By now, the movie’s been seen worldwide and there are countless reviews and “think pieces” strewn throughout cyberspace detailing all kinds of interesting (and some unoriginal) perspectives. The trailer was like a cool party that your friends went on and on about but you wouldn’t give in to the hype until you saw it for yourself. Luckily, Straight Outta Compton became a smash at the box office and there were even murmurs (according to the net, of course) about it being Oscar worthy.
I went into the theater without any reservations. I knew much about NWA’s history since I’m not foreign to that era. A nice sizable chunk of West Coast Hip-Hop trivia that I’ve gained from watching videos for like Eazy-E’s “We Want Eazy” and NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” and listening to classic albums such as The Chronic and Doggystyle. I remember the day that Eazy died back in ’95. There was a news program for students called Channel One that would air during homeroom and I can recall looking up and seeing a blurb about Eric “Eazy-E” Wright’s passing due to AIDS complications. Besides Dr. Dre, Ice Cube was the only other rapper from NWA to reach megastardom. How the trailer and advertisements portrayed the group, you’d think that Eazy-E, Dre, and Ice Cube were the only members of the group that mattered. Before the movie’s release, MC Ren let Universal know via twitter that he was far from pleased and he had every right to feel that way especially after seeing how his character in the film seemed to play second fiddle to the aforementioned “stars” of the Compton collective.
From a movie-goers point of view, I found Straight Outta Compton to be very entertaining. Everyone took on their roles in a very convincing manner. Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. did great playing his father. Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell were fantastic as Dr. Dre and Eazy. At times I felt like whatever scene featured DJ Yella, played by Neil Brown Jr., he stole with his wise cracks and girl chasing. Paul Giamatti’s interpretation of Jerry Heller reminded of how shady music executives are known to be as per Q-Tip’s music industry rule #4080. It was a good movie that I wouldn’t mind watching again but as a rap fan, there were quite a few discrepancies that I found throughout it’s two hour and thirty minute run time.
First, 2Pac didn’t sign with Death Row until his release from prison in late 1995 and by then Eazy-E had already passed. There’s a scene where 2Pac recorded “Hail Mary” and that wasn’t recorded until Summer of 1996 for his Makaveli album which took place after Dre left Death Row. Though we were able to see the beef between Ice Cube and NWA but we didn’t see the Eazy-E vs Dr. Dre back and forth. But let’s be realistic, you can’t be 100% with biopics and expect to not have the film running for too long. Artistic liberties were rightfully taken but my only concern is that the general public will take what they see in the film as verbatim and not delve into NWA’s history for themselves. Learn about Arabian Prince, the NWA and The Posse project, The Fila Fresh Crew (D.O.C’s group), and last but not least gain an appreciation for MC Ren’s contributions. MC Ren, In my opinion, is just as great as Ice Cube and he wrote most of the songs for the group and held down the writing after Cube went solo. They say that Suge Knight wasn’t pleased with his portrayal in the film but with all the stories that I’ve heard through the years, I don’t think that all of what we’ve seen onscreen about him came from fiction.
As of late there’s been a mixed reception to the film. Some have accused NWA of destroying black music (they didn’t originate gangsta rap… shout out to Schoolly D!) and others attacked the group for their misogynistic content. Though I don’t agree with NWA bearing the burden of being the destructor of black culture, I will say that its important to acknowledge the misogyny as it opens up a discussion of a greater context. I credit NWA with discussing and exposing the environment that many of us on the East Coast weren’t privy to and it showed in our hesitance to accept the music from that region. I’m not NWA’s #1 fan but I respect the hell out of the production style and their taking a stand against corrupt law enforcement with “F*ck The Police” which spoke volumes during a time when the crack epidemic fried Black neighborhoods. I could write a long essay about the misogynistic material created by the group but I’ll end this post by stating that it forces us to look at how we value our women and what causes such a lack of love and respect for those of the opposite sex. It’s Deeper than Rap…