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7 Revelations From A&E's 'Streets of Compton' Docuseries
The Game has been open about his life and his hometown throughout his platinum-selling rap career, but A&E's documentary series Streets of Compton allows him to open up in a different way. Delving into his childhood trauma and Compton's history, the three-part series allows the rapper to use his experiences to shed light on larger issues.
Last week, the rapper (born Jayceon Taylor) revealed why he decided to get onboard with the project. “We wanted to go places that documentaries never really take people,” he told the crowd at Los Angeles' Harmony Gold theater. “That’s all the way inside rock-bottom Compton streets. [We wanted to] shed light on situations that have rendered us helpless as African-American youth growing up in Compton. There’s a lot of things that a lot of people might not know.”
Attendees were treated to the series’ first two parts, which aired June 9 on A&E. Ahead of Thursday night's (June 16) Part 3 finale and the release of Game's Streets of Compton companion project Friday, Billboard recalls the doc's most eye-opening moments so far.
George Bush Once Lived in Compton
In the 1940s, Compton was far from the hip-hop capital it’s known as today. “[It] was a sleepy little suburb of L.A.,” Game explains in the doc. “It was an idyllic place to raise a family if you were white. President George W. Bush even lived here as a kid.” But throughout the '40s and '50s, racial tension grew as black and Hispanic families began to move in. “It was just so confusing for me as a kid,” says Game’s dad, G.A. Taylor, whose family moved there in the '50s. “I just remember seeing a lot of disgruntled whites.”
More division in the '60s only heightened tensions, and gangs began to rise. “The first violent gangs in Compton,” Game reveals, “were formed by white kids, who were determined to keep black kids in check.” Eventually, he adds that “black kids started to pull together to defend themselves,” and, in the coming decades, more gangs, including the Bloods and Crips, formed.
"There Was Something in the Water" in the CPT
Celebrities, including actor Paul Rodriguez, shine throughout Streets of Compton. “Most people think I’m from East L.A. because I was in that movie, Born in East L.A.," says Rodriguez. “But nope! I’m from Compton.” Rodriguez’s father, a pastor, moved his family to Hub City in 1968. “It was violent from day one,” he explains. “It was dangerous.” It was so dangerous, in fact, that Rodriguez -- the father of famous skateboarder Paul Rodriguez Jr. -- felt he needed to join a gang to survive. "I found out who the baddest, biggest gang [was] and not only did I become a full-on member, I was pretty close to being the leader," he says.
Actor Anthony Anderson, who’s getting ready to host the BET Awards on June 26, also recalls a time when life wasn’t so glamorous. “I grew up in Compton from 1979 to 1995,” he says in the series. “[It was] the height of the crack epidemic, gang banging, and drive-bys. Many a day, walking to school, yellow tape, chalk outlines.” Sometimes, those lives lost were his friends. Other times, he recalls friends pulling guns on one another. Still, Anderson says a lot of good came out of the city, noting, “Something was in the water at that time in Compton.”
Venus & Serena Williams Survived a Drive-By
In the 1990s, two little girls were often seen on Compton's tennis courts. They would run drills and practices with their father, Richard Williams, playing on dilapidated courts. They trained as drug deals and gang fights surrounded them. Their names were Venus and Serena Williams.
"SOC" revisits those courts and the girls’ childhood home, examining the Williams sisters’ rise to the top of the sports world. Along the way, near-tragedies are also recounted. At one point, the girls experienced a drive-by shooting that could have killed them. "A car passed by," their dad recalls. "A guy pulled back a sunroof, raised up, and started shooting. The kids had got on their knees. It was one of the most dangerous times in my life, but I wanted to make sure it never happened again. I wanted the gang members to move from the area, so I said, ‘If you’re here tomorrow, I’m gonna beat every last one of you.’ Every day, I got beat up. That’s how I got my teeth knocked out.”
Eventually, both sisters would become two of the top-ranked tennis players in the world.
