Editor’s Note: this article appears in the Winter 2016 print edition of Hexagon. -Matt
Using its first public screening (July 21st, 2015 @ 7:30 pm in Philadelphia) as its date of birth, the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton has its Sun (identity) in Cancer (sign of family) and Moon (needs) in Libra (sign of melodies, justice). The film documents the rise and fall of an ad-hoc family (Cancer) of rappers best remembered for justice minded melodies (Libra) so controversial they drew the ire of everybody from the FBI and Focus on the Family to Oprah Winfrey and Tipper Gore. It’s one of the most anticipated musical biopics in history and, as coincidence would have it, astrologer Linda Goodman describes the biographical arc of the Cancer/Libra pairing in distinctly musical terms. In her 1978 book Love Signs she writes:
. . . for a while this can be a melodious scene. Libra adores laughter and the humor of Cancer becomes a rhythmical lyric to the mellow music of Libra’s Venus essence, smooth and restful at times, yet also containing crashing chords and sour notes, punctuated by a kind of rocky roll. It’s pure entertainment, and fortunate indeed are the innocent bystanders brightened by the musical duets of this combo while they’re getting along. The innocent bystanders should enjoy it while it lasts.
True to Ms. Goodman’s description of the Cancer/Libra pairing, Straight Outta Compton’s most enjoyable scenes are those depicting the group’s melodiously ribald musical performances. Those performances, all of which take place during the first half of the film, combine the smoothly restful, rhythmically mellow proto-G-funk style of Andre “Dr. Dre” Young’s producing abilities with the crashing intensity of O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson’s lyrical genius, all punctuated by the menacing irreverence of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s high pitched, rock-n-roll street drawl. The result is pure entertainment. In contrast, the second half of the film focuses on what happens when the musical duets stop and disputes over money begin. By the end of the film, those disputes have left a trail of innocent bystanders in their wake: wives and girlfriends, business partners, even Eazy-E himself.
In his book Moon Phases, astrologer Raven Kaldera describes the combination of Cancer Sun with Libra Moon as “The Black Knight” for whom:
Idealism has turned to anger . . . hopes have been betrayed by the cruelty of unjust people. Anger explodes and the Black Knight takes justice into his own hands. He knows that he is not working for the Man, as it were. He is aware that he is outside the law but considers the law corrupt . . .
As per Kaldera’s description of the Cancer/Libra pairing, the subjects of Straight Outta Compton are entirely “aware they are outside the law but consider the law corrupt.” Their anger at injustice meted out by the deeply corrupted LAPD explodes into music too powerful to be ignored. “They have the authority to kill a minority”, lyricist-in-chief Ice Cube hollers in “F**k Tha’ Police,” the group’s 1988 protest anthem as relevant to the Obama years as it was to the Reagan era.
As far as fashion goes, the group favors the all black attire of the L.A. Raiders (knights) professional football team. None of the young men own any horses like the knights of old but their leader Eazy-E is known for cruising around town in a 1964 model Chevy Impala, a high performance vehicle that is to rap musicians of his era what destrier charging horses were to knights of medieval times. He even records a hit song about it, the film’s depiction of which is both wryly humorous and deeply humanizing.
The members of N.W.A. may not be Kaldera’s “Black Knights” in the literal sense of the word but the film does depict them as low-rider driving anti-heroes who speak out about police brutality at a time when public discussion of such matters was kept under the tight control of corporate media. The film even engages in a bit of family (Cancer) lawyering (Libra). In one scene, Ice Cube responds to a reporter’s criticism of the group’s lyrics by citing the Constitution, “Freedom of speech includes rap music. We’re exercising our first amendment rights as far as I’m concerned.” He and Eazy-E then explain that the parties alleged to be responsible for gang warfare and the crack epidemic may not be the ultimate culprits they’re made out to be. “The cocaine comes from Columbia, the AKs [assault rifles] come from Russia. But none of us have a passport. So you might want to check the source,” they adroitly observe.
