Long ago, before hip-hop became this mainstream thing that crossed lines of race and gender, it was considered “black” music. I know … I know—weird. But kind of true. For example, back at my little, 99-percent white high school in Mahopac, N.Y., very few of my classmates knew much of rap besides Run DMC and, perhaps, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Nope, it was a world of Def Leppard and Madonna and Phil Collins and Michael Jackson and the Go Gos and the like. Rap? Um, no.
There were, of course, a few of us white kids who dug the sounds of the Fat Boys and KRS One. But we were rare (I vividly remember bringing in a copy of Big Daddy Kane’s “I Get the Job Done” to our senior dance, and begging the DJ to play it. He did—and the floor cleared in a matter of seconds). As for the music of NWA? Well, it just wouldn’t fly. Niggaz With Attitudes? Many people I knew (or at least their parents) used the word “nigger”—and it wasn’t a term of endearment.
So here we are, in 2015, and the terrific NWA film, “Straight Outta Compton,” drops in a week. I had the pleasure of seeing an advanced screening last night (Here’s my review), and afterward Christopher John Farley—my friend and an excellent writer—debated whether the movie will do well. He believes it’ll gross tons and tons of money. Big names (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop, Tupac, Suge, etc), legendary group, supreme music, nostalgia galore.
I’m less optimistic.
Why? Because I just don’t see white audiences flocking to a film about a rap entity that didn’t really register in their lives. Or, put different, there just aren’t that many of us (white suburbanites) who lived and died with NWA. Run DMC? Maybe. Jackson? Definitely. NWA? Eh …
Now, does that kill a film? If every African-American moviegoer catches “Straight Outta Compton,” sans large-scale white interest, does it still rake in major coin? I actually don’t know.
But I sure hope so.