Straight Outta Compton and the N.W.A Legacy

Straight Outta Compton is the 2015 film that follows the story of 5 of some of the prominent pioneers in hip-hop: Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, MC Ren and the late Eazy-E. The movie stays faithful in retelling of how N.W.A. came to be, with Ice Cube and Dr.Dre overseeing and helping to produce the film. I would even consider this a documentary; the best documentary in years. 

The film takes place in 1986, with rampant police brutality, drugs, gangs, and guns. Police are arresting people just for the way they look. Nobody can physically fight them without ending up dead or behind bars. N.W.A. decides to fight back with music. They are making small time records until Eazy-E crosses paths with Jerry Heller, a shady manager who worked for Elton John, Otis Redding, and Styx. He takes N.W.A. into his arms and launches them into infamy through his connections in the music world. The rest is history. History that is accurately displayed throughout the film.

In 2015, we need this movie more than ever. N.W.A. was about freedom of speech, speaking your mind, and using your first amendment to its fullest potential. In this day and age we tiptoe around certain subjects in order to please everyone. N.W.A. stood by their music so vehemently that in 1990, Straight Outta Compton was banned by MTV. MC Ren responded:

It’s a strong video; it scares people. See, people who get scared are scared of the truth; they were scared of it ’cause it’s so real. It tells the truth about how the police harass innocent people all the time in gang sweeps of Los Angeles. They don’t want to see that, you know. They think the crowd is ready for all this devil worship and all that kinda shit, but they are not ready for something that’s real to life, the real shit.

The casting is perfect. Every single person is so believable and really take naturally to their roles. Even secondary characters like Suge Knight, young Snoop Dogg, and Tupac, look eerily similar to their real counterparts. I applaud the high production value.  The casting, the locations, and the events that take place in the film seem plausible. It looks like an actual account of what N.W.A experienced in the late 80s and early 90s.  It’s no surprise, due to the fact that Dr.Dre and Ice Cube both supervised the film.

During the course of the film, we see the rise of the group and then the eventual downfall. Ice Cube is the first to depart over financial disputes, although it skims over it a bit with only a few diss raps. I feel there were a few questions unanswered and not a lot of focus on Jerry. But after the group disbands, the focus really shines on Dr.Dre, Suge Knight, and Death Row Records. At the same time, the story of Ruthless Records is fast fading.  It’s only mentioned a few more times before Eazy-E calls it quits. Even with the sudden story and scenery changes, I still felt sucked in and completely entertained.  

The movie as a whole is a great reminder that police brutality is as rampant as ever. It really feels like you are walking through a visually gritty N.W.A discography and it helps us understand why everything happened the way it did. Like them or hate them, N.W.A. made history, and this film brilliantly explores that history. This is one of the best biopics I have ever seen.

Also, here’s an awesome N.W.A. graph: https://medium.com/cuepoint/the-n-w-a-flowchart-477b8a6e241b

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