Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 16th 2015 Contents Straight Outta Compton, F Gary
Gray s biopic of pioneering gangsta
N.W.A., manages to
feel urgent and alive, even
as it plays like the coolest
episode of VH1 s Behind
the Music ever.
For a group that pro-
vided something so out-
side the traditional
boundaries of what
music was offering in the
late 1980s and early 90s,
N.W.A. s struggles, rise
and inevitable fall are
surprisingly familiar. The details are
different, but the overall structure fol-
lows the trajectory of practically every
important band you ve ever paid atten-
But in the wake of Ferguson, Balti-
more, Charleston and other racially
charged incidents, and of the Black
Lives Matter movement, the message
from the streets that N.W.A. delivered
with its debut album, Straight Outta
Compton, sounds as meaningful as
The film begins in 1986, with Eric
"Eazy-E" Wright (Jason Mitchell) nar-
rowly avoiding getting busted (or worse)
while making a cocaine transaction.
Meanwhile, Andre "Dr Dre" Young
(Corey Hawkins) is trying to launch his
career as a DJ. And his friend O Shea
"Ice Cube" Jackson (played by O Shea
Jackson Jr, Ice Cube s real-life son)
chronicles through rhymes the violence
and despair in their Los Angeles neigh-
borhood---Compton, drug-infested and
gang-ridden, with a brutal police force
throwing gasoline on the fire, not put-
ting it out.
Dre approaches a receptive Eazy-E
about the latter investing some of his
drug money into music. They start a
label, Ruthless Records, and Ice Cube
comes onboard along with DJ Yella
(Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Adlis
New York rappers walk out of a ses-
sion, refusing to record Ice Cube s lyrics.
Eazy-E so far has footed the bill and
avoided taking part, but after much
urging, he steps behind the mike and...
he s awful. He can t keep the beat and
his voice is inauthentic. But Dre coaxes
a credible reading out of him, and off
they go, recording Boyz-
n-the-Hood line by line.
The song becomes a
local hit and Jerry Heller
(Paul Giamatti) appears,
offering to manage the
group and taking Eazy-
E under his wing. What
follows is the creation of
music that terrified mid-
dle America but was, in
Ice Cube s words, "reality
rap." He considers himself
a journalist, he says, reporting on the
world around him.
The scenes in which the group mem-
bers work in the studio are outstanding.
Dre is a kind of mad genius, coaxing
beats from all kinds of sources and
inspirations. When they begin recording
Straight Outta Compton, he lays down
a challenge: Only the best rhymes are
going to make the cut. This isn t local
anymore; he s aiming higher.
The album generates both contro-
versy and sales, and soon, N.W.A. is
touring behind it, living the debauched
rock-star life of lore (and cliche). The
second half of the film is not as com-
pelling as the first---the creation of the
group is more interesting than the stan-
dard money problems that will derail
it. Women aren t treated well, when
they re considered at all. And DJ Yella
and MC Ren get short shrift in the
story (Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E s
widow are among the film s producers,
which may explain that). At almost
21/2 hours, the movie is at least 30
minutes too long.
Straight Outta Compton chronicles
Dr Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E s hard-
fought rise to the top in the legendary
and controversial hip-hop group N.W.A.
But the performances are terrific,
and when it s on its game, which is
often, Straight Outta Compton is an
explosive look at the creation of a mes-
sage that had to be delivered by the
only people who could deliver it, a mes-
sage that is, unfortunately, as timely
now as when we first heard it.
• Reach Bill Goodykoontz on
Straight Outta Compton
explosive look at N.W.A.
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt August 16, 2015
N.W.A. (from left): MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr), Dr Dre (Corey
Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) and Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr).
PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Rated: R for language
violence and drug use.
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