When the avid hip-hop listener thinks of the rap group N.W.A, they think of the second track from the group’s debut album, “Straight Outta Compton.” “Fuck Tha Police” expressed a strong opposition for the police in California’s most dangerous inner-cities. It also seemed to foreshadow events to come.
“Straight Outta Compton” was directed by F. Gary Gray, who made the movie “Friday” with N.W.A group member Ice Cube and has collaborated with many musicians on music videos. Actors Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge, Jason Mitchell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. play the founding group members Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Eazy-E, with Jackson playing the role of his father, Ice Cube.
The film follows the group’s influential mark on hip-hop while acknowledging the historical time in Los Angeles that inspired their music’s tone. The movie is set to hit theaters Aug. 14.
This biopic comes at an important time. The events in Ferguson, MO, last year brought to the surface national conversations concerning police perception in black communities. After the death of an unarmed Mike Brown, protests in major cities demanded justice and mutual recognition for black lives.
And incidents between people of color and police, including several in Seattle, have made the viewpoints of N.W.A. all the more relevant 27 years after their double platinum album “Straight Outta Compton” was released.
“What a lot of people don’t realize about N.W.A., it’s non-violent protest,” Ice Cube says in his introduction to the biopic’s trailer.
Hip-hop has always had a significant stake in black activism. For youth these songs have become the new chants and spirituals and the new soundtrack to what they are experiencing.
The political agenda in N.W.A’s music only spoke for what suppressed black communities feel toward police authority. N.W.A was labeled as “gangsta rap” for their stories exposing street culture, but the vulgar language they used in their lyrics only connected to their younger audience and continues to influence political rappers today like Kendrick Lamar.
In Seattle, relationships between black communities and police are also under scrutiny, after Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch came under investigation after the questionable arrest of an elderly black man using a golf club as a walking stick. Later, her racially charged Facebook posts surfaced, and she was put on paid leave.
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Whitlatch is now under investigation by the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability, which handles citizen complaints.
Seattle Police spokesman Det. Drew Fowler said the office assigns investigators to cases brought by the public to establish whether the officers acted appropriately.
He understands a cultural-shift to be responsible for police officers more transparent online presence.
Fowler said that times have changed and officers are still navigating their online voice.
”It’s not super linear because of free speech,” Fowler said.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole is now drafting a social-media policy for officers to follow.