Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton
by Wilson Morales
Throughout the summer, we’ve seen superhero films, action films and a few independent films that have captivated audiences, but hardly any straight-up drama films to add to that mix. Well, a story about five rappers who helped changed not only the music industry, but inform others about the oppression from law enforcement is probably the most exciting one to see. With ‘Straight Outtta Compton,’ director F. Gary Gary returns to the big screen with an invigorating, dynamic, no-holds-barred, film led by five newcomers who embody the characters they are portraying with perfection. While certain aspects of N.W.A. were left out in this 2 1/2 film, there’s plenty of information left onscreen for one to get to the sense of who this group were and why they sang the songs that caused an uproar in the country and amongst themselves.
With an explosive opening that includes drug dealer Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) escaping a battalion of cops as they raid a house in Compton, we know that nothing was ever easy. One to had to literally fight for their existence. With rapper Dre. Dre (Corey Hawkins), it was about trying to make enough money to move from his mother’s house and support his girlfriend and son. Along with teenage rapper Ice-Cube (played by the rapper’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), it took some hurdles before they could convince Eazy-E not only to put his money in their vision but also be a member as well. Hence, N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) was formed. The group made a splash with their gangsta rap back home but it wasn’t until Eazy-E hooked up with manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and he got them a record label and nationwide fame.
Besides dealing with the media over the lyrics, the group still faced police brutality back home. It didn’t matter how much fame they had, they were looked down up by law enforcement, and after one too many illegal searches and harassment, came the song 1988 “F–k Tha Police.” Not only did the song spark outrage among cops, especially in Detroit where they were arrested after a concert, but the FBI got involved. That only gave the group more publicity and more fame.
With fame, comes drama and after money, girls and luxury houses, infighting begins starting with Ice Cube feeling shafted over money owed. After all, he did write most of the songs. Once he leaves the group, a war of words through songs between him and N.W.A. sparked the charts, until it was Dr. Dre’s turn to leave. With ex-bodyguard Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) spearheading the charge, together they formed Death Row Records.
With a lot of musical groups from the past and present, breakups occur and individuals go on to solo and successful careers. Once the group breaks up, it takes time and tragedy to bring each back to place when things were normal and fun.
What’s exciting about this film is that not only do we get a great story but F. Gary Gray shows the humanity within the members. These young guys had a purpose, not just to sing and make money, buy to let the world know through their songs what Black America were going through with law enforcement. It’s 25 years later, and with events that have taken place around this country recently, nothing has changed. What’s also amazing is the casting of five unknowns in lead roles. Led by Jason Mitchell, who’s the most captivating of the unit, it was easy to see these guys as the characters they are playing as opposed to watching familiar faces playing the roles.
With Gray’s direction, all cylinders from the acting, the singing and visual scenes were aces across the board. It may have summertime, but so far it’s among the best films released this year.