Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A. 27 Years Later   Leave a comment

I watched the movie Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The audience was diverse and the theater was packed despite it being a Tuesday afternoon. Not surprising given who it’s about.

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Top: NWA’s Movie Counterparts. Ice Cube’s son plays him in the movie.

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The remaining Members of N.W.A. and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray and Jason Mitchell, who played the late Eric “Easy-E” Wright (from top-left): Ice Cube, Gray, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Mitchell and MC Ren.

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…Before I begin, I do want to point out Straight Outta Compton is the name of both the movie and the 1988 album by N.W.A. The movie’s nearly two hours long and likely due to time, I noticed certain scenes shown in the movie trailer weren’t in the theatrical release. More on that in a little bit. To those who may be wondering thankfully, the actual music is used. Having ALL of the original members having a part in the movie’s production sure helped of course (LOL).

N.W.A.

Anyone even remotely interested in Rap or Hip Hop knows and if they don’t, SHOULD know that without N.W.A., there would be no Snoop Dogg, Eminem or 50 Cent. There would be no Tupac, Death Row Records, Aftermath Records, Shady Records or Menace II Society. Before there was Bone Thugs N Harmony, there was N.W.A.

They legendary rap group had the balls to speak their minds through their music at the height out the “War on Drugs”. They had the balls to say what everyone was thinking but didn’t have the balls to say. As Ice Cube’s son says as him in the film, their music was a reflection of their reality. 27 years later, the imfamous song Fuck tha Police is heralded as the most controversial track ever recorded. Why?

The track speaks for itself (Lyrics included):

…Unsurprisingly, the track has gained a recent surge in popularity and universal appeal in recent years for obvious reasons. Most folks are familiar with the song Express Yourself, which is actually on the SAME album as Fuck tha Police. The cover track is the first one as well.

Now let’s talk about the movie Straight Outta Compton. As I noted at the top, all of surviving members of N.W.A–Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren–played a part in the movie’s production. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre co-produced the movie. As he said in a recent interview on ESPN, he didn’t give preferential treatment to his son, who plays him in the film. Jason Mitchell plays Easy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. In the days since the movie’s release this past weekend, Easy-E’s daughter made some comments on Twitter some interpreted as concern over how her father is portrayed in the film. She clarified her statements the same day and announced she’s working on a side project about her father. Mitchell has been tapped to reprise his role as Easy-E in it as well.

Another thing folks have been saying online is how MC Ren and DJ Yella were barely there and that Dre, Easy-E and Ice Cube dominated screen time for the most part. Shouldn’t be a surprise given Dre and ‘Cube co-produced the movie (LOL). Seriously though, the movie was done as a tribute to Easy-E. Ren and Yella know that so it’s all good.

That said, one of Dr. Dre’s ex-girlfriends said Monday his abusive relationships with his girlfriends was conveniently left out of the movie. Those who know about it knows he settled all that a while ago and publicly apologized. Her words were for the majority who may not be aware. Ice Cube got into fistfights with alot of people shortly after he left Ruthless Records but only one was shown in the movie. Like I said two paragraphs ago, Easy-E’s daughter raised concerns about her father’s portrayal in the movie. At the end of the day, Straight Outta Compton is about the rise and fall of the GROUP N.W.A. I’ll get to this later on but since the group broke up–and this is already well-known–Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have gone on to enjoy success since they left the group.

Moving on, the movie is interesting in which there were no cameo appearances by living persons who were around at the time. After Dre left N.W.A., he teamed up with the Suge Knight and formed Death Row Records. Tupac makes a brief appearance (not actually him, mind you) in the booth recording his smash hit Hail Mary. Snoop Dogg (not playing himself) also makes a brief appearance where he

There were a few scenes that were mentioned in the trailer that diffent make it to the theatrical release: in one, Easy-E pulls an AK-47 out of a black duffel bag. A scene with him holding it does make it into the movie. Another scene cut was Dr. Dre talking to his wife in jail after his arrest in Miami. I assume they and others were cut due to time constraints. Hopefully. they will all be included in the Blu-Ray/DVD Release, which I plan to buy when it comes out.

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Now, let me direct your attention to Suge Knight, above. Alot of folks agreed his portrayal in the movie was spot-on: Suge is alot of things he would later go out of his way to try to sweep under the rug. As Dre would find out in the movie when they worked together, Suge is a user, a snake, violent and greedy. What made him especially dangerous was he didn’t have a problem doing his own dirty work. Now that he’s dying in prison from a medical complication, he can’t hurt anyone anymore. As the saying goes, the longest rope has an end.

You can’t talk about the deaths of Easy-E, Tupac and Biggie Smalls and NOT talk about Suge Knight. Why? Because his name comes up as a person of interest in all three deaths. We know Biggie and Pac were shot but Suge was one of the last people to see both of them alive just before they died. We also know Suge later admitted in an interview after Biggie’s death he was the one who instigated the Biggie vs. Tupac beef that lead to both of their deaths. Their murders remain unsolved to this day and by the way, the two didn’t have a problem with each other. They were both victims of the Rap Game.

