Vv Magazine’s Alexandra Gill gives you the rundown on what to expect at this weekend’s one-day-only N.W.A pop-up store, and chats with Daniel Cutler about growing up surrounded by hip hop royalty.
Have you seen Straight Outta Compton?
If not, get thee to the Cineplex pronto. Even with all its flaws, this riveting biopic about the revolutionary rise of gangsta rap supergroup N.W.A. will definitely be remembered as one of the most timely and important films of the decade.
Those who have seen it will almost certainly recall a dramatic scene in which the-then 19-year-old lyricist O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (played by his son, O’Shea Jr.) goes postal on producer Bryan Turner and smashes all the framed sales plaques (plus a few glass tables) in his corner office at Priority Records.
The scene raises more questions than it answers (and we’ll get to them in a minute), but now those plaques are up for sale – in Vancouver this weekend.
More than 30 gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums, along with classic posters and memorabilia from N.W.A., Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and other Priority hip-hop acts will be sold in a silent auction this Saturday night when an exclusive N.W.A. pop-up store opens its doors at Fortune Sound Club.
Half the proceeds will benefit the YMCA of Greater Vancouver.
Why Vancouver? That’s where record mogul Turner was raised and his nephew, Arts & Crafts co-founder Daniel Cutler, inherited the loot.
After attending UBC, Turner moved to Los Angeles and co-founded Priority Records in 1985. The label, which started off by repping the gold-selling California Raisins (yes, the wrinkly animated R&B singers), soon made a name for itself by signing rap groups too radical for mainstream corporations, including N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit’ Attitude).
In 1988, the group exploded out of Compton, one of L.A.’s most racially charged neighbourhoods, with “Fuck tha Police,” a song protesting police brutality and racial profiling. The album Straight Outta Compton topped the Billboard 100 charts and went on to sell three million copies.
N.W.A.’s mainstream notoriety coincided with the brutal beating of Rodney King by the LAPD and subsequent non-guilty verdict, which triggered the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Tragically, 27 years later, “Fuck Tha Police” remains a poignant anthem for new-wave protestors in Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere. The film’s release couldn’t be more of-the-moment.
But back in the nineties, as Priority grew into the country’s largest independent label and its artists kept racking up hit record sales, Turner would send all his copies home to his parents, George and Muriel Turner. His mother turned her Richmond, B.C. living room into a hip-hop museum of sorts, with framed albums lining the walls. They were later put into storage and forgotten about, until recently.
After Mrs. Turner died last month (her husband passed away five years ago), the family decided to sell the house. Turner’s nephew, Daniel Cutler, was tasked with cleaning out the storage locker.
Cutler is a former national marketing manager for Virgin Music Canada and was a co-founder of Arts & Crafts, one of Canada’s most important record labels. He immediately recognized the value in the hip-hop history collection, which he discovered under a pile of blankets, each plaque carefully protected in bubble wrap. Together, Turner and Cutler decided to commemorate the archive with a public showing and auction. Turner won’t be in attendance, but the sale obviously has his blessing.
“There is definitely a collectors’ market for these sorts of awards,” says Cutler, who now works as an unscripted television producer with Force Four Entertainment. “But the difference between these and say, the awards for Elton John and the Rolling Stones is that N.W.A. only had two albums. These are rare.”
More than just an auction, Cutler is trying to turn Saturday’s event into an art gallery and hip-hop happening. The plaques will all be professionally mounted for public viewing, with information cards detailing the pertinent information related to each album. There will also be influential press articles and key magazine reviews on display, along with beats by local DJs, drinks and a pop-up vintage clothing store.
Cutler may have been young, but he remembers those heady days when he’d visit his uncle in L.A.. The Priority Records offices were housed in the same building as CNN. “You never knew who you were going to see. I remember once riding in the elevator with Larry King and Master P.”
Then there was the time he went to Fat Burger in Beverly Hills with Eazy-E. “He just called up my uncle and said ‘Hey, you want to go shopping?’
“We were driving in his convertible. He looked over and asked ‘Do they like our shit up in Canada?’ I said ‘Yes, Mr. Wright. I do believe they like your shit up in Canada.’ Then he whipped down his visor to show me the pictures of all his kids. He had eight or nine different kids, all from different baby mamas, and he was proud of each and every one of them.”
As for that dramatic scene with Ice Cube, Mr. Cutler says yes, it did happen, although not quite as sensationally as it was portrayed in the film. As movie viewers, we’re left wondering why Turner couldn’t pay him the money, which provoked the tirade. And according to Rolling Stone magazine, it was Ice Cube – who was also one of the producers — who insisted that the scene stay in the film.
“If people actually knew why the label didn’t pay him it would make Cube look like the bad guy, so let’s just say there was a reason they didn’t explain.”
Although Cutler won’t shed any more light on the matter, his uncle apparently wasn’t ripping the artist off.
“He and Ice Cube went on to release seven more albums together and sold millions. That was a low point of their relationship, but they’re still friends. My uncle is an honest guy. That’s the reason he succeeded for 20 years in the rap game.
“Oh, and he’s also way cooler than he’s portrayed in the film. I mean, come on. You can’t be a dorky, white nerd and have a hip-hop label. It just wouldn’t work.”
What are you most excited to see at the one-day N.W.A pop-up store? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.