DVD Review: Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta ComptonSome two decades before Kanye West rapped about the injustice of not promptly receiving the croissants he ordered and before the biggest affront to a rapper would be to diss his $8,000 suit, there was a group of young rappers spitting scathing lyrics about racism, police brutality and the oppression of the black community in Compton, Calif.

Despite releasing only two albums in the late ’80s and disbanding after just five years, that group — N.W.A — would become perhaps the single most influential force in hip hop.

“Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of the group’s rise out of a poor, dangerous neighborhood and its fall due to band member disputes and a shady manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti, always a great bad guy).

Tired of selling dope for a living, Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) decides to use some of his drug dealing cash to get into the music business. Eazy-E approaches Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., aka, Ice Cube’s son) about starting a record label. Along with DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), the five decide to collaborate, forming N.W.A.

Ice Cube writes “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” which becomes the group’s first hit. Is the song violent, offensive and misogynistic? Sure. But it’s been referenced and remade by countless artists since its 1987 release, a testament to its impact as the first song of its kind.

“Boyz-n-the-Hood” is nothing compared to N.W.A’s next hit, which Ice Cube wrote after being harassed by police for no apparent reason. Despite being told by the FBI not to perform the song in concerts, N.W.A does exactly what the expletive-laced song title suggests and performs it anyway and the group is arrested in the process.

Like it or hate it, the group’s music was, in a word, groundbreaking. Like the anti-war protest songs of the Vietnam era, N.W.A’s lyrics challenged authority and the status quo, and railed against the life that the young black men of Compton were presumed to live.

After two years with N.W.A, Ice Cube leaves the group, saying he’s been unfairly compensated. Even so, he co-produced “Straight Outta Compton.” (He’s worth an estimated $100 million now, so he did OK for himself.)

Following a series of feuds, the rest of the group disbanded in 1991 and Dr. Dre would go on to make the careers of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent. His Beats by Dr. Dre headphones sold to Apple in 2014 for $3 billion (yes: billion).

As inspiring as the film is, no biopic is entirely honest, especially when it is produced by two of its subjects — and “Straight Outta Compton” does gloss over some nasty truths. After its premiere, several women came forward accusing Dr. Dre of physical abuse, of which the movie makes no reference.

Despite the group’s personnel issues, N.W.A’s music paved the way for every rapper who followed. Even Kanye West with his Maison Martin Margiela wardrobe.




Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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