In their book Sun Sign Moon Sign, Suzi and Charles Harvey tell us that an “image for integration” for the Cancer/Libra pairing is, “Mother Goose recites a poem, surrounded by adoring fairy tale creatures.” Strange as it may sound, that’s actually an excellent metaphorical approximation of Straight Outta Compton. The film’s operative scene takes place inside a rented recording studio where Eazy-E recites the lyrics to “Boyz-N-The-Hood,” a bass-heavy, urban folk-poem that would become legendary for its unflinching depiction of life on the streets of Los Angeles at the height of the drug war. Eazy-E isn’t “Mother Goose” per se but the film does portray him as an ambitious, business-minded midwife to a group of artists whose life stories have since taken on such mythological levels of significance that the film is now the number one grossing musical biopic of all time.
While both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, Straight Outta Compton is not without serious shortcomings. Astrologically, it’s a good example of the Cancer/Libra tendency to deny or ignore uncomfortable issues out of existence even as it confronts others. Most notably, N.W.A.’s rampant misogyny and homophobia are left unquestioned while Dr. Dre’s vicious beating of music journalist Dee Barnes is left unmentioned. The contributions of all-star girl group J.J. Fad are conveniently written out of the film even though it was money and acclaim from their hit song “SuperSonic” that established the group’s label as a legitimate player within the music world. With a few brief exceptions, women are depicted as little more than bitches, hoes, and “house-whores.” This is a systemic and not-insignificant blight on what, at times, is one of the more emotionally moving (Cancer), justice minded (Libra) films in recent memory.
Saturn in Scorpio: Planet of Challenges in the Sign of Sex and Death
Straight Outta Compton’s Sun (identity) at 28 degrees Cancer (sign of family) receives a supportive contact from Saturn (planet of structures) at 28 degrees Scorpio (sign of underworlds). From beginning to end, the film is structured (Saturn) around a series underworlds (Scorpio). It starts in the underworld of a South Central Los Angeles dope house where we see a drug deal between friends go from bad to worse to even worse. It ends in another underworld, the AIDS ward of Cedar Sinai Medical Center. In between, it’s structured around the psychological underworlds of backroom business deals and joint financial transactions. Early in the film, a closed door agreement between Eazy-E and N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller is depicted as financially shortchanging other members of the group. Later, the strong arm tactics utilized by Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight in procuring the services of Dr. Dre prompt Eazy-E to consider having Knight assassinated, a course of action Heller dissuades him from pursuing.
In his book Myth Astrology, astrologer Raven Kaldera associates Saturn in Scorpio with the myth of Cerridwen, a Celtic goddess who assists others by regenerating slain corpses in her cauldron. Nobody depicted in Straight Outta Compton is able to regenerate corpses but we do see Dr. Dre persuade Eazy-E to invest money acquired from the corrosive dead end that is the crack trade into a cauldron of smoking hot musical acts that end up cracking the top of the charts. There’s no voodoo or magic in the film, but turning money accrued from an industry backed by bullets made of lead into records made of gold arguably qualifies as something akin to alchemy.
North Node in Libra: The Other Side to the Other Side of the Story
Straight Outta Compton was released as the transiting North Node (point of destiny) was in Libra, the sign responsible for providing the other side of the story. In many ways, the film accomplishes its North Node directive as there are numerous scenes in which we see police violence depicted from the other side of the boot or battering ram. It’s in these moments that the film operates as counter-programming to officially sanctioned narratives regarding the application and misapplication of justice (Libra) in our culture.
At the same time, even compelling counter-narratives often require additional counter-narratives if justice is to be truly served (Libra North Node). In regards to the counter-narrative offered by Straight Outta Compton, most reviewers have chosen to look the other way when it comes to the group’s appalling dehumanization of women and the film’s near total erasure of them. However, a few voices have come forward with counter-narratives to the counter-narrative. For instance, in an interview published by the Huffington Post, Sikivu Hutchinson reminds us that “N.W.A. was instrumental to the normalization of terroristic, misogynistic violence against black women and girls.” Writing in the Washington Post, journalist Jamilah Lemieux acknowledges the film’s cinematic brilliance but explains that the current mobilization against police violence is “far less driven by rap and rappers than it is by black women.” Critics and fans who celebrate the group’s anti-authoritarian valor but fail to question the injustice of music that treats black women as disposable commodities are thus “missing the other half of the story”, she points out.
About the Author: Matt Savinar is a California licensed attorney (State Bar #228957), voluntarily inactive as of June 2013. He can be reached for questions, comments, or consults at his contact page.
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