Tonight I was invited to watch a preview of the upcoming movie, “Straight Outta Compton.” Wow… this movie took me back! As I started my August blogathon because it’s my birthday month and around this time of year I get reflective, it’s suiting to go watch a movie that brings us back to the 90’s to relive stories and a time that feels like so much of my own personal history.
So in the 1990’s I grew up in a town called Paramount which just so happens to be the next city over from Compton and the stories that get told in this movie are like legendary tales from around my way. In those days, our high school football team, Paramount Pirates, we’re state champions and Eazy E and MC Ren would show up at the games. I can remember hearing gangsta rap for the first time, they all looked like guys from our neighborhood and the stories they rapped about we’re about things that happened close by, even on our own streets sometimes. I mean, the 90’s we’re the height of gang culture, we all kind of looked like we were in gangs, it was just part of the fashion… baggy pants, flannels, bomber jackets, baseball hats. If you’re from, where we’re from, the gang culture, seeing it, dealing with it was an every day thing. From being bullied by gang members to hanging out with friends that happen to be in gangs to be mistaken by other gang members or cops for being in a gang… it’s just part of life back then… I’m sure it still a part of life for folks in the neighborhood.
And this movie took me back to those times. Sure there were rough moments… but a lot fun times too. Hearing gangsta rap for the first time was something that was exciting and scary at the same time. And knowing that these were guys from around our way was even cooler. It’s like you hear, “so and so is Dr. Dre’s cousin” or “that girl is dating EZ.”
And that era was such a different time in Hollywood. African American culture was everywhere, it was actually more diverse than now in many ways. Hip Hop ruled the pop charts, they’re we’re several Black shows on the network television, from “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” to “Moesha” to “Hangin With Mr. Cooper” and so many more… I was on most of them! The great thing is there was a lot more work in Hollywood for actors of color… myself included. Not only that, there were so many African American movies being made, sometimes I think of them as LA Hood films… again, I was in some of these like, “Fakin Da Funk.”
Yeah, many people know me from mainstream projects like “Hook” or “Avatar the Last Airbender,” but for a whole generation, people from my neighborhood and neighborhoods all over the country remember as part of “Black Hollywood.” I mean, there wasn’t any Asian American projects getting made and not a lot of roles in mainstream or “white” Hollywood, I found work in the Black Community and got to work with some of the greatest artist like Will Smith, Cedric the Entertainer, Michael Jai White, Pam Grier, Brandy and so many more. Sometimes I miss the diversity we used have on television.
Just growing up in LA and seeing all those guys from the movie at parties or clubs back in the day, I mean seeing Tupac by himself at a club just hanging out days before his death or knowing Suge Knight was in the club and trying to stay away from wherever he was because of fear of anything going down around him. It was just great to see this movie made and done right. Bravo to the whole crew and the director F. Gary Gray. Its a great story to see kids from around my way make it and gives me pride, that I too, like them, were one of the “Boyz In the Hood.”