WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 9 p.m. on A&E
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Rapper The Game narrates this three-part film on the city of Compton, with a population of 96,000, and about 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. (Only the first hour was offered for review.) Lots of interviews with current and former Comptonites, including Anthony Anderson (“black-ish”), Niecy Nash, Paul Rodriguez, musicians Lil Eazy-E, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince, DJ Speed, Tha Chill, MC Eiht, AD, Payso and Problem. Kendrick Lamar arrives in a later hour. Game’s father, G.A. Taylor, is also extensively interviewed.
MY SAY In “Streets,” Game offers a tour of Compton that you are probably not advised to take on your own. There were 15 murders in May, or two more than all of 2015, the Los Angeles Times recently reported. This remains a dangerous place, also a fertile one — the cradle of West Coast rap, and therefore 10 of among the most culturally influential square miles in the L.A. basin (a basin, you’ll note, which also includes Hollywood). How did the former beget the latter? This film promises a fascinating, tragic, bewildering answer to that question, but begins with a complicated history. Like all histories, Compton’s still deeply informs its present.
This old, onetime farming community was a middle-class white enclave until the early ’60s. After racial covenants were struck down, blacks moved in, whites out, along with the tax base. The Crips were formed in ’69, the Piru — aka Bloods — around the same time. The wars began.
In the mid-’80s, the musical nexus of Compton was at 1950 N. Central Ave., the long-shuttered Skateland USA, which was essentially a demilitarized zone straddling gang territory. Dr. Dre, who was head DJ, brought in the talent — notably Long Island’s own Eric B. & Rakim, also Compton’s own World Class Wreckin’ Cru — and friends, including Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, and DJ Yella. NWA was born at Skateland, along with the hard, brutal, propulsive sound that reflected what was going on just beyond the Skateland parking lot.
As tour guide to this world, Game is both informative and bleakly cautionary: “As soon as you think it’s gonna get better in Compton, you’re slapped with this reality that bullets [are] still flying, people still dying . . . ” And so it goes.
BOTTOM LINE Genuinely informative and interesting.