5 LIFE LESSONS YOU CAN LEARN FROM N.W.A

Straight Outta Compton has been on the tip of the nation’s tongue, since it debuted on August 17.  After raking in over $170 million and debuting at number one for three weeks in a row the notorious group has maintained its media presence for various reasons.  Whether you praise NWA for speaking out against police brutality or you shun them for their misogynistic lyrics, there is a lot to learn from the most dangerous group.  Below are 5 lessons in street knowledge N.W.A has taught us in their song titles alone.

“Gangsta Gangsta”- Being assertive and confident is a key to success.  NWA taught us this when they went head to head with the police at a concert in Detroit.  Officers warned the crew not to perform their hit F— the police, due to its racially charged violent lyrics against authority.  Luckily, the boys knew their rights and performed the hit anyway. While they were arrested and hit with a fine, it was a pivotal moment in Hip Hop.

“Fuck tha police”- There will always be someone who bets against you in life but you can’t let that stop you.  For N.W.A MTV was another thorn in their side.  N.W.A was initially rejected by MTV and had to fight to have their music video in rotation.  The group’s persistence is what ultimately got their video air time, despite earlier reviews that their video was too violent.  In reality, the group was simply reporting on the relationship between Black civilians and police in Compton, a reality that mainstream media neglected.

“Cash Money”- Financial Literacy is imperative for everyone.  Ice Cube understood this concept when he walked away from a $75,000 check given to him by the group’s manager Jerry Hiller.  Cube understood his worth and that he was being underpaid.  He knew that in business and life that the first offer is not always the best offer.

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“Express Yourself” – Expression is a powerful tool.  You may never reach your fullest potential without exerting self-expression.  N.W.A flourished by being genuine and encouraged others to do the same.  During a time when the nation neglected Compton, N.W.A used their platform to encourage people to never be ashamed of who they are or where they come from.

“Alwayz Into Something”-  Never keep all your eggs in one basket, most successful people have several sources of income.  N.W.A patented this mantra.  Easy E went from being the super star in the group to signing other big acts from Snoop Dog, Bones Thugs and Harmony and Tupac.  Ice cube invested his money into TV and film, while Dr. Dre became the first billionaire in Hip Hop after selling his headphones Beats by Dre to Apple.

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OBVIOUS DISPARITIES ALL MAJOR OUTLETS NEGLECTED IN MINAJ VS SWIFT BEEF !

I respect Nicki Minaj. She has steadily carried HipHop on her back for over six years and continues to make history as a female lyricist.  My fixation with Onika goes back to the days when the motif of her hair resembled curly fries and every girl on Facebook coined the last name Minaj. So when a beef erupted between the queen MC and pop princess Taylor Swift, I was at the forefront of the #teamnicki squad, ready to bust guns at anyone who would dare speak ill of the Queen. Then I realized that not only was Nicki wrong, but the only award she should have been nominated for was ‘Donkey of The Day’ by radio personality Charlemagne the god.

Nicki Minaj (L) Taylor Swift (R)

Nicki Minaj (L) Taylor Swift (R)

Minaj was flabbergasted after learning Taylor’s video for ‘Bad Blood’ was nominated for Video of the Year, but her video for ‘Anaconda’ was not. Nicki, Nicki, Nicki…I don’t mean to stop you, but ‘Bad Blood’ was a better video than ‘Anaconda’. The visual for ‘Bad Blood’ was action packed and reeked of girl power. The cameos featured a host of A-list actresses like Zendaya Coleman , Lena Dunaham, and Mariska Hargitay. On the other hand, the premise behind Anaconda was big booties twerking—a narrative that is overdone and has become synonymous with rap videos.

nicki minaj anaconda video grab.

Nicki Minaj ‘Anaconda’ video grab.

As far as numbers are concerned, ‘Bad Blood’ dethroned ‘Anaconda’ by having the most views on Vevo in 24hrs.

Taylor Swift 'Bad Blood' video

Taylor Swift ‘Bad Blood’ video

During her Twitter rhetoric, the head Barb made a pointed remark saying: “I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.” The “Beez in the Trap” rapper has won the BET award for Best Female in Hip Hop five years in a row. BET has been a beacon in showcasing Black talent.  Meanwhile, MTV is a network notorious for capitalizing on Black art, but often forgetting to acknowledge its impact on pop culture.  I’m perplexed as to why artists still urn for MTV accolades.  They were once the standard in music videos but now their programming has been reduced  to Teen Mom and Sixteen and Pregnant reruns.

