Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, five guys from the city of Compton gave birth to a style within the confines of hip-hop that carried them quickly to rockstar status and beyond. It was the 1980s, an era where hardcore rap consisted of the likes of LL Cool J, Rakim, and Big Daddy Kane, then these guys introduced the world to a much darker place. A place that was often ignored, or made to believe only existed in the slums of the larger cities. It was unfathomable to think the stories these guys told were happening in a small Los Angeles suburb like Compton. Not only were the tales in their songs really happening, but it was a daily occurrence. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella created a lane in hip-hop that the world needed, but mainstream society wasn’t quite ready for.
N.W.A aka Niggaz with Attitude was perfect for its time. The movie chronicling the group, Straight Outta Compton, shows in many instances just how perfect they were for the job. Dr. Dre knew the key to their success wouldn’t be to give people what they already had, but to give them a front row seat of the harsh realities of where they came from. Dre was the visionary and the engineer for this new sound, and with the writing genius of Ice Cube, and the charisma and realness of Eazy E, the group had the makings of something special.
Straight Outta Compton marked yet another milestone for N.W.A. The movie goes into pretty vivid detail about how some of the group’s biggest hits were made, and where their inspiration came from. From the beginning to the end, you are able to get a more clear understanding of what all the group members had to overcome.
Straight Outta Compton also tackled a few societal issues that have plagued young, black men and women for decades. It touches on the events leading up to the documented L.A. riots of the early 90’s. They effectively address the issue of police brutality using their personal experiences with the law. The frustrations in the community came from constantly having to fight the battle of intimidation and harassment from law enforcement. N.W.A members encountered these same prejudices more or less because of their demographic and the way they expressed themselves.
The movie also gave me a better appreciation for the level of intelligence that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had all along. What many people don’t realize about the early N.W.A days is that Ice Cube wrote a significant amount of the group’s songs. Not only was he the writer, but he was still in high school when the first record hit. As for Dre, he was able to master music engineering without formal education from a major university. So much so, that 30 years later, Dre is still one of the most sought after music producers in the game today.
As a fan of the N.W.A movement and what they represented, Straight Outta Compton was almost the perfect film. From the historical accuracy, to the storyline, all the way down to the humorous parts, it keeps you engaged all the way through. During the parts of the movie where they are performing, I felt like I was at their concert in the front row, vibing and singing right along. During the scenes where they are in the studio, you are able to get a good feel for their music. You see that they are serious about their craft and are not to be taken lightly.
That seriousness is something that stuck with them, and is one of the reasons why the group is so important for hip-hop. Director F. Gary Gray who’s responsible for movies like Set It Off and The Negotiator, is one of the best in the business. Gray was the obvious choice for the film, given his South Central Los Angeles roots, also he previously worked with Ice Cube before on the classic movie series, Friday. He took on the Straight Outta Compton project and put his fingerprints on yet another blockbuster hit. It’s not often you hear the term blockbuster used when there is a cast of brand new actors. Well, this is one of the exceptions to that unwritten rule.
In recent years, we have seen movies like Ray and Notorious which gave us a pretty thorough depiction about two musical giants. The critically acclaimed and multi award winning movie, Ray based on the life of the legendary Ray Charles, set the standard for future biopics of musicians. With all due respect to both films, they each had the benefit of having major, award-winning actors and or actresses in them. Even if they were only playing supporting roles. Straight Outta Compton didn’t need that. Instead, they focused on trying to get really good actors, who looked the part
Each actor that was chosen legitimately resembled the person they played throughout the film. For me, this made the movie so much easier to follow because I didn’t have to wonder “Who’s that guy?” It was like I was in a time machine, rather than at a movie theater. Most notable of the new breed of actors was Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., who did a fantastic job playing his dad. Jackson Jr. may have had the toughest job of everyone involved given the pressure to not be like his dad, but actually have to be his dad. But Ice Cube didn’t just deem his son as the right person for the job. Cube tells CBS News, “I couldn’t give it to him because we were doing a serious movie. And it’s my job as a producer to protect the movie, not to, you know, make it a family and friends hour. ” After three consecutive days of the film grossing $20 million, it’s probably safe to say that it was a job well done and the pressure may be starting to die down a bit.
Ever since the VH-1 documentary The World’s Most Dangerous Rap Group dropped in 2008, the streets were anxious for a movie depicting the group’s rise to stardom. N.W.A for the umpteenth time had stirred up a buzz that only they could manufacture. Furthermore, it was a buzz that only they could live up to, and for all intents and purposes, exceed. For seven years, we the people waited for this movie to push the envelope one more time. As the the premiere date approached and stories of heightened security surfaced, we knew it was happening. While the notion that the extra security was necessary was laughable, I couldn’t help but to think, “They did it again.”
That same fear that they put in the hearts of high society as teenage rebels had returned. The same guy that’s responsible for Are We There Yet?, and his billionaire partner who’s headphones are worn by the children of the same high society members, yet again created something to fear. Because there’s nothing scarier than a movie theater full of 30 plus year olds all hopped up on Jujyfruits, slushies, and nachos.
– Blake Holmes