Embracing The History And Nostalgia Of Straight Outta Compton

Lisa Valadez | 8/14/2015, 1:40 p.m.
Straight Outta Compton is a nostalgic story about the rise of the gangster rap group N.W.A.

It is somewhat ironic that Straight Outta Compton is being released in theatres nationwide on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Watts Riots. August 11, 1965 saw the arrest of a black motorist for drunk driving and a minor verbal altercation that led to six days of numerous deaths along with millions of dollars in property damage. Initial reports cited high unemployment rates as the major contributing factor that led to the riots; however, further investigations later revealed police racism as a major contributing factor.

The Watts Riots were LA’s sore thumb until the occurrence of the 1992 LA Riots, also known as the Rodney King Riots. It’s nearly impossible to mention the late 80’s and early 90’s climate of LA without bringing N.W.A, the controversial rap group from Compton, into the conversation. The Reagan-era of trickle-down economics, an accelarated “War on Drugs” and police aggression served as ammunition for N.W.A. to not only become an iconic product of a rapid cultural shift but the gangsta rappers were eventually deemed as the most dangerous group in America by the FBI.

Directed by F. Gary Gray, Straight Outta Compton is an old story that seems refreshingly new. For those not familiar with the history of N.W.A., it is a film that should not be ignored or overlooked. For the true music lovers or those who grew up on N.W.A, there are no words, reviews, and so forth that can pen the greatness of this biopic – the script does so for itself. It’s a film that makes the movie-goer feel connected to the characters – the rappers that some of us grew up with.

The young talented cast of Straight Outta Compton, O’Shea Jacskon as Ice Cube, Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Neil Brown Jr. as Dj Yella and Aldis Hodge as Mc Ren skillfully portray the human realities of trying to turn lyrics and beats into something productive in a time of poverty, crime, and ongoing police brutality.

Even for non-N.W.A fans, the script shows how much influence Dr. Dre & Ice Cube had in trying to be appreciative of the legacy of all parties. With Eazy-E agreeing to finance the group, their first single, “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” attracts an older white manager by the name of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) who happens to be credited as the reason for the dismantling of N.W.A, a story so Hollywood you can see it coming a mile away.

N.W.A was shunned by mainstream radio due to amplified vulgarity. They also drew the ire of the FBI that led to Eazy-E having the idea of using their letter from the government as free publicity. The movie weaves around the group’s rise from sold out concerts, pool parties, the road and more, all time stamped to remind viewers how the rise of N.W.A wasn’t as long ago as some may think. The interactions with the police offer the more dramatic moments in Straight Outta Compton, especially once scene in Torrence, an almost lily-white enclave near Compton. The group bears the brunt of prejudice from a black police officer, opening Heller’s eyes to N.W.A’s everyday lives a few miles away. The end result is the eureka moment for Cube and company, the birth of “Fuck Tha Police”.