A were furious. Dre saw Barnes at a nightclub in January 1990 and, according to a statement by Barnes published in 1991 in Rolling Stone, “began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway” and “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” In an interview after the incident, MC Ren told a journalist, “she got beat down. The host of that show did something that she knows she did, and got beat down, and I hope it happen again.” In a recent interview with Rolling Stone ahead of the movie’s release, Dre was asked about it and said, “I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life. I was young, fucking stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true — some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.” Meanwhile, director Gray said this during an audience Q&A after being asked about the “glaring omission” of Dee Barnes: “We had to focus on the story that was pertinent to our main characters.”
Now go read Dee Barnes’ first-person account on Gawker: “Here’s What’s Missing From Straight Outta Compton: Me and the Other Women Dr. Dre Beat Up”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 18, 2015
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