People have long been waiting for the movie that would tell the story of influential rap group N.W.A and it is finally here with Straight Outta Compton. It had to have the right actors portraying popular hip-hop figures Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E as well as core members MC Ren and DJ Yella who did not go on to share the same solo success as the others. The other hard task was chronicling their rise to fame and the group’s eventual demise along with how they all fared afterwards which is why the film is 2 ½ hours long.
Luckily, the film manages to include most of the key elements necessary to telling their story. We see how Eazy-E was the primary figure in bringing N.W.A’s sound to the rest of the world, while it was Dr. Dre’s keen ear for music that brought them respect and acclaim, whether people actually liked what the guys were rapping about or not. Meanwhile, Ice Cube was the best actual rapper of the bunch and also the first to realize they weren’t receiving what they deserved financially. And who better to play him than his own son who captures his father’s menacing scowl and intensity that helped make N.W.A the world’s most dangerous group?
Fans of the group won’t argue that the film is a pretty accurate depiction of what went down as far as their rise and fall as a unit. It was music manager Jerry Heller that exposes the group to the masses and takes them out of the local rap scene by getting them a major record label deal. But he’s also the one that takes advantage of them moneywise. Paul Giamatti brings depth to the role of Heller, not just playing him as the typical older out-of-touch white guy who doesn’t know what’s really going on. Instead we see a genuine bond that he seemed to share with the group’s leader, Eazy-E, though that bond clearly wasn’t as strong as his bond was with money and success. One by one, the members of the group realize he’s capitalizing on the group and that they will never truly be compensated for all their hard work.
The film takes place roughly over a 5-year period and demonstrates what a tumultuous time a group could have in such a time frame. Of course it couldn’t include every detail about every member but it manages to properly explain the stories of key members Eazy, Cube, and Dre while including how other notable names like Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg factored in to the mix and led to the aftermath of N.W.A’s dissolution. Their story is especially poignant right now as it shows some of the police brutality that took place 25 years ago… reminding us that it hasn’t really changed much at all. While we’ve made progress in other civil rights and equality issues, the excessive police force against minorities is just as common now as it was then. And this is what sparked much of what N.W.A rapped about, not to mention it was much riskier to talk about it on a record at that time. That’s why these guys were pioneers in the music scene as far as telling the harsh realities of what they lived through. They opened suburban America’s eyes to a life it may not have known about, and helped the urban community feel like it finally had a voice. Now Ice Cube maintains mainstream Hollywood success while Dr. Dre is the current highest-paid artist in all of music (not just out of rappers but of all musicians). If you want to see the story of how they got there, you need to see Straight Outta Compton.