Straight Outta Compton is a cinematic rendition of the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A, one of the first rap groups to make it big in the world of music. It tells the story of how Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren formed the group that is so well known well outside the confines of Compton, California. In the opening scene, Eazy-E realizes he needs a life that revolves around more than just slinging dope after getting cheated in a deal and almost getting busted by a police SWAT unit. The other members of N.W.A. find each other under similarly hard circumstances and seem to share a special bond that can only be forged in the streets of Compton. This opening was the first of many dramatic scenes in the movie that were almost convincing enough to make the audience believe they were experiencing Compton of the late 80’s and early 90’s alongside the members of N.W.A.
Surpassing the doubts of any haters, N.W.A.’s first single Straight Outta Compton becomes a runaway success and receives plenty of radio airtime despite concerns that listeners wouldn’t be able to identify with the rough upbringing of the group. The movie does a great job of covering the many obstacles N.W.A. encounters on its way to success, including racial profiling and intimidation. At many points throughout the movie, police officers treat the group as nothing more than gangster thugs and fail to acknowledge the raw talent it takes to make it in the rap game. The police are portrayed as being their own gang of mostly white middle-aged men in blue, the ones who really run the streets of LA. Non-compliance with their capricious demands or even a spirit of gritty defiance is met with overwhelming force and brutality. When N.W.A. refused to obey the directive of Detroit Police not to perform their classic “Fuck the Police”, the DPD incited a riot during their song in order to shut the concert down.
Another theme that occurs throughout the movie is the juxtaposition of N.W.A.’s Compton roots with the realities of music industry. When Eazy-E was beat by Suge Knight for failing to release Dre, N.W.A.’s manager, Jerry Heller, had to talk Eazy-E out of killing Knight, saying that music industry problems are settled using armies of lawyers and not clips of bullets. Ice Cube goes on a violent rampage when his solo agent doesn’t give him an advance on his work, claiming that artists aren’t paid immediately in the music industry. The breakup of N.W.A. is fueled by greediness and the realization that Heller was siphoning a large share of the profits for himself.
Straight Outta Compton ends with Eazy-E’s death from HIV/AIDS but not before Eazy-E and Dre had reconciled their differences over the breakup of N.W.A. In a nightclub, the two of them were able to reminisce about growing up in Compton and how Heller was not as good for N.W.A. as they originally thought. Shortly thereafter, Eazy-E collapses due to weakening from HIV, which he is rumored to have contracted during Knight’s shakedown. On his deathbed, he spreads awareness of HIV/AIDS in hopes of preventing his brothers in Compton from suffering the same fate.
One has to remember that Straight Outta Compton is a movie and was not designed to be a documentary. The producers took many liberties with the facts in order to present a more compelling story. For instance, Dr. Dre has been accused of assaulting many of his girlfriends throughout his times as part of N.W.A. That part of Dre’s life is ever so conveniently left out of the plot of the movie. However, there are some strong female roles in the movie including Dre’s mother and the struggles she went through to provide for him and his brother as a single mother.
Ultimately, Straight Outta Compton is a movie that I would recommend to all. It tells a timeless story about the road from rags to riches. The members of N.W.A are some of the greatest rappers of all time and the supporters of the current generation of rappers. Towards the end of movie, Dre’s start-up support of Eminem is highlighted. Even the 90’s greats such as Tupac and Snoop Dogg were supported by the same label Dre was on, Death Row Records. If you are looking for something to do, Straight Outta Compton is a movie that you need to experience.