My senior year of high school, I decided to actually start listening to music and part of that meant going back and listening to the foundations of rap music. Eventually that lead me to listening to the notorious 1988 album from N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton. Now we have a biopic about the rise and fall of the rap group.
Straight Outta Compton (2015) hits the ground running with a cold open establishing Compton, CA in the late 1980s where police would sweep through the streets ramming down house doors and arresting young adults based solely on their look. If you were a group of young black men, police would pull you aside assuming you were “slinging rock” or “carrying a piece”. It was profiling and it was disgraceful. With everything happening in the world today involving racial discrimination in law enforcement, this movie really is coming out at an appropriate time.
We then meet the main protagonists of the movie, rappers Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E – All household names when it comes to rap music today. This movie starts with all them stripped down to their early rapping days when putting out a record was nothing but a hope and a dream. It was great to see each member of the group (including MC Ren and DJ Yella) introduced individually as we also got a taste of just what exactly they contributed to the group; Cube and Ren did most of the writing while Dre and Yella handled the beats and E did a lot of the rapping as well as putting up the money for their first single, “Boyz-N-The-Hood”. Of course everyone had their chance to rap on the album, and we saw inspiration for certain songs, like Ice Cube writing “Fuck tha Police” due to the profiling that he went through by simply eating a burger with his friends outside the recording studio on the sidewalk. The album, Straight Outta Compton hits and it hits hard, causing controversy along with love and support from fans of the group.
As was expected with this movie, we saw the issues that began to circulate with the group like contracts and the fact that Eazy-E was the only one really getting paid, then Ice Cube was the first to go his separate way and come out with AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. While I knew most of what happened between the different group members, between diss tracks and contract feuds, it was still great to see these events visualized while members also had to look out for their better interests. What really brought the movie together for me was the incorporation of the media and ongoing race issue throughout the years the film takes place during. Even the Rodney King beating is a great deal to the third act of the film and it’s intriguing to see a movie submerged in history and how that affected even the most successful artists at the time and how they let this reality reflect the messages on their album.
The performances brought by the actors in this movie are scarily accurate. I mean Ice Cube’s son plays him in the movie so the resemblance is almost too accurate. Dre and Eazy-E’s actors were also incredibly accurate. I’ve never met these artists in person so my only impression of them is their voices and any music videos they’re in where I can see them, and these actors certainly looked like someone took a DeLorean and brought them into the future from the 1980s.
While the content is excessive at times and you see the spoils of wealth, you also see what it can do to friends. We see these three kids from Compton coming up from nothing and all three go in three completely different directions with their vast wealth. Very similar to The Public Enemy (1931) where we see two brothers grow up in the same home yet become total opposites of each other in their adult lives. Only this wasn’t a work of fiction, this was real life and had real consequences. I caught myself choking up at times seeing these three best friends begin to resent each other over money and influence. As far as I know, this was all pretty accurate to what really happened with the group throughout the late 80s/early 90s. I’m sure the director took some artistic liberties with certain scenarios but Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were still very involved with the movie and its authenticity.
At the end of the day, Straight Outta Compton was a biopic that did exactly what N.W.A. set out to do, which was show the world the harsh truths of what it was like to grow up in Compton as a young Africa American and how five guys turned that reality into a true work of art. Only the movie goes a step further and show the spoils of the American Dream and what can happen if you aren’t careful.
Overall Rating: 8/10 – Great
If you’re a fan of N.W.A. or are in the mood for a great history lesson, this is the movie to see. Strong performances and an engaging story that keeps you invested in the movie for it’s entirety (the movie clocks in at almost two and a half hours, yet it doesn’t nearly that long). The cinematography is also very good in the movie. I found myself noting to myself a lot of great shots and camera movement throughout.
P.S. People have been asking me why I’ve been giving every movie I’ve seen lately good reviews and the answer is this: I know what movies I’m going to like and dislike, and what with ticket prices being absurd these days, I really do take extra care to make sure I’m not gonna waste my money on something. However I have been wrong before. I’m just on a streak right now.
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