"Straight Outta Compton": An Interview About The Movie With Panama Jackson

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

(Full disclosure: I saw the movie for free a few nights ago. But I was not asked to nor paid to convince you to see this movie. I think you should because I love NWA and Black films.)


VSB: Hey Panama, so we noticed you requested to do an interview…with yourself…about the movie Straight Outta Compton, opening in theatres tomorrow, August 14th. We found this request odd, even though we have to accomodate it. Were you in the movie?

PJ: No.

VSB: Okay. Did you help produce, create, write, or grip something?

PJ: #ornah

VSB: I see. So why exactly are we interviewing you about this movie?

PJ: Because I saw it and felt like interviewing myself about it. Niggas get interviewed everyday, b.

VSB: I see. That makes no sense, but then again, half the people who read the shit you write feel that way about you so I guess this is right in line with the whole PJ experience. Where's Damon when you need him?

PJ: Probably on Melissa Harris Perry again talking about the point where Drake became the hardest rapper in the game. That Damon, he loves Drake. And Deltas. And Detroit. You know how Rick Ross had the Triple CCCs? Damon has the Triple DDDs. Which is possibly a triple entendre.

VSB: How?

PJ: Don't even ask me how. I believe you were going to interview me about the movie. Can we get to that; I'm on a tight schedule.


VSB: BUT YOU SET THIS U…fuck it. So, Panama, before we get into specifics - no spoilers, though I'm not sure how you spoil a biopic where all of the information is available online - what was your overall take on the film?

PJ: First of all, let me thank my connect, the most important person with all due respect. I saw it on Tuesday night after you (VSB and by default, myself) gave away a shit load of passes to folks to see it ahead of its theatrical release. Word to David Oyewelo as audiobook James Bond, which I didn't even know was a thing, they had security at the theater and a nigga got wanded down. At a movie screening. In 2015. In Silver Spring, Maryland.


With that being said, gotDAMN that movie was great. And not in the, "it's about my favorite rap group so I'm biased" but in the, wow, this movie was well executed from top to bottom. The writing was great. The attention to authentic conversation was real. The acting was great. The production value was high. Some of the songs from Dr. Dre's new album, Compton, were in the movie, because of course they were, and they sound SO much better in context of the movie, like "Talking To My Diary" one of the standout tracks on the album, to me at least, sounds WAY better now after hearing it in the movie. Ice Cube's, O'Shea Jackson, Jr., was scary in that role because of how good he played his dad. Look, I've seen a lot of movies. And I know the story of NWA, but if you weren't interested in NWA before hand, go see this movie and I promise you'll become a new fan of the group for at least 15 minutes until you up their albums on Spotify and hear them talking about raping and murdering women. It was that good.

VSB: Sounds like you liked it. Is that what I'm hearing?

PJ. Bruh. Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it? I loved it. And it seems like everybody else did too. At these screenings, you can usually gauge the response by two things: 1) folks actual response when they leave the theater and the response afterwards was overwhelmingly positive. The words "yo, that shit was great" were heard a lot; and 2) the amount of people who decide - after a movie - to take pictures with the movie poster. After this movie, there was a fucking line…listen to me when I say this to you…a fucking line to take a picture…with a movie poster. Folks want you to know they saw this dope ass movie so you know them joints were on IG and FB within minutes. Because it's hot and they were on that hotness before you.


VSB: What made it so good to you? I hear you loved it but, why? Why? And do not tell me that's its human nature.

PJ: I see you trynna style on me, son. So let's start at the beginning. F. Gary Gray. My man's directorial chops were on a hundred, thousand, trillion and you can tell he cared. In fact, you can tell that everybody involved, from the producers - Cube, Dre, and Tomica Woods-Wright (Eazy-E's widow) - to the actors gave a shit. They wanted to tell as good a story as possible and boy is it good. Look, the first two minutes of the movie, might be the two realest minutes in a movie ever. That's a bit hyperbolic, but you knew you were in for a hell of a ride from jump. Compton was real in the 80s. Shit, Compton is probably real now. But it was real real in the 80s. And you know I mean it because I said 'real' twice. These five guys - plus Arabian Prince who is TOTALLY absent from the movie, I wonder how he feels about that - were some niggas trying to come up in some of the worst shit ever and pulled it off with their amazing talents and some early business acumen of Eazy E.


Also - and I'd love to hear how MC Ren and DJ Yella feel about the movie -  it was largely the Eazy, Cube, and Dre story. And their stories are good ones. Which if we're being honest, makes sense. I own Ren's albums, but most people don't know jack shit about Ren or Yella, even though Ren was a SUPREMELY slept on MC. And Yella either doesn't get enough credit or lucked up and was totally in the right place at the right time. As far as I know, he was just a decent DJ and a less than good producer. The cat who played Dre was great in that role. Same with Eazy. Yella was fucking hilarious. And Ren, well, he did Ren things. You know how folks loved The Five Heartbeats? It was that good, but better.

