N.W.A. can be credited with causing the first ripple that grew into the tsunami that is rap music. Their story has been infamous for its shady business, violent repercussions and inspiration to the ‘90s youth. That story has been untold until Ice Cube and Dr. Dre produced the biopic "Straight Outta Compton," directed by F. Gary Gray, which borrows its name from the group’s first studio album.
The movie follows the group as it rises and falls thanks to bad business from the group’s manager Jerry Heller, portrayed by Paul Giamatti, and the eventual departure of both Ice Cube and Dr. Dre from N.W.A. Beginning in 1986, Dre is a DJ at a nightclub who has been working with Ice Cube on some rap performance ideas. The club’s manager does not like the idea even though the audiences do, so Dre, played by Corey Hawkins, approaches drug dealer Eric Wright. Wright, also known as Eazy-E, offers to put up the money for Dre to record a group of New York rappers in a Compton studio.
The rappers do not like the West Coast lyrics written for them by Cube, who was played by Cube’s actual son O’Shea Jackson Jr., so Eazy-E is convinced to rap the lyrics. The single, "Boyz-n-the-Hood," blows up fast—selling tons of copies and also attracting the eye of Heller, who helps them score some bigger shows and eventually gets them signed by Priority Records. Their first album is extremely successful, though the media and law enforcements are very aggravated by the chosen subject material of the group.
The story continues, and the group has a falling out, which leads all of the main members of N.W.A. to pursue their own careers. We see Ice Cube launch his solo career and also write the movie "Friday," and we see Dr. Dre get into business with Suge Knight with the notorious record label Death Row Records.
"Straight Outta Compton" is a very musical film, as would be expected. The cinematographer latched onto the rhythm of the boom bap rap and did a lot of cuts that matched the beat and pace of the music being played or performed in the movie. This was one of the greatest strengths of the film, as it reminded its audience that the story can be gritty and hard to watch at times, but in the end it is all about the music and its legacy.
I was nervous going into the film that I would be disappointed by the acting, but I was pleasantly impressed across the board. There was some really great support from Giamatti, as the clever yet underhanded manager of Eazy-E and the gang, as well as a strong performance from Jackson Jr. He looked astonishingly like his father and was able to reproduce a lot of Ice Cube’s intensity and mannerisms.
My favorite actor to watch onscreen was Jason Mitchell, whom I had never seen before. He researched and studied for the role by working with Eazy-E’s son, who was originally considered for the role. Mitchell was a compelling actor and played Wright as a very dynamic character, which really made me care about his actions throughout the film. The hardest thing to do in a movie is to make your audience care what the character does next.
I felt the beginning of the movie moved too fast, though I understand why it needed to move quickly so they could address all the important details of this decade-long story.
There were a lot of musical performances and montages, which I was extremely grateful for, because I found that a lack of music was what detracted from Clint Eastwood’s musical biopic "Jersey Boys." All in all, I was very pleased with the film and very entertained by the story, a story I am glad the world finally gets to hear.