Twenty six years ago Michel’le unsuspectedly took the music scene by storm selling 1.3 million records, making a gold album, and giving us top 10 bill board hits. She filled a gap with her powerful vocals and sweet girl next door persona. Her biopic, “Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge, and Me” gives us the behind the scenes look of what was really going on in the R and B fairytale that was projected in music videos.
If you’ve ever been tormented by someone who was supposed to protect you, if you’ve ever had people know you were being abused but found it inconvenient to stick up for you, if you’ve ever been the most talented one in the room, yet the weakest, and if you’ve never had the confidence to believe you could handle life on your own, then you can relate to the story of Michel’le. The biopic tells how abuse, jealousy, and control can destroy the surest dream. Specifically, we see the abuse coming from the hands of Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. Dre denies these allegations, but not the other instances he has been charged and sued for beating a woman, journalist Dee Barnes being one of them. But, mainly he’s able to still dispute the violence he allegedly inflicted onto Michel’le because she never pressed any charges.
Over the weekend, I’ve read numerous articles about the biopic that aired on Saturday. One of them criticized the piece as not giving us more of her music or showing how she overcame the hand she had been dealt. Basically saying, where is the Tina Turner in you girl? Where are the sold out arenas filled with your fans singing your greatest hits? And, it really got under my skin. I ask this, have you not considered that they weren’t able to gain legal access to all the material she recorded which is why they chose to reenact certain videos or sing a track without background vocals? Secondly, keep in mind that she had no connections outside of the hip hop circle that surrounded her. Not to mention if anyone was able to help they were probably too scared to do anything. Her ex’s were some of the most powerful men in the industry, and were known to injure and murder. Yes, she has done a stint on reality television and has recently been able to tour, but her book and these relationships in the biopic is how she is overcoming. The telling of her side of the story is enabling her come back.
She was essentially the R and B chick in a rap group before we knew you had to have a R and B or rap chick in a group to be marketable. Rap had not barely touched the surface in crossover appeal. She cannot come close to having the opportunities as Tina Turner who has always been a part of the rock and roll music genre. There was no last name to keep because Dr. Dre never married her and Suge Knight never legally did. By the time she may have been ready to come back out, her audience had moved on and weren’t waiting with open arms to receive her. Her career was brought to a standstill before she could ever solidify herself as a legend. Although the era that she was a part of was ground breaking, especially with her being the original R and B female paired with gangsta rap, she would never be able to take part of it. Unlike Tina Turner, there are no Grammy awards, no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no Grammy Hall of Fame and, no Star on the Hollywood Walk of fame.
But, we still owe Michel’le a lot. All the Foxy Brown’s, Lil Kim’s, Eve’s, Nicki Minaj’s and Olivia’s copied off the model that Michel’le gave us. We’ve learned from her mistakes and now it’s time for all of us to celebrate her success.
Rachel Bryant Lundy