Surviving Compton tells of Michel'le's abusive relationship with Dr. Dre and later Suge Knight while also being the (unofficial) first lady of Ruthless Records. If you know anything of Michel'le, you'll know she has a really high pitched, baby voice but a singing voice that rivals the best. Ruthless Records produced her self titled debut album and songs like "No Lies," "Nicety" and "Something in My Heart" which - after watching this movie, I will never be able to listen to the same - were chart toppers, putting Michel'le on the map for everybody currently over the age of 30.
I, for one, am happy that Michel'le decided to tell her side of the story in the form of this biopic. This movie was, in a sense, an answer to Straight Outta Compton which would have you believe that women didn't play any part in NWA's lives outside of birthing babies and quietly standing around. The entire time I watched Straight Outta Compton, I wondered if there was going to be some honest portrayal of the men in the film - especially Dr. Dre - who had a history of beating women. The situation with Dee Barnes, was especially well-known and Michel'le hasn't exactly been quiet about the abuse she faced at his hands. If anything, the fact that Michel'le's story was entirely left out of SOC spoke volumes, in my opinion.
Anywho, Surviving Compton is not exactly subtle in telling you what it's going to be about. From the first two minutes, you get an idea that Michel'le is going to be experiencing the same kind of violence that she witnessed the women in her neighborhood receiving as a child. She meets Dr. Dre as a teenager and although the relationship is puppy-love at first, it quickly degenerates into physical and mental abuse. On top of this, the man has a terrible drinking problem and a number of kids that he conceived with other women while in a relationship with Michel'le. The movie shows that she put up with a lot of shit but Michel'le (who serves as the movie's narrator) also makes sure to tell us why she accepted this terrible treatment for so many years.
Later, Michel'le leaves Dr. Dre only to get with f*king Suge Knight, y'all. Talk about jumping from the pot into the frying pan. At first things were cool. Suge is actually even a stable presence in Michel'le's life, providing her with help and support at all of the right times. But again everything goes right down the drain as Suge becomes controlling, putting Michel'le into a kind of house arrest and then eventually beating her and landing her in the hospital. Remember, Suge was a 6'2" defensive end for the LA Rams. This woman was taking hits from men that most men couldn't even handle.
As much as I thought I knew of Michel'le's situation, nothing could have prepared me for what was shown in this movie. Domestic violence will never be something that I - or anyone, for that matter - should get used to. And to be threatened, controlled and abused on a regular basis by the person who claims to love you, must be extremely devastating.
Unfortunately, there are people out there that believe that a person's being beat up by their partner is acceptable depending on what the victim did to "provoke" that kind of abuse. I've seen people explain that Michel'le deserved to be beat because of her relationship with Suge Knight, Dr. Dre's rival - as if she's a possession that belonged to either one of those men.
One thing that's worth a thought is that while we were listening to Michel'le belting her heart out with "Something in My Heart" she was having some of the worst days of her life. And while Dre was making music to keep our heads ringing, he was one of the shittiest human beings on planet earth. And probably still is... who knows? (It's not too much of a leap to know that Suge Knight was out in these streets thuggin, though).
Being that I don't have any interest in buying Beats by Dre, I can't say that I plan on boycotting the man. I'm a billion dollars too late as it is, but it does make me think about separating the artist from the art. A subject that's come up quite recently, especially with Nate Parker's recent controversy surrounding his rape allegations that re-surfaced right before the release of his movie Birth of a Nation. But that's another subject for another blog.
So with that said, I'm happy that this story was told. Of course, being that it is a Lifetime movie, there are a few exaggerations. But with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight's receipts in terms of violence and other nefarious shenanigans, Michel'le's claims of being abused is not exactly a farfetched story. And so she survived her traumatic relationships and lived to tell the story, which is not something to be taken for granted. Hopefully, her story will become synonymous with Ruthless Records, Death Row Records and all things NWA. She's definitely earned it.