Streets of Compton is a Perfect Straight Outta Compton Companion Piece
What’s a Compton doc without N.W.A? Given Straight Outta Compton's massive box-office success, Streets of Compton works as a perfect companion piece. From Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s days in the World Class Wreckin’ Cru to the team’s rise as the so-called “World’s Most Dangerous Group,” the series relives N.W.A’s backstory and impact.
Where the major motion picture depicted some of the crew’s pivotal moments, Streets of Compton is able to revisit them. For instance, DJ Yella goes back to Alonzo Williams’ Eve’s After Dark and the famous Skateland to talk about those early days. “This was the spot for hip-hop back then,” Yella says in the now-defunct roller rink’s parking lot. “There was nothing on the West Coast. Maybe up north, but Compton West Coast hip-hop started right here.”
Stars also open up about N.W.A’s influence in the doc. "I could look up and see somebody that represented me, that looked like me," Anthony Anderson says. "[They were] saying the things that I wanted to say.” That included songs like "Straight Outta Compton" and "F--- Tha Police" with explicit messages that have vibrated through the '90s and beyond.
Game Experienced the Rodney King Riots
In 1991, a video shocked the nation. Filmed by a bystander, the grainy black-and-white clip showed four LAPD officers beating an unarmed black man, Rodney G. King. When the four officers were later acquitted of assault, the verdict was met with disbelief and outrage. "It was a time for African-Americans to stand up," Game says in Streets. "That was too brutal. It was on camera. It was unfair."
A lot of that anger manifested itself on the streets, and L.A. soon faced one of its biggest riots ever. Today, these are known as the Rodney King riots, and for those who were there, like The Game, the memories remain vivid. "It was crazy," he says. "It was people jumping on burning cars, throwing pipe bombs through windows, running out of stores with everything, man."
Game’s Childhood Was Filled with Violence
The rapper says his earliest memories are "happy," but tragedy cut that short. "Nearly every family in Compton has been touched by drugs, and mine is no exception," he explains in the series. "My uncle Greg was murdered down the street from my house when I was 6. My dad turned to PCP to dull the pain."
"[Drugs] changed everything," says Game’s mom, Lynette Baker. "This big happy family that we had turned awful." Domestic violence also had an effect. For example, when Jayceon was 8 years old, he saw his mom pull out a shotgun on his dad, G.A. After finding out he’d been unfaithful with a neighbor, she decided to kill him. Driving up to him while he was out with friends, she called him over to the passenger-seat window and pulled the trigger but the kickback caused her to miss. "He caught up to me and started choking me," she recalls. "Jayceon was in the backseat and I drove off with him hanging out the window, scratched his knees up. I just made up my mind: Today was the day he was gonna die."
Another Traumatic Incident Divided Game’s Family
In spite of infidelity, drugs and domestic violence, Game says his family stayed close until one traumatic evening. "One night, [my dad] came home from the streets," the rapper explains. "My older sister had climbed into my parents’ bed while he wasn’t there. He thought that my sister was my mom."
An emotional Game says he was going to the bathroom in the middle of the night with a "glow worm," a type of night light for children. “I just remember seeing my dad on top of my sister and dropping that glow worm,” he says. "I felt like it hit the ground in slow motion. I just remember I ran upstairs, got in the bed, and I didn’t really know what to think of it. I knew it was wrong, but I was just 8 years old or something like that. I don’t know. I was frozen."
G.A. recounts that night in the series too. "I just know that when I came back to my senses that I was standing next to the bed, butt-naked," he says. "I had no clothes on. I never knew where they went to, how I took them off." He later adds: "[Game] didn’t see me do anything. Just go look at the police report. I harmed no kid. I put my hands on no kid. I did what I did. I took my clothes off. … Nothing else was ever found that I was guilty of.”
The following day, Game’s sister informed a teacher about this incident, and social services removed the children from their home. For six years, the siblings lived in foster care. Meanwhile, G.A. spent six months in jail and managed to get sober. Game uses this story to demonstrate how devastatingly common these issues are in his hometown. "I guess the biggest tragedy," he explains, "is that we’re just one of thousands of families in Compton with a story like this one."