It gives you the beginning, the Ruthless years, the Death Row years, Cube's albums, the laws, the city of Compton, gangs, clubs, The D.O.C….pretty much the everything yo. It gives you the everything. Well most of the everything.


VSB: That's some pretty high praise you're lobbing there. Chris Paul called, he wants his oop back.

PJ: I ain't lyin' fam. It was funny, and sad, and enlightening, and dope, and treaded a lot of current ground with the state of relations between the Black community and the police today. The more shit changes, the more it stays the same apparently.


What was interesting, too, is that, even as a superfan, I never really took the time to think about how they were just 5 kids from the hood at one point. The movie does a really good job digging into their early relationship and showing that even through the beef, the love and respect was always there. Business was business, but these niggas were friends first and it seems like even through the fuckshit, that never truly changed. Dre and Cube have touched on that in numerous interviews since Eazy died in 1995, but seeing it on screen helped to truly crystallize it. And made for some very touching AND comical moments.

Also, Eazy was hilarious. I was already a fan, this movie turned that up a few notches. I kind of really miss Eazy E now. His personality was NWA, and that shit shines through more than ever.


VSB: I hear they gloss over their supreme misogyny.

PJ: Well of course they do. The niggas who got it made are the actual rappers. These guys were some pretty terrible human beings if you judge them by their musical output. The movie makes you think it was mostly a charade and life started to imitate art. That their rampant misogyny, while not excusable, seemed more for show than anything. But there were strong women behind all of these niggas. Point is, if you're telling your own story, you're going to get real liberal with some facts. Hell, if I'm telling the VSB story you better believe there are going to be some years I gloss over and years that look better than they were. Also there would be lots of drinking, strippers and shenanigans in the VSB Story: The PJ Version.


VSB: Wouldn't that just be the actual story?

PJ: No comment, fam. No comment. Speaking of which, because it's NWA, there's lots of titties and ass. Because NWA. You know there's something else I want to add about how good it was to me. You remember last year how folks thought Selma got snubbed at the Oscars (it did). I think Straight Outta Compton is better. This movie was good enough, to me, to garner some serious attention during award season. Maybe not for any individual performances, but overall movie? This shit was banoodles good. If it gets snubbed. LA in 1992.


VSB: Those sound like fighting words, b.

PJ: I will hit you with a left, then hit you with a right. Or right, left, right, left your toothless. Gangsta, gangsta.


VSB: So you recommend everybody go see it?

PJ: Man, you are a shitty interviewer. I've been saying that for paragraphs. Yes. A thousand times yes. I'm even going to go pay to see it again. I loved it. And I think that as a movie, most folks will like it too. Even if you hate NWA and all they stand for, and that's fair, you'd still probably enjoy the movie.


VSB: Okay. I'm tiring of you and this interview. Any parting shots?

PJ: Support Black films, yo. Support Black films. And, we want Eazy! Oh, and fuck the police.


VSB: Thanks. Let's not do this again.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



Not to be a hater on your favorite rap group, because I get this is really about you.
But take a break from you for moment.

As a little dark-skinned black girl coming of age at N.W.A's peak influence (and trying to hide a developing Coke bottle figure under 90s-era baggie jeans), N.W.A. terrified me. Like, really gave me a lot of anxiety. Not just because they taught every male 12-40 in my neighborhood to call me a "bitch," a "hoe," mutter, "She swallowed it…" even though I was a virgin. They also taught me that engaging in any form of sex automatically made me less valuable as a human being. N.W.A. taught me that my body came with shame, and that the men in my community had the right to make me ashamed of it. I listened to Niggaz4Life then, and it still brings back bad childhood memories.

I'm not asking for you to apologize on N.WA.'s behalf or for your love for them. Go'on do your thang. But we're talking about the legacy of N.W.A., and shoehorning in their misogyny like it's an empty gripe. I feel like 10 years from now, we'll be talking about the misogyny of Tupac, Biggie and Snoop Dogg; 10 years from that Cash Money Click and Eminem; and in 20 years from that Chance The Rapper and Tyler the Creator…

At some point, it can't just be an empty gripe.

I'm getting tired of being a hip hop fan, and constantly getting the short-end of the historical stick. Moreso, I'm getting tired of being told to stand down because I'm harshing someone else's nostalgic buzz. Many are here to use this space for nostalgia and a reminder of N.W.A's political and cultural impact. And I think the subtext is somewhat of a reminder that the reality of the drug epidemic and police brutality had too many black male victims. That's all understandable and with merit.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche talks about the danger of a single story. When you only hear or read about one story of any group of people, another part of their story isn't told. When we talk about 80s and 90s-era crime and police brutality (or really any era, anywhere) and talk about it exclusively through the lens of black men, black girls and women are seen not victims as well. We were also victims of police brutality, drug addiction, and incarceration. But on top of that, those of us (like yours truly) who weren't jailed, pregnant, or drug-addicted were stigmatized by proximity; stigmas that are still with me today.

I'm absolutely certain you already know everything I'm writing about. Now, you can back to you.