Darick T. Earney
On Aug. 14, the highly anticipated musical biopic “Straight Outta Compton” was released in select theaters worldwide, and it’s become one of the best selling films of its genre.
“Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of the Compton, Calif. hip hop act N.W.A. and their rise to fame in the late 1980s with controversial lyrics that revolutionized the music industry.
The film is directed by F. Gary Gray, and stars Paul Giamatti as N.W.A.’s manager Jerry Heller, and Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown, Jr., and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as the members of N.W.A.
I found this movie to be quite entertaining from the first scene forward. The film starts with a prologue set in 1986, when N.W.A. founding member, Easy E (Jason Mitchell), visits a drug house in South Central Los Angeles, just seconds before a drug bust takes place.
Following the prologue is a series of smaller, backstory driven scenes, about two of the other forming members, Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) as aspiring musicians trying to become famous.
The audience is introduced to future N.W.A. bandmate DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), who works as a nightclub DJ alongside Dr. Dre. Ice Cube enters the club and performs lyrics on stage to what would later become an N.W.A. song called, “Gangster Gangster.”
This scene also shows Dr. Dre’s first meeting with rapper MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) who would also go on to join the group.
One of my favorite things about this biopic I’d have to say were the surprise portrayals of world famous rap artists in their younger years. Some of these include Tupac Shakur, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and even a brief nod to R&B group, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
A problem I had with this movie, however, was that it felt rushed in places, often times skipping and glossing over key moments in the careers of each N.W.A. member. Including a public feud between Ice Cube and Easy E, and Dr. Dre’s famous public assault on female journalist, Dee Barnes.
“I think blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction is the most interesting movement in film right now. Movies allow for this distortion because the art form allows us to explore past, present and future through sound, picture, dialogue and memory. That artists would play with these notions just demonstrates the importance of this art form to our perceived versions of the past,” Jim Price, art of film professor, said.
Verdict: 2 Reels.
While “Straight Outta Compton” felt rushed and dishonest about N.W.A.’s history at parts, it still managed to paint a fine portrait of what is known today as the Golden Age of Hip Hop, showing the impact of N.W.A., and the birth of west coast gangster rap.
Like any movie, it’s not perfect, but I rank it high on my list as one of 2015’s greatest Hollywood summer movies.
Aside from its recent box office success, becoming the first ‘R’ rated movie to reach $57 million dollars for an opening weekend in August, I think the film’s true success is that it reminds audiences of the power of words, and how using them carefully can cause revolutions.
That being said, I recommend seeing this movie if you appreciate hip hop music, but can keep an open mind that its history can be revisioned.