In 1988 Niggaz Wit’ Attitudes’ triple-platinum selling debut album Straight Outta Compton was released. Nearly thirty years later, group members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube came together to create the film with the same name, which tells the story of the rise and eventual collapse of the iconic rap group. The result is a masterpiece. Whether you’re intrigued by the portrayal of police brutality and violence, or just nodding your head to the beats by Dre, Straight Outta Compton is a film that in some way can speak to anyone, but it is especially geared towards fans of the world’s most dangerous rap group.
The film starts in Compton (imagine that) as we are introduced to the members of N.W.A: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. Similar to Ice Cube’s debut film Boyz In The Hood, Compton is portrayed as a city run by gangs and abusive police officers, making life in Compton a constant struggle. The frustration of living in Compton and dealing with gangs, violence, police misconduct and brutality was put into N.W.A’s music, and is what allowed them to pioneer gangsta rap and become one of the most recognizable names in music history.
N.W.A’s lyrics and gangsta rap in general has always been a controversial topic, and Straight Outta Compton does anything but ignore that aspect of N.W.A’s history; the controversial aspect of gangsta rap is one of the most prevalent themes in the film, and it is one of its biggest strengths as well. Co-producers Dr. Dre and Ice Cube use real news reports from the time to portray the impact N.W.A’s material had in the media. A seen portraying N.W.A’s arrest at a concert in Detroit after performing their hit song “Fuck Tha Police” helped to show how the group was taking a stance against censorship in a nation that allegedly allows freedom of speech.
The film goes on to portray the ugly collapse of the rap group. It also acts, in a way, as a tribute to the late Eazy-E, who as essential as he was to the group’s success, also played a great hand in the group’s downfall. His untimely death in 1995 ensured the group would sadly never make a return.
The strength of Straight Outta Compton lies in its portrayal of Compton, and the portrayal of the group’s rise to fame. An N.W.A. movie isn’t a movie at all if it doesn’t have a strong soundtrack, which it does. Dr. Dre has been the number one producer in hip-hop for the last 27 years, and he delivers beyond expectation in Straight Outta Compton. The cast, from their look, to their acting ability is superb.
The biggest weakness in Straight Outta Compton is the difficulty non-N.W.A. fans may have with catching onto certain plot points. Individuals outside of the group such as D.O.C and Suge Knight are essential to the story, however their significance might go undetected to viewers who do not already know much about the real-life story of N.W.A, or have knowledge about such characters. Some rappers that are extremely influential to the story are mentioned within the film, but never actually make appearances such as Gangsta Dresta and the group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Other artists do not play major roles in the plot, but do make character appearances such as Tupac Shakur and Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Straight Outta Compton is about a group that may have collapsed 20 years ago, but their stain on culture refuses to go away. N.W.A forever changed rap music. Dr. Dre brought you your favorite headphones and consistently produced the most popular names in rap, from Eazy-E, to Snoop Dogg, to Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar. Ice Cube has not only been listed as one of the dopest lyricists in hip hop history, but he has had a successful run in films; writing, producing and starring in films including Boyz In The Hood, Friday, Barbershop, 21 Jump Street, and Ride Along, all while continuing to release new music. He was also featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops. If you’ve played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, then you’ve played through a video game where the storyline is based off of the well-publicized beef between Dr. Dre and Eazy-E. The San Andreas and Los Santos logos in the GTA franchise are based off of the Compton logo made popular by Eazy-E and N.W.A. Their influence on pop culture only grows stronger as years go on.
If you’re a fan of N.W.A, you’ll love watching their rise to fame, and if you’ve never listened to the group then you’ll enjoy watching a group of boys from the hood who never should have been successful defy all odds and become Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees. Just like N.W.A’s music, Straight Outta Compton is at times serious, humorous, uplifting, violent, and even controversial, making it worth every penny to see.