Discovered at a young age, the shy, squeaky-voiced Michel’le (Brown) was plucked straight from South Central, Los Angeles and catapulted into the spotlight while riding N.W.A.’s rocket ride of early success.
Growing up listening to Michel’le Brown’s music, I never knew there was a controversial story behind her South Central rise to fame that involved NWA’s Dr. Dre and Death Row Records’ Suge Knight. Plucked straight from the sales floor of a retail job in Culver City, CA in 1987, she began her career immediately after auditioning in front of Dre, Alonzo, Tupac, Eazy-E and their neighborhood homies in their inhouse studio. Distracted by her mouse-like speaking voice, the group was blown away when she began to effortlessly belt out an entirely different sound that immediately made an impression on everyone in the group. Courted individually by every member of the team to continue to work with them, Michel’le was easily drawn in by her own naivety and the opportunity to do something different in life. When she began spending more time with Dre in the recording studio, it turn into a romantic partnership that spanned several years. When the relationship became physically and emotionally abusive, Jerry Keller, the infamous manager of the group, intervened and set Michel’le on the road to do a solo act. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant and while she did all she could to maintain the relationship, it wasn’t meant to be. As luck would have it, Suge Knight, who she always thought of as the enemy, turned into a savior of a friend when Dre’s recording crew parted ways. After developing a romantic relationship with Suge, she became pregnant with his child as well and ended up in another downward spiral after a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with him. Michel’le’s turning point in life is admiral as she finally came to grips with the idea that she had to provide a different environment for her children and stay focused on rebuilding the destructive thought process wherein she was raised to believe that abuse by men was a necessary part of relationships that she was obligated to endure. When she made peace with her family over the miseducation that permeated her personal and professional relationships, she was able to move on with her life and her chart-topping music.
This film, dedicated to the memory of Jerry Heller, and produced for Lifetime as the result of a collaboration between Sony Pictures Television and Thinkfactory Media has definitely met its goal of a broader mission to hire and support female creatives behind the camera. Director Janice Cooke and Executive Producer, Leslie Greif, bring us an interesting story with a different female perspective and helps us to understand how a successful artist such as Michel’le, got distracted by the unwritten rules of stardom. Additionally, it shows another casualty of Compton’s finest artists being used and abused by some of the greatest music producers who catapulted them into stardom with little or no knowledge of an unforgiving industry. For the music enlightenment itself, the story of Michel’le is interesting and educational for fans of the self-trained artist whose rise to fame is not as well known as other’s during NWA’s reign, however, the major storyline is a bit of a repeat that is known all too well.
Premieres Saturday, October 15th at 8pm ET/PT on LIFETIME