Straight Outta Compton’s Going Straight to the TOP

straight outta compton

Straight_Outta_Compton-movie-posterIt’s not everyday that a major studio backs a predominately black movie, with almost no name actors in the lead role, carry a movie about one of the most influential and controversial rap groups of all time. It may also help that two of the producers, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are power players in the music and film industry, and two of the core members of the group that this film is about.

The film is about the five members of N.W.A., but mainly focuses on the core three, Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright (played brilliantly by up and coming actor Jason Mitchell), O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson (played by Ice Cube’s actual son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) and Andre ‘Dr. Dre’ Young (played by Non-Stop’s Corey Hawkins), who solidified the group’s power as the face, the rapper and the producer, with Lorenzo ‘MC Ren’ Patterson (played by former Leverage actor Aldis Hodge) and Antoine ‘DJ Yella’ Carraby (played by Battle: Los Angeles’ Neil Brown, Jr) supporting the three leads on the stage and in the studio.

At the beginning, Eazy is in his early twenties, selling dope on the streets of Compton, trying to get by, slowly getting tired of the lifestyle. Cube is a high school senior, yearning to use his gift of writing rhymes and rapping to better his life. Dre is a twenty year old musical genius, but a struggling DJ and

beat maker, trying to establish his own sound and make an impact in the music world. Each of them deal

with police brutality on a daily basis, due to the racism shown by the police department and the gang

violence and crime in their Compton neighborhood. One day, Dre gets the idea of starting a group,

knowing Eazy has money after bailing him out of jail due to a fight he got in protecting his younger

brother Tyree (Keith Powers). Eazy is skeptical, especially when Dre asks him to be a rapper in the group

while Dre and Yella take care of the music aspect, and Cube would be the main writer with some

assistance from Ren. When Eazy begins enjoying the feel and attention he gets as a rapper, he quickly

becomes the face of the group. Eazy then meets rich record producer and manager Jerry Heller (played by

the always great Paul Giamatti), who helps the group book shows and get their records off the ground.

Quickly, the group becomes well known and controversial, taking hip hop beyond break dancing and

glamour rap of the early 80’s. The more popular the group gets, the more tension begins to rise. After the

success of their first two albums and Eazy’s solo album, Cube begins noticing that Eazy and Jerry are

making more money then the rest of the group and after an argument with Jerry over his contract, Cube

leaves the group to start his solo career. After a heated feud begins between the group and Cube, and

Cube easily winning with his hit song No Vaseline (one of the best scenes in the movie by the way), Dre

begins realizing Eazy and Jerry have been taking advantage of them, and after getting assistance from the

intimidating and notorious record producer Suge Knight (played by R. Marcus Taylor), leaves Eazy’s

label to join Death Row Records where he helps make the label huge, creating his masterpiece The

Chronic, and make stars out of Snoop Dogg (played by Selma and Dope’s Keith Stanfield) and Tupac

Shakur (played by newcomer Marcc Rose). A few years pass and Eazy realizes he needs to cut ties with

Jerry and yearns to get the group back together, making amends with Cube and Dre (Ren and Yella never

left Eazy’s side) but soon finds out that he has AIDS and a few months later dies, being named ‘The

Godfather of Gangsta Rap’. Right after Eazy’s death, Dre leaves Death Row to start his label Aftermath

where he makes superstars out of Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent, also being named one of the biggest

and richest music producers of all time. Ice Cube has become a star player in the film industry, being an

actor, producer and writer, and still continues to rap to this day. MC Ren continues to rap only locally in

Compton but still a name in the industry. DJ Yella switched his endeavors and became a director of porno

movies, shooting almost 200 of them.

This film hit me hard. I am a struggling screenwriter/actor/filmmaker myself, and the yearning

they wanted to provide for their families and make an impact is exactly how I feel having come so close

with screenplays of my own in the industry and to continue being rejected, this film shows that anything

is possible. F. Gary Gray already has a great filmography, but he already knows these streets after

shooting the classic Friday and Set It Off. He captures the essence, the grit, grime, glamour, all of the

elements that needed to be put in this film to make it work. It speaks to the audience, regardless of the

background, but obviously more relatable in the black and hip hop communities, but in the theater I was

in it was very mixed with a lot of white collard, middle aged white man who sang the songs in the theater

with everyone else and I thought that was great. The police brutality scenes were hard to watch with

everything going on now with cops shooting black people in communities around the country. Almost

like 1988 was still happening, but sadly, it never went away. That was a point F. Gary Gray was trying to

make I think. The music pulsated and was just another character in the film. Capturing 1986-1996, they

did that on point. It’s almost like going back in a time warp.

In the end, my only negative thing to say about the movie is that it had to end. I am a huge fan of

biopics as well as films dealing with the hood and great character dramas. This takes the cake. To be a rap

group that was hated by everyone damn near including the government, to have a biopic come out 25

years later is a huge accomplishment. I am proud to say that I’ll pay the money I have to, to see this film

again. May this inspire not only rappers and filmmakers, but people in general who have a dream,

regardless of the color of their skin. Number 1 at the box office this weekend.

 

 

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