As for why Suge’s name is mentioned in regards to Easy-E’s death, it’s because it was well-known they didn’t like each other. In the movie there is a scene where Suge Knight and some of his boys jump Easy-E in the studio to force him to cut Dr. Dre from his contract with Ruthless Records, who was unofficially working for Death Row Records at the time.

We know Easy-E died from AIDS but the million-dollar question yet to be answered is how did an otherwise reasonably healthy man get it? Two things about AIDS have changed since 1993: AIDS is no longer a death sentence and sex with an infected person is no longer the most common way it’s spread. That said, there is a theory that’s been growing in popularity since Suge’s arrest that he had Easy-E injected with HIV-positive blood. After all, Easy-E didn’t know he was infected until it was too late. What makes it even more suspicious is Suge Knight’s disrespectful comments about Easy-E’s death after being told of his portrayal in the movie by his attorney. Just makes him look even more guilty if you ask me!

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Left to Right: Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Marshall Mathers aka Eminem aka Slim Shady and Andrew “Dr. Dre” Young.

Switching gears, Dr. Dre is easily the richest former member of N.W.A. and it’s mostly because of the two guys pictured with him above: 50 Cent and Eminem. Dre signed Eminem to Aftermath in the late 90s, turning the Hip Hop world upside down in Eminem’s debut track Forgot about Dre:

…The rest, as they say is history. Even his haters know to gave credit where credit’s due: He knows the game better than anyone else. He’s got the eyes and ears for it.

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Ice Cube, who made his acting debut in the 1991 movie Boyz in the Hood is the most prolific former member of the group. You probably know him from such movies as XXX 2: State of the Union, Are We There Yet?, The Barbershop and Friday. Ride Along 2 will be in theaters September 18 and according to his IMDB page, The Barbershop 3 is coming sometime next year. Ice Cube returned to the recording studio for the first time in over a decade a few years ago for a live show. He’s still got it and he’s come out of retirement as an artist.

Getting back to the movie Straight Outta Compton, they clearly took a page out of Selma’s playbook with the movie release’s timing: Selma, which was released in theaters earlier this year came out just before Eddie Gray’s death in Baltimore. I talked about it in a blog post on the subject. The same can easily be said about Straight Outta Compton with CNN’s coverage of African American men being pulled over by police, usually ending in their deaths.

The movie touches on this as noted in the trailers where members of the group are shook down by police early on. The reason? They just happened to be black men standing outside their home or workplace. This was–and still is–the reality of black young men and it’s the main reason I stayed the fuck off the streets during the 1990s. THAT is one of the main points the Black Lives Matter Movement is raising: We live in a country where one race is assumed guilty even if proven innocent simply because of their skin color.

Oh, that reminds me: For the Los Angeles and Compton premieres of the movie, there was a heavy police presence “as a precaution”. Not long after, this meme showed up on the internet:

Tongue in cheek but sadly relevant: The same week the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter (not saying his name) got what he deserved, there was another mass shooting in Texas in which two people were killed. A third shooting happened at yet another theater in Lafayette the week after but only the gunman was killed (suicide). All three were white. CNN sounded pretty disappointed nothing happened at Straight Outta Compton’s premeires in L.A. and Compton in an interview XD

…Not owning your mistakes doesn’t mean you’re off the hook.

In closing, I give this movie a 10/10 easily. They didn’t outright say it but I think N.W.A. knew they would have to wait before they could do their biopic in their own words on THEIR terms. Owning the music used certainly helped: In other recent biopics based on black artists, they couldn’t use any of their actual music due to how expensive paying for copyright permission would have been. This is why you wanna maintain ownership of your music: Once you sign a contract with a label, it’s no longer yours.

There are many takeaways in the movie, most of which were clearly directed at both those who lived at the time and young people today. The LA Riots after Rodney King’s trial was touched on in the movie. That was a clear nod to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Towards the beginning of the movie, a kid on the bus ‘Cube is riding on throws up a gang sign at two members of the Crips driving next to the bus. The Crips stop the bus with guns drawn and prettymuch tells the kid (and the others) the “Gangsta Life” isn’t something they want to get caught up in. Not unless they wanna end up dead or in prison. This was a pretty important scene given it was a lifestyle alot of kids idolized at the time.

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…Whew, ok I think I covered everything…oh, wait scratch that: As of this writing, Straight Outta Compton’s grossed $60.2 Million at the box office and there is even talk of an Oscar nomination. The same was said about Selma but the movie was subbed when Oscar time came around. This movie getting an Oscar would be both vindication for N.W.A. and the acceptence of rap by the mainstream, which not even Eminem’s 8-Mile got.

Only time will tell.

As a bonus for reading this much, here’s a scene from the movie:

 

 

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