In 1987, five young black men used brutally honest poetry and hardcore beats, putting their anger about life in the hood onto paper thus into rap music. That’s a dangerous thing as it would affect everybody. That it did. Straight Outta Compton takes us back in time to the late 80s, early 90s to where it all began. It’s the biographical story of how these poetic revolutionaries armed with their lyrics and raw talent stood up to the LAPD and even to the F.B.I. These were the corporations that wanted to keep them down, this is when they formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A. They spoke the truth, the truth and nothing but the truth. So help them god.
“Speak a little truth and people lose their minds”
Watching the news over the past few years has shown me things haven’t really changed much for young African-American men, not just on the west coast but in America as a whole. America’s current cases of police brutality demonstrate that things haven’t changed much for young African-American men since the 1980s when their sense of outrage was a contributing factor in defining the music they wanted to make and listen to. It’s not just in America that this happens. It happens in the cities of Britain as well. The Death of Mark Duggan in London was the catalyst for The London Riots (2011). He was shot by a police officer. The deaths in Britain are more aligned with gang culture than the cops.
In the film, there’s a scene when the group were outside of the recording studio on a break from recording. A few police cars pull up outside of the studio and force the group to lie down on the floor. The cops of the 1980s/1990s in Compton would arrest based on what someone looked like rather than if they had committed a crime. So basically, if you were black and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time you could bet that you’d be apprehended by the cops. Young African-American men were arrested for just standing in the street.
They could do what they wanted when they wanted to whom ever they wanted. Nobody could stop them because they were supposedly upholding the law. The group’s anger towards the cops was the motivation for the song “Fuck Tha Police” which had a great effect in society. The effect was so great that they got threats from the F.B.I that if they ever performed the song again, they’d be forced to take action. There’s so much power in words and N.W.A chose some that hit the authorities where it hurt. That song, like many of their songs were deeply political. It’s conscious rap. The authorities accused them of inciting violence towards law enforcement but really it was the cops abusing their power to the highest degree possible and getting away with it. It was white as have and black as have not.
The performances of the cast who played N.W.A are amazing. The stand out performances for me were O’Shea Jackson as Ice Cube and Jason Mitchell as Eric Wright/Eazy-E. O’Shea Jackson as Ice Cube was a great choice, considering that he’s actually Ice Cube’s son but his performance was paramount and he’s spitting image of his dad, especially later in the movie when he gets older and goes solo. Jason Mitchell’s performance was also great. Eazy’s voice is one of the most renowned voices in rap history and Jason aced that voice. He didn’t mess it up and he did it justice. Not to forget to mention that this was their first major film. Corey Hawkins (Iron Man 3) plays Andre Young/Dr Dre, Neil Brown Jr. (Suits) plays DJ Yella/Antoine Carraby and Aldis Hodge (The Walking Dead) plays Lorenzo Patterson/MC Ren. For these three actors, this was their first major part having only achieving minor roles or cameos in their previous projects. The casting was pretty good as well, as they managed to find actors who looked like the real N.W.A. They looked and sounded like them.
You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge. Seriously, you are. Watching this in the cinema was phenomenal. The environment was like concert, not because of the live performances onscreen, but because much of the audience were dancing out of their seats. This is a movie that you should certainly take a trip to the cinema for. Do not download. Do not stream. Go to the local cinema. It’s worth every penny. Music films like this are a must. You must have the cinema experience. Especially, because it’s rap with those hard beats. That’s an experience that you will never get sitting at home, watching it on a computer screen.
Set in the neighbourhoods of Compton, director, F. Gary Gray gave the movie a raw, urban feel. The group is from Compton so let’s film in Compton. He’s done this because he grew up in South Central Los Angeles himself. He had much of the insight that N.W.A did. A black male growing up in that era during that time. He lived it and has taken some of biographical insight and translated it onto the screen. A black man walking through a white neighbourhood acts as flare for the LAPD to come and arrest yo ass, or if you’re black, look funny and standing in the street minding your own business. The movie covers most of the band’s milestones. There’s the LAPD’s raid pushed by their choice to disregard a warning from the FBI and perform their protest track Fuck Tha Police at their 1989 Detroit concert. There are the arguments that split the group over the scheming of their manager, Jerry Waller (Paul Giamatti) which results in Cube going solo.
Women are either seen as yapping mothers or the group’s playthings. Other than Dre’s mother, women are mainly on-screen wearing skimpy outfits or no clothes at all. Lisa Renee Pitts’ (Her) scenes were pretty strong, showing Dre’s respect for his mother and it’s Tomicca (Carra Patterson) who tells Eazy about Waller’s stealing. For the most part, it objectifies women as material objects and not as human beings but this is represented in the song Gangsta Gangsta with the quote, “life ain’t nothing but bitches and money”. This film is no stranger to epic parties filled with pussy, drugs and alcohol.
Fuck Tha Police is still as applicable today as it was 27 years ago. Straight Outta Compton is still as relatable today because we have refused to face the truth. Many people refuse to hear the truth, some people disregard blatant truths that are right in front of their faces. They’d prefer to run away from it and claim that it doesn’t exist rather than accept it. Then when faced with the truth, the cops, the FBI and co started bashing the group for inciting violence against law enforcement. The Rodney King trial has a mention in the movie and the cops that assaulted him were given “not guilty”. More recent examples are Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray.
The exposure of N.W.A on the world stage changed everything in music but most notably in politics and society. They began the reformation of the West Coast and America. Not much has changed in terms of justice for the African-Americans but conscious rap bands like N.W.A and Public Enemy were the first step into making a better country. They told hard truths that the authorities were in denial about, or didn’t care about. They wanted to push these truths under the rug and forget about them. Due to the messages being in music, they were unavoidable. Music had more of an effect than pushing a bill through congress. Their messages were etched into the minds of young Americans, black and white alike. Their song’s messages elevated millions of people onto the same level of ideological consciousness that had never been done since. They pushed sociocultural change in America and it made the people stand up for their rights and what they believed in.
More than two decades have passed since the events of Straight Outta Compton. DuVernay’s Selma took place 60 years ago and comes to terms with issues that are uncanny to this movie. In the 21st century, the same racial issues stand firm. It makes one wonder, people say that stuff like this is in the past. Is it? When will history actually become history? It seems like it’s still happening to me. The storylines of Selma and Straight Outta Compton are still being told. At least Gray’s movie honors the immortal album, Straight Outta Compton.