Burn Hollywood Burn & The Racism in Hollywood

Public Enemy featuring Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane released the song ”Burn Hollywood Burn” in 1990, calling Hollywood out on its racism. Always letting Black men and women play stereotypical roles.

Many intelligent Black men seemed
To look uncivilized when on the screen
Like, I guess I figure you to play some jigaboo
On the plantation, what else can a nigga do
And Black women in this profession
As for playing a lawyer, out of the question

15 years later, the casting call for the biopic Straight Outta Compton almost made us who live in the civilized world, to throw up in our mouths.

Straight Outta Compton, The Movie

Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E — that’s who most people reflect on when they think about 1980s rap group, NWA. Many feel that “Straight Outta Compton,” the film documenting the group’s rise, got the casting just about right. Ice Cube is played by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Dr. Dre is played by Corey Hawkins, and Eazy-E is played by Jason Mitchell.

But one casting call for the film posted in July last year raised some eyebrows because many thought it to be incredibly racist.

At the time, Sande Alessi Casting posted the notice on several social media platforms in search of different types of women to be extras in the film.

The Real NWA

In the post, the company classified the girls they were looking for into four categories: A, B, C, and D girls. 

The “A-Girls,” according to the company, are “the hottest of the hottest,” and could be “black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Mid-Eastern, or mixed race too.”

But then, the company got particularly specific about the types of girls it was looking for.

“B-Girls,” as the company described them, were “Fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips.” Skin color was limited to “light-skinned … Beyonce is a prototype here.”

Further down the list, the casting call got even more selective.

“C-Girls” were described as “African American girls, light-to-medium skin tone with a weave.” 

“D-Girls” were to be “African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium-to-dark skin tone.”

The posting was removed from all social media shortly after it was posted. The casting company told Jet Magazine last July that the categorization of the girls “is not by any means a ranking of A is better than B.” Adding, “We obviously don’t want to leave anything up that’s offensive to people.”

The company later said it would use a different method to cast women as extras. 

Universal Pictures, the company that produced the film, slammed the offensive casting call in a statement: “The filmmakers did not approve and do not condone the information in this casting notice,” they said. “We regret and sincerely apologize for being in any way associated with the offensive descriptions it contained.”

Business Insider has reached out to Universal Pictures for comment on how the casting process was changed.

“Straight Outta Compton” is not the first film to be called out for questionably racist casting. But this instance raises questions about where the line is drawn with regard to casting practices. 

A casting call for “The Hobbit” in 2010 was panned for requiring potential applicants to have “light skin tones.” The casting agent was fired.

“Straight Outta Compton” was released in theaters Friday, August 14, 2015

Here’s a transcipt of the entire “Straight Outta Compton” casting call

Burn Hollywood Burn

[Chuck D]
Burn Hollywood burn I smell a riot
Goin’ on — first they’re guilty, now they’re gone
Yeah I’ll check out a movie
But it’ll take a Black one to move me
Get me the hell away from this T.V
All this news and views are beneath me
So all I hear about is shots ringing out
About gangs putting each other’s head out
So I rather kick some slang out
All right fellas let’s go hang out
Hollywood or would they not
Make us all look bad like I know they had
But some things I’ll never forget, yeah
So step and fetch this shit
For all the years we looked like clowns
The joke is over — smell the smoke from all around
Burn Hollywood burn

[Ice Cube]
Ice Cube is down with the P.E
Now every single bitch wanna see me
Big Daddy is smooth, word to mother
Let’s check out a flick that exploits the color
Roaming through Hollywood late at night
Red and blue lights what a common sight
Pulled to the curb, getting played like a sucker
Don’t fight the power…(gunshot)..the motherfucker

[Big Daddy Kane]
As I walk the streets of Hollywood Boulevard
Thinking how hard it was to those that starred
In the movies portraying the roles
Of butlers and maids, slaves and hoes
Many intelligent Black men seemed
To look uncivilized when on the screen
Like, I guess I figure you to play some jigaboo
On the plantation, what else can a nigga do
And Black women in this profession
As for playing a lawyer, out of the question
For what they play Aunt Jemima is the perfect term
Even if now she got a perm
So let’s make our own movies like Spike Lee
Cause the roles being offered don’t strike me
As nothing that the black man could use to earn
Burn Hollywood burn

“Now we’re considering you for a part in our new production. How do you feel about playing a controversial negro?”
“Yeah, I’m wid it. You mean somebody like Huey P. Newton or H. Rap Brown, right?”
“Well, it’s a servant character that chuckles a little bit, and sings.”
“Yo, man, what?? That’s bullshit.”

“Hey Cube, Kane, Flav, listen. I hope you ain’t wastin’ my time. You know how I feel about givin’ these movies my money, know what I’m sayin’? I work hard for it”
“Yo, man, it’s gonna be dope, man.”
“Chill, man.”
“Hey, I’m chill chill, but you know what I’m sayin’, I just don’t wanna, I can’t go for this Steel Magnolia shit, know what I’m sayin’?”
“Come on, man, it’s cool.”
Ladies and gentlemen, today’s feature presentation: Driving Miss Daisy
“No, no, no.”
“Bullshit, just what I’m talkin’ about, all this Terms of Endearment shit. I’m outta here, man, it’s bullshit.”
“Yo, check it out, man I got Black Caesar at the crib, man, y’all want to go check that out?”
“That’s the idea. We could have rolled with that from the get-go!”
“Fuck Hollywood, man.”