Review of ‘Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le’

(From right) Michel’le and Rhyon Nicole Brown. (Lifetime)
(From right) Michel’le and Rhyon Nicole Brown. (Lifetime)

Anique Toussaint

Originally posted on Black Girl Nerds

I just finished watching the highly anticipated Lifetime movie Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le. The movie was a biopic about the life of Michel’le Toussaint aka Michel’le. It covered her life from childhood through her breakup with music producer and Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight.

Well… this movie certainly did not disappoint.

Not that most of it was a surprise. Those of us who were around back in the early 90’s already heard about Dr. Dre’s abusive ways. However, I had no idea that Michel’le was an alcoholic and drug addict. Also, I always wondered why she just stopped making music so abruptly. I never really knew her story. Even when she was on R&B Divas, she would only briefly address anything having to do with Dre or Suge. My guess is that she was fearful of the possible repercussions – until now.

Prior to the airing of the movie, Dr. Dre sent a cease and desist letter to Sony Pictures, urging them to not air the film. Both Dr. Dre and Suge Knight have threatened to sue Sony Pictures and Michel’le if they are portrayed in a negative light in the movie. Welp, I guess they’ll be going to court because both of these dudes certainly came out looking like monsters.

The relationship between Michel’le and Dre seemed to start off like a ‘hood fairytale. They were two young artists starting from the bottom and climbing their way to the top of the music game together. Besides Dre’s constant philandering and many baby mamas, they were hip hop’s First Couple. It seems that as they became more successful, both spiraled into drugs and alcohol. Dre’s philandering became worse and so did his violent outbursts.

In the very first scene depicting his abuse of Michel’le, he comes home in the middle of the night, clearly drunk, climbs on top of Michel’le in bed and begins punching her in the face over and over again. This scene was incredibly hard to watch. Even Michel’le herself (who is seen and heard narrating throughout the movie) cried while narrating this scene. In her own words, she felt both honored and terrified because she thought for sure that this meant that Dre loved her (earlier in the movie, we see Michel’le’s grandmother tell her that if a man hits you, it means he loves you).

Dre’s business partner, Suge, takes a liking to Michel’le and seems to sympathize with her situation. He sends her to rehab to get her life together. Upon release, she leaves Dre (who got engaged to someone else while Michel’le was in rehab) and gets with Suge.

Again, the two seem perfect together at first. Suge was sweet and kind to her, until he got locked up. He basically threatens Michel’le into doing his bidding while he is away. She signs documents agreeing to handle Suge’s business affairs while he is locked up. They also have a wedding ceremony at the prison, but we later find out that the marriage was not legit because Suge never divorced his wife. By the end of the movie, Michel’le finds the strength and courage to leave yet another abusive man.

Personally, I loved this movie. I think Lifetime did a great job with it. I was a big fan of Michel’le as a little girl and I love the fact that she was so involved in the making of the movie. Too many times we see garbage biopics (cough, Aaliyah, cough) that are inaccurate and poorly depicted. However, Lifetime got it right with this one. Perhaps it was because Michel’le was so involved and able to give a firsthand account of the events that happened. The actors looked like the musicians that they were portraying. The actress who portrayed Michel’le (Rhyon Nicole Brown) even did a great job at recreating Michel’le’s signature squeaky voice!

Some people believe that Michel’le wanted to release this movie as revenge for not being acknowledged in last year’s Straight Out of Compton movie. According to Michel’le, Straight Out of Compton was Dre’s story from his point of view, the way he wants to remember things. Surviving Compton is Michel’le’s story from her point of view. Seems pretty fair to me.

Michel’le has a son with Dr. Dre and a daughter with Suge. She seems like a pretty level-headed person to me. I have a hard time believing that she would lie about such things, especially since she has children with both men. As mothers, we try to protect our children from anything that may hurt them. I do not believe that Michel’le would make this story up at the risk of hurting her children. The truth may be ugly and hard for her children to watch, but if it is the truth, I’m sure that they already knew about most of the events in the movie anyway. In addition, although Michel’le has not been extremely forthcoming and vocal about being abused at the hands of Dre and Suge, she has never denied it over the years either. Dre continues to deny that he was ever abusive to Michel’le and also denies that the half-ass apology that he issued last year to “all the women I’ve hurt” did not include Michel’le.

We all pretty much knew that Suge was a monster even before the movie aired, so I don’t think his reputation is in any danger of being further tarnished (he’s done a pretty good job of doing that himself). But my guess is that Dre is concerned that the negative publicity caused by this movie may hurt his many business ventures and partnerships. I know that the events of the movie happened 20+ years ago, and Dre may be a changed man by now.

But we all gotta pay the piper eventually.

Anique Toussaint is a Brooklyn native living in Atlanta. When she’s not working or volunteering, she’s watching cartoons while enjoying cookies and wine. She’s a mom 24/7 and enjoys plotting world domination with her awesome kid.