 If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year” says Minaj.  To add insult to injury, Beyoncè WAS nominated for Best Video of The Year for the “711” visual, a video shot using solely an iPhone 6. Beyoncè has been representing for the curvy girls since before it was a fad. Minaj, on the other hand, has that very slim frame she spoke out against. So I can’t help but wonder about her thoughts regarding girls like Kelly Mayhew and a slew of others who have fallen to their demise at the hands of doctors after trying to achieve a curvalicious figure and a plumbed derrière—a shape that even Nicki couldn’t even achieve naturally.

Beyonce-'711' video

Beyonce-‘711’ video

Recently, Nick was featured on Good Morning America. When asked about her Twitter quarrel, Nick coyly made funny faces and redirected the focus to a conversation she had with Swift in which Swift apologized for missing Nicki’s “bigger picture” .

In contrast, it was Nicki who missed the bigger picture. Now, I don’t expect Nick Nak  to save the world or become a crime stopping Shero, but she projected her frustration in the wrong direction. Black people face discrimination not only in music but every day and if someone is gong to speak out against it I need their voice to be strong and confident.  Making animated faces like Nicki did won’t cut it.  Systematic racism, appropriation and racial biases are all relevant to the spat, but Onika failed to chime in on any of those issues.

Nicki Minaj is a phenomenal entertainer and extremely intelligent, but it worries me that the only time she pulls the race card is for self-gain.  I would rather she simply rap and dance for me, and not speak out like an activist who utilizes Black Twitter. During her interview I was rooting for her to utilize her black girl magic for good and say something or anything that would resonate with America, but she dropped the ball like a hot potato. As I watched Nicki pop and gyrate in front of hundreds of screaming tweens and teens, I was frustrated and heartbroken. I instantly thought of a quote I heard by the late Great  Nina Simone.  Now while we all can’t be as free and fearless and as Aunty Nina her words from that clip made  chills run up my spine.  It was as if she was speaking to our generation specifically when she said  “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times”?

Through A Lens Darkly

This is a oldie but goodie I wrote for the legendary Amsterdam News.

THROUGHLENSD_Shareable_01A-copy_t580Every photo tells a story. But in a world of Instagram and Pinterest, we tend to look at a photo for its face value. That’s what Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and The Emergence of a People resonates.The film takes an intimate look at the progression of a people through a series of still photos.

This documentary is first of its kind to explore the role of photography in African American culture. The film takes its audience on a journey and depicts the African American experience in America from slavery to the present. “This is something to be passed down to the next generation, a passing of the baton that will include their stories and their photographs,” said film maker Thomas Allen Harris, at a screening last week at the City College Campus.

Harris uses his film as a medium to reintroduce professional and images from various family photo albums to shape the identity of Blacks and display our aspirations. Professional photos shot by photographers such as Roy DeCarva and Anthony Barboza among others appeared throughout the film. While these men used the camera as their tool to tell not only Black history but also American history, they are seldom recognized in main stream American.

Black women also played a huge role in the game of photography. Vera Jackson and Louise E. Jefferson helped raise African American awareness in media. They were also responsible for capturing some of America’s greatest talents from Dorothy Dandridge to Jackie Robinson.

Harris explains the entire project took 10 years to complete and he raised $150,000 to support the project. He felt a responsibility to complete the film despite the long haul. “I’m a finisher…and I have an amazing team, there were a lot of people who were counting on this project.”

The film maker noted that some of the images made him upset, and he was angry when he started making the film. “I had to learn to forgive and go to a real deep place of compassion, he said. I had to remember who I made this film for. I made this film for young people of color, and I don’t want to communicate just anger to them.”

Harris is working to get this film into high schools and grammar schools. He is passionate about educating the next generations on their history. Currently, Thomas is working on a narrative feature about an immigrant woman and her family. To keep up with Harris and learn more about Through A Lens Darkly visit http://www.1world1family.me.