Review - Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton (2015), R, 147 minutes - I was born in 1979, and having grown up in a small, very rural, very middle-class New Hampshire town, I was about as far removed from the gangsta rap movement led by NWA as you could have been.  The earliest memories that I actually have of any of these artists are of their various projects from after their falling out.  So for me, this biopic was very intriguing, providing some historical perspective on their rise not only in the music world, but in society in general.

Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr. - the real Ice Cube's son), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Easy-E (Jason Mitchell), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) were friends from in and around Compton, CA who had similar musical tastes.  Unable to play or perform 'their kind' of music - based on the lifestyle they new and experienced, they decided to record and produce themselves.  They financed and released their first single, 'Boyz-n-the-Hood' under their label Ruthless Records.  As they began to enjoy a groundswell of local support, Boyz-n-the-Hood catches the attention of music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who offers to represent them.  His initial interaction was with Easy-E specifically and as time goes on, this becomes a point of contention.  For a long time, he is the only member of the group with an actual contract.  NWA's popularity surges across the country and other members (Ice Cube in particular) want to know where their contracts are and why they aren't receiving their share of the group's income.  They sell out arenas, and become the face of an anti-authority movement stemming from such events as the Rodney King incident.  Disagreements over legal and financial representation cause the group to split, leading to Ice Cube and Dr. Dre beginning other projects which become very successful in their own right.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  There's a lot more to NWA's story, but you'd be much better served watching the film if you aren't already familiar with it.  Director F. Gary Gray's film is a great look at one of the most influential musical groups of my lifetime.  If you're a fan of music, whether or not you are a fan of rap specifically, Straight Outta Compton is worth a watch.

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