In case you weren’t sure what all this ‘Straight Outta Compton’ business is actually about, the notorious rap group, N.W.A finally had a biopic made about their controversial rise – more than 25 years since the ground-breaking album was released. With a cinematic legend like F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair, the arrival of this film has been one of the most anticipated in 2015.
The film follows five young men: Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella as they kick in the door to the hip hop game just before the 90’s era of the Hip Hop Renaissance. On a mission to make dope beats and possibly a bit of cash, the group unknowingly changed the face of gangsta rap and pop culture forever.
The story begins in the late 80’s, roughly one year before their debut album ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was released through Ruthless Records. At this point in time, Compton, California was utterly rife with gangs and violence, not unlike it is today. So what do you get when you have a group of guys who have an ear for beats and a whole lot of shit to vent about? Cue:
The World’s Most Dangerous Group
The violent living conditions provided inspiration for the lyrics on the album, in particular, F**k Tha Police – which resulted in a personal letter from the FBI. A memorable scene in the film depicts Ice Cube responding, “our art is a reflection of our reality,” to a journalist who has questioned them about promoting violence with their music.
The group not only provided a basis for the popularity of gangsta rap, but highlighted the violence and corruption surrounding Compton to a worldwide audience in a way that hadn’t been done before. Police brutality is a real focus of the film and it’s represented with a harsh honesty that many people could find confronting. Towards the end of the film, the group are rattled by the infamous verdict of the Rodney King trial and we see the onslaught of the 1992 LA Riots. More than 20 years on, this part of the film really strikes a chord with audiences as we remember the more recent deaths of individuals like Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, which consequently sparked riots across the US.
The tragic death of Eazy-E acts as a bitter-sweet ending to the film and at the same time raises awareness of AIDS; a disease, which still to this day, carries an unfair stigma with it.
In a brilliant, yet obvious choice, Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr plays the role of his father. Despite having to audition for the role like everybody else, it is clear that he was born to play the part. Further praise is due for the casting of the genius that is Paul Giamatti who plays the formidable manager, Jerry Heller. His performance is so on point that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing the part.
The many scenes surrounding studio time, live performances and violent riots offer ample opportunities to get your blood pumping. Pair this with an epic soundtrack that is guaranteed to blow your eardrums (and your mind) and you’ve got something that is worth seeing in theatres. A surprisingly accurate portrayal of the group’s rise to fame and a unique insight into the royalty battles that ensued, make this film unmissable.
Header image taken from Straight Outta Compton - The Movie Facebook Page