There was no gangsta rap when “Killing in the Name” was first released. There were no radio stations in Detroit for the ’80s, and no radio station in the US for the ’60s and ’70s. So, for the first time, the whole idea of being a musician was out of reach — the idea of being a “street person,” as the music was called in those times. Even if an audience wasn’t familiar with music outside of their own circle, they would be able to hear it in that scene and connect to it. And the Detroit scene came out of the chaos and the anger, the frustration and the anger at the time.
If you look at gangsta rap in the ’80s, it is the last era of the culture. The people, the people in this film, were at the turning point where it could be heard. And the people here were looking for a way to express this rage that they felt. This was at a time when you have young kids being told “you are a bad person” and then you have a music scene where everybody can relate and feel validated. And “Killing in the Name” is the end result of the way we expressed this rage.
What makes the scene in the film like the scene on “The Wire” or “Beverly Hills 90210”?
You have an ensemble cast where everyone has their own set personality and you have these groups of people in Detroit who are friends. That is the “Wizard of Oz.” But there’s also this sense of freedom. These kids are not in the hood anymore. There are no more crime in this environment. Everybody knows everyone’s back and everybody’s back is against you. You can tell because a few people are like “fuck you.” You have to stand up and talk about your feelings and you have to stand up for yourself and say things.
It is also a world of music. You also get these different influences, these groups that come from different backgrounds and different cultural backgrounds, but they are all connected. There are rappers from all over — like Ice Cube — and a great deal of the music being made these days is not the “gangsta” music but is in the form of rap as a whole and it is this idea of making the music, that this is our version of the music. And it is about being able to do that and be heard.
I know you have some ideas on an album that you
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