This is the first time I have ever loved a movie, but also hated it almost as much. In a rare moment of indecisiveness, it was a tough call to decide to give this a "thumbs-up" or a "thumbs-down" because of the numerous conflicting messages. There are two sides of this coin.
First Side of the Coin: Motivation
Hustle Despite Overwhelming Odds: Everyday was a struggle in the lives of NWA. When they walked outside their door the obstacles they had to navigate were tremendous including police brutality, drugs, and constant violent activity. Despite these odds they recognized that it was illegal to sell drugs and commit violent crimes, but it wasn't illegal to rap about them. The stars that "made it" were constantly working on their craft. Ice Cube was constantly writing poetry and Dre was always in the studio making beats. All of NWA spent hour upon hour in the studio making music. This habit turned hobby brought them off the streets and on to fame. An unwavering work ethic is a key component of every success story.
Principled Activism: When the US Government decided to campaign against the "F&$K The Police" song and get it banned, the group huddled together to take a stand with the First Amendment supporting their position. When the Detroit Police Department were given the order to not allow the group to play the song and they played it anyways, it should have been a proud moment for those strict interpreters of the Constitution. These youth were not going to allow their First Amendment rights to be stripped away.
Business Intelligence: The business IQs of all were extremely high. Easy-E was a marketing genius. He knew exactly how to put this "reality music" into the eyes of the public and knew how to "pimp" the US Government. Had they not made NWA into a public enemy they wouldn't have received as much exposure. The attempted ban of the music was truly a "golden egg" when it comes to marketing...Easy-E knew exactly how to exploit the opportunity.
Ice Cube understood his true value/potential, and was able to walk away from a $75,000 check. Dr. Dre did the same eventually when he was fiscally able to afford to make the leap into independence. Their business acumen stayed with them throughout their careers and they have both been able to amass a high level of wealth for themselves.
Second Side of the Coin: Miseducation
Now we come to the part of the movie that makes it one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and it is an entirely moral argument. Yes, NWA was extremely successful, but at what cost to the Black community?
• The music that was purchased by so many glorified a lifestyle that was illegal, reprehensible, and immoral.
• The success of the few in NWA represents a very small fraction of those who have chosen to live this lifestyles' success. Most who sell drugs and live the sort of violent lifestyle they promoted end up strung out, in prison, or dead.
• The misogynistic treatment of women in the movie was sickening. There was a scene when Ice Cube pushed a woman by the head outside of the hotel room naked while saying, "Bye Felicia". The audience erupted in laughter and all I could do was shake my head. They didn't even insert the worst actions of Dr. Dre's into the movie, but in my opinion what they showed was more than bad enough for me to get the picture...they could care less about Black women.
• The one Bible verse that consistently rang in my head was "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" Mark 8:36
The mixed emotions were riding high as I walked away from the theater feeling great that I supported a minority movie, but awful that I just contributed to a message of misogyny and genocide. As a conscious, awake, and educated Black man I was able to decipher the good from the bad in this movie. I was able to discern the components where I could derive motivation, and disregard the components of destructive, irresponsible "miseducation". However, regretfully, I don't have that much faith in my community's current state that most are able to make the same discernment. Where I will take the work ethic of Ice Cube and apply it to being relentless in writing more books or finding other means to empower my community; I know full well there are many more who look at the lifestyle of Ice Cube/Dr. Dre/Easy-E, relate perfectly to it, and think, "See...if he can live the life of a gangster and make it then I can too!"
I have worked with many gang members in my day, continue to do so, and can attest to the brilliance within many of them I have encountered. This movie speaks to that brilliance. However, while I recognize the motivation of those of the street that I work with, my purpose is to address the "miseducation" and provide them with a tangible pathway to make an honest and legal lifestyle. So as someone who can recite most lyrics on most NWA albums; all lyrics on every song on the first two Ice Cube solo albums; and felt as if this movie was more of a walk down memory lane as I followed the groups closely from their inception on...I have to recognize that somewhere along the way I grew up, now know what is important, and give this movie a thumbs down. I love my community too much to give it otherwise and to condone this sort of poison. As this movie is the number one grossing biopic in history, we all (myself included because I bought a ticket too) have some growing up to do. I hope we can all agree to praise the motivation, but work together to fix the "miseducation" of our troubled youth.
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:11-13