Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Directed by F. Gary Gary
Written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff
There are very few biopic films made that cover an artist or performer who is still living. There are a few, but it seems that stories are never worth really telling until the artist has passed or lived their life to almost completion. In other words, a film could not be done until they had a story worth telling. In F. Gary Gary’s film, Straight Outta Compton, he details the rise and eventual break-up of the infamous rap group N.W.A.
The movie covers each individual separately at first and then we see how the friends all came together to create their rap group. Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) was selling drugs on the street, living the life of a thug with not much ambition. Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) didn’t know what he wanted; his mother reprimanded him endlessly for not keeping up with school. I loved how they showed him laying down in his room listening to records, like so many young people do even today. All he wanted to do was listen to old school 70’s type of funk and soul music and come up with beats to spin at his next DJ gig.
We see Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) stare down at the white kids at his school where he was bussed into and see him go back to his neighborhood, and the scene drastically changes for him. All the while writing lyrics to rap songs, as a somewhat poet or bard painting a picture in his songs for what he saw on the streets. DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) contributed so much, from beats to lyrics and we see their influence in the group.
The story really starts with Dr. Dre pushing Eazy-E into the recording studio. Originally he just wanted to be part of Ruthless Records, giving the group the backing to get started with producing their albums. But Dr. Dre saw something in him, Ice Cube handed him his lyrics and before you know it their infamous song "Boyz-N-The-Hood" was born. After this the music poured out of them like emotions and words that had to be heard for the rest of the world.
In 1988 police brutality was running rampant; the Rodney King beatings were soon on their way, LL Cool J, Run DMC and Michael Jackson were on the top of the charts. None of these artists exemplified the streets of Los Angeles, more specifically Compton. An urban city in LA, where as the movie puts it so bluntly people come in and leave in body bags. Their first album Straight Outta Compton was prolific and resonated with the youth of the streets, and put West Coast rap on the map.
From here we see their pseudo manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) takes over the business side of their record deal. On the back-end Eazy-E and Jerry worked together to negotiate a contract that would make Eazy-E the most money and leave the other members with much less to their names. Ice Cube soon figured this out and refused to sign with them, leaving money on the table he goes on to pursue his own solo career. The group only put out one more album and that fire that once burned quickly dissolved. The electric energy filled with kismet and force that came from the group with Ice Cube could never be recreated.
My favorite part of the movie is when Ice Cube comes up with the song "Fuck tha Police," based on his own experiences in the streets and then goes on to perform it at a concert where they were told they could not by the police. They get arrested and taken down and this alone, this so- called bad publicity makes them even more famous than before. It reminded that in those days, there was no social media to make things known to the world every second of the day; it took these huge leaps of conviction, this momentous event to appear on TV for the world to know that it was happening.
The movie then takes us into the rest of the lives each rapper and their eventual rise to stardom or demise as what occurred with Eazy-E. We later see Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg and Tupac make appearances into Dr. Dre’s world of rap. Many of us can watch this movie and remember what it was like to first hear some of these albums, either N.W.A.’s or Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and even Snoop Dogg. I used to wait by the VCR and record these music videos when they first came out and couldn’t get enough of them.
The actors in the movie did a phenomenal job. Newcomer on the scene Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. delivered a great performance. I think it helped that he had his father's nuances down pat and he really stood out to me in the movie. I hope he stays in the acting business and continues to grow his career. Mitchell gave Eazy-E, a rapper most people think of as a womanizer and a back stabber, a lot of heart and depth and did wonderful. Hawkins also did really well and gave us some really emotional scenes coupled with moments of brevity and fun. And Giamatti is magnetic, you can’t keep your eyes off him, yet you totally hate him throughout the film. It almost reminded me of his performance as Kenny Rushton aka Pig Vomit in Private Parts, which I have always loved.
What I disliked about the movie is the same thing I hated about Jersey Boys, I felt that the first hour was great, I was so hyped up and excited to watch and then I felt like it quickly fast forwarded the lives of everyone. I just wanted to yell and scream, ok let’s slow down here and digest what just happened and delve deeper into the characters. Instead, we quickly get everything that happened to them thrown together rather haphazardly.
Overall I enjoyed the film, the fact that it was rushed made me feel like something was missing, but it was a pretty good movie. I liked it because it embodied a time in history that I thought was worth mentioning because so much of what was touched upon in the movie is now happening today. If you get a chance, check it out and if you are not a big fan of rap or N.W.A., I would say wait to rent it.
And of course the internet is running rampant with memes, these are too funny not to share.