N.W.A. biopic captures intensity of group’s past
Few movies help shape the perception of a society’s values. “Straight Outta Compton” does exactly that.
According to Box Office Mojo, the film’s opening weekend was more successful than other previous big-name titles such as “Cars,” “22 Jump Street,” “Toy Story 2” and “Ted.” According to Fandango and the New York Times, “Straight Outta Compton” as of now has grossed nearly $135 million. This places the movie above other summer notables such as “Fantastic Four,” “Southpaw” and “Dope.”
This movie is based on the story of N.W.A., a former rap group consisting of rappers Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Arabian Prince, among others. The group burst onto the national scene with a compilation album called “N.W.A and the Posse.”
The album was not solely a part of N.W.A’s rise to fame, but it is credited as the fi rst piece of work contributed by the group. The group’s most successful album was entitled “Straight Outta Compton,” which helped put them on the national stage with their unique perspective on social issues and hip-hop culture.
N.W.A hailed from Compton, a suburb roughly fi ve miles south of Los Angeles. That area has dealt with racial barriers and tensions in the past, having climaxed during the riots caused by the beating of Rodney King. Even though some of their records criticized the actions of police in the Los Angeles area and beyond, they were known for being the fi rst hip-hop group to showcase the harsh realities of living on the streets.
After the group’s breakup due to contractual issues, a reunion was set for the group to collaborate one last time. Devastatingly, rapper Eazy-E died due to complications from HIV/AIDS. Now, Ice Cube has pursued an acting career and Dr. Dre has become a multi-cultural ambassador for hip-hop and the music industry as a whole.
The director, F. Gary Gray, did a remarkable job of reflecting the personality and influence of the rap group. The camera work for the movie involved an abundance of fi rst-person scenes, where viewers saw the action through the actors.
Even though the movie was mostly a biography, the fi lm work could be portrayed as an autobiography. The void left by Eazy-E’s death is cleanly filled in during the movie. Although Eazy-E was not able to contribute his story, his side of the group’s success is portrayed successfully.
One of the first things that stands out about the film is how closely the actors resemble the real life characters. Mind you, “Ice Cube” in the movie is played by the real life Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., so the resemblance is there. As for other characters in the movie, Jerry Heller, Dr. Dre, Tupac and Suge Knight are very closely resembled by their respective actors. In my opinion, the most compelling scene in the movie was when Eazy-E became diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
His sickness is built up throughout the movie as he loves to entice women. The rapper is diagnosed with the illness shortly after he is admitted to the hospital due to passing out in the studio. After he is diagnosed, the scene immediately turns dark and grabs the viewer.
That moment in the movie relates the larger-than-life personalities of the rappers to the daily embarking of the human experience. It shows that illnesses and diseases do not discriminate against color, race, financial status, sex, career or any other variable.
This movie was only made possible through the contributions from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Both former members of N.W.A, they were able to give their first-hand accounts of the group’s hiatus and success to 1995 when the group disbanded. While the movie is great in capturing the audience’s attention, it did lack some elements of the story. The creators of the fi lm could have shed more light on Ice Cube’s endeavors.
Even though Ice Cube left the group in December 1989, the movie does not show much of what happened to him afterward. To this day, it can be argued that Ice Cube is the most successful outside of the group, besides Dr. Dre. He also does not have much dialogue in the movie, and you could argue that Eazy-E is the main character due to getting the most dialogue and glamor. The fi lm is also very vague on Jerry Heller.
Even though it is depicted that he is credited for the group’s demise, Heller’s past musical history and his ulterior motives for the group are not expanded upon much in the fi lm. Being an antagonist in the movie, Heller could have had his motives and history expounded on a bit more.
The movie is phenomenal for its direction, production and storytelling. The rap group was influential and monumental to the formation of west coast hip-hop talents such as Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, The Game and many more.
Its impact on the racial barriers put the movie in perfect context with current society. In today’s world, police brutality against African Americans is highlighted among all racial barriers.
This movie exemplifies one way a group of men handled it. Even though their morals could have been a bit smoother, they expressed themselves in the best way that they could. N.W.A. was the product of that creativity.