Nearly 25 years after the British invasion, America was smacked in the back of its neck by a homegrown group of teenagers who happen to be “Straight Outta Compton.”
Now, another quarter of a century forward, the group assembled by the surrounding “hoods” shut out of Hollywood and all its glamour are back to tell their tale with the biggest blockbuster of the summer. The film is the most successful R-rated movie ever for the month of August and topped the box office on its debut weekend pulling in over $60 million.
The biopic had much to offer when looking both at it and inside it.
Viewed strictly as just a movie, “Straight outta Compton” came packed with everything needed to make for an awesome theatrical experience, which should be expected in a film about the “world’s most dangerous group.”
Another thing that may come as no surprise, but which is certainly worth mentioning, is the music in the film.
NWA’s hits, instrumentals, samples and other records from DJ Dr. Dre’s vinyl collection are captivating to say the least. They give a new generation of viewers a sharp glimpse of what those mid-80’s airwaves may have felt like.
The casting was as good as it could have been. Thankfully there are no distractions by contemporary pop-rap acts, or already-known faces. At times a few of the main actors seem to be assisted with voice-overs from the people they are portraying, which adds great realism to some scenes.
However, ‘Compton’ is not your typical summer box office hit. For starters, it includes a predominately-black cast. The University of Southern California recently studied the top 100 highest-grossing movies of 2014, and determined nearly 75 percent of all the main and speaking role characters in these films were white. Second, it features no super heroes. Not the traditional kind anyway.
More than simply a movie, ‘Straight outta Compton’ is akin to a once live reality show; reenacting the lives of five middle finger flicking, Jheri curl dripping ghetto superstars.
Way before television brought us the “reality” of rich suburban housewives, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre were the leading roles in what might have been called “The Real (on) Black Lives of South Central LA.”
Aside from this costume designer credit, Eazy was the front man of the group. Both for suppling the finances to get the show rolling, and also in a lead singer kind of way. The way he earned those funds (being the only one in the group living an actual gangsta lifestyle) also gave the group’s image and content its legitimacy.
The screenwriter, Ice Cube, was responsible for Eazy’s lyrics and overall direction of the group’s content as well as its temperament.
On a school bus exiting the parking lot of his high school, Cube pauses a back seat writing session. In a daydreamer’s gaze, he looks out at happy white classmates enjoying the privileges of driving in fancy automobiles back to safe and clean neighborhoods, to areas that are secluded from the reality Cube and his friends confront daily
Considering himself to be nothing more than a journalist, Ice Cube merely documents what he sees happen in these communities broken down by drugs, gangs, and harassment by police. There to capture all this energy and swag through sound is the show’s musical composer DJ Dr. Dre. Together with the support of fellow members DJ Yella and MC Ren, NWA represented to America the raging reflection of her abandoned communities, disgusted by a very abusive relationship with police.
The story also shed light into the shady music business.
As the group falls apart and exchange diss tracks to one another, Ice Cube takes time out from dissing his former group-mates to call out manager Jerry Heller, who he credits for breaking up the crew. Cube insists it was all a case of divide and conquer; an accusation that is appropriately applied to the downfall of hip-hop after the advent of other Heller-like culture vultures.