‘Straight Outta Compton’ Offers Brutally Honest Look at NWA

The year is 1987 and we’re right in the middle of Compton, considered to be one of the most dangerous places in the United States. Amid all the gang violence, drug dealing, and police brutality, five young men sought a way out through rhymes and beats. Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) had the rhymes, Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) had the beats, and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) had the money and the flow. Along with their friends DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), the five men created NWA (N****s With Attitude) and began to change things with their music.

Straight Outta Compton comes at you with the hard truth in what plays out as a brisk, two-and-a-half hour rap biopic of one of the most influential groups in history. Detailing the origins of the five rappers composing NWA, this film explores the reality of the world these men lived in and how they reflected that in their music. Not only is this story powerful, but the film’s underlying messages involve police brutality, an issue which is becoming the leading discussion in our country. Their music defined a struggle and helped birth some of the most successful and praised rappers in the industry.

Assuming the three leads in the film are O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s son portraying a younger him), Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell. Each of the three brings a passion to the music that’s displayed so effectively in the film. Their collaborations were unbelievably entertaining to watch, and then in a moment things are turned on their heads and we see the harsher side of their upbringings. For fans of the music, it’s so interesting to watch how each member established themselves after NWA. Most of the well known and well-respected rappers were involved with NWA and it’s members and seeing that story unfold is endlessly appealing.

This film peers into Compton during a time where police brutality towards blacks was ramping up. We see five young men get stopped and harassed outside the recording studio because they looked like they might be gang members. They’re thrown violently to the ground because they’re assumed to have drugs on them. It’s tough to watch, but not hard to imagine because we see this type of thing every week in today’s society. Through these adversities, NWA wrote songs about the police brutality and thus F**k the Police was born, a song whose impact still resonates.

Director F. Gary Gray doesn’t hold back with this story, as he manages to turn a 150-minute movie into a fast-paced, informative, and visceral film. There are some incredibly tense sequences where you have a genuine fear for the characters we’ve begun to care for. There are many polarizing scenes where to someone not accustom to the Compton lifestyle may be surprised, but automatic machine guns and crew beatings are just a part of their world. It’s easy to sit back and take our own lives for granted and Gray reminds us that we really don’t know just how bad things can get.

The film does a fantastic job of keeping its characters grounded in reality (within reason). They may rap about a lot of terrible things, but the reality is that these guys weren’t like the people they were surrounded by. There’s a look inside at Giamatti’s character exploiting and manipulating his clients, like many unfortunately do in the industry. We even get personal reactions from many of the diss tracks between the rappers and the tension that pulled them apart. It is very gritty and things often do seem bad, but the camaraderie they share is demonstrative of how far family can stretch, no matter the circumstances.

Straight Outta Compton will knock the breath out of you and yet, you find yourself wanting to experience it again and again. I’m eagerly awaiting seeing this film a second time with friends and I’d even consider going a third time. The talent involved create a phenomenal movie which allows us to look at all sides of NWA’s story. The music in the film is incredible, the story is surprising, and for most audiences this will be a reflection of the time we’re living in today.

1 Comment

  1. Lisa Liang

    August 15, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I love and watched Straight Outta Compton twice. The 2nd time even better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *