Straight Outta Compton: What Makes It Instant Classic?

PC: Universal Studios

PC: Universal Studios

Christian Santiago, Staff Writer

“What does N.W.A. stand for anyway? No whites allowed, something like that?”

“…nah….Niggaz Wit Attitudes”

 

N.W.A. is arguably the most influential Hip-Hop group ever. Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella put the West Coast on the map in an industry mainly run by New York rappers and record companies like Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five or Eric. B & Rakim. Pioneers of the term Gangster Rap, N.W.A. were some of the first rappers to voice their opinions in a nonviolent manner. They didn’t hold back, and they paved the way for many artists to speak about issues that not many people hear about or relate to outside of Compton in Los Angeles. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre decided it was time to retell their story in a new way with the movie Straight Outta Compton, at a time of escalating racial tensions and police brutality.

 

The movie follows the rise and fall of N.W.A. and its members through their lives and careers. What I like most is that each member of N.W.A. has a story to tell. We have Eazy-E being forced into rapping and ultimately making Boyz-In-The-Hood, paving the way for Dr. Dre’s Death Row Records, and Ice Cube leaving N.W.A. and establishing a successful solo career. What also sells the movie is how accurate it is, by both the story and the actors. The real Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are producers for the movie and were on set everyday for accuracy and to guide the young men playing them. The actors are also incredible; not only did they look eerily similar to the real members of N.W.A. (Ice Cube’s real son, Oshea Jackson Jr., played his father), their performances are fantastically portrayed.

 

The most accurate part of the movie is the portrayal of Jerry Heller, N.W.A.’s manager for many years who was accused by the group of embezzlement. In a surprising move made by the scriptwriters, Heller was portrayed as a real person rather than the villain he is often thought to be. He honestly cared, claiming the group had “raw talent. Swagger. Braggadocio…The world needs to hear it”. But Heller is the reason why Ice Cube and Dr. Dre left the group. In Compton, while you do see a genuine connection between Heller and Eazy-E, you don’t see him really play favorites.

 

The most compelling character was definitely Eazy-E. A lot of people I talked to about this movie didn’t know specifically how Eazy died, and the film  portrayed the death very well in the movie. From the beginning, Eazy is a stand-out character; in the first scene of the movie, he sells heroin to gangsters. He was a small man, but stood up to men twice his size. He also escaped a “trap house” that police raided, showing his fearlessness. Eazy also had a comedic side to him, best seen in the scene where he was forced into rapping for the first time and getting so embarrassed that he made everyone but Dr. Dre, the producer, leave the room. What made him so compelling was that he cared so much for the group’s well-being. From the start he was perceived as the frontman, and there was a reason for that. He was cocky, kind and charismatic. Maybe that’s the reason the third act of the movie focused heavily on Eazy’s demise and death due to AIDS in 1995, a death that seemed to come out of nowhere except for a cough or two in a scene. What made it pack a major punch was the fact that he was diagnosed when he was trying to reunite the group for one last album, an album that was never made because of his death.

 

Even if you don’t like Hip-Hop, even if you didn’t listen to N.W.A., this is a compelling story and a great movie. The cinematography is great, the soundtrack is amazing, and it is a story that defines a musical era and rocky time for our country. N.W.A.’s story changed America; arguably it was the first music group to give voice to the struggles of racism and police brutality.
Interestingly, Straight Outta Compton is one of the most talked-about movies with teens in Orinda. While kids here most likely never have faced police brutality or racism, they are at the same time moved by this movie. Maybe it and N.W.A.’s. message transcends race and socioeconomic standings. Much like other Hip-Hop movies like 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow, this movie’s ideas hit hard. As of Sept. 1, 2015, Straight Outta Compton has grossed $135.4 million in North America and become the highest-grossing music biopic of all-time in the U.S. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that a sequel is already in development.