If you need to see the street side, Straight Outta Compton hits hard

(From IMDb)

(From IMDb)

Back in the ’80s, when their rhymes and beats of great passion started rolling in from the west coast, I must admit the true grit of rap from N.W.A. greatly went in my ears more like a news story than a foundation change of my soul. I was a Bruce Springsteen guy loving rock covering sports for the big daily in Syracuse.

Yeah, then, the Rodney King beating happened in June 1991, the not-guilty verdict came down in April 1992 and LA erupted in riots. By then I had moved over to the music beat. My mind started sending messages about all styles of sound further into the core of my inner self. I paid more attention to rap, gangsta included. Did I get it? Can’t report here that I was a fan. But I tried harder to understand across the board. My mind was open as I reviewed rap concerts, watching the national acts and fans, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg at the Carrier Dome. I acquired a greater knowledge and appreciation by establishing relationships with Syracuse artists Khalid Bey, aka The Most Talented, and Seth Marcel, who was the first artist signed to the new label started by former Syracuse University and NBA star Derrick Coleman.

And so I entered the opening day matinee at the big theater Regal Cinemas’ Shoppingtown multiplex eager for Straight Outta Compton, excited to get the big picture of that stretch of time when Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E took over their home streets of Compton with a sound so real and connected to the strife they all experienced.

I hoped to find what I had missed at the start.

Indeed.

Written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff and directed by F. Gary Gray, this movie is 147 minutes of gripping drama, with that seminal gut-busting sound mixed in for optimal effect.

Make no mistake, it’s biopic all from the rapper’s side. It’s what they saw and felt and told the world about through their songs.

Why did they write and record a song titled “F— the Police” you want to know? The way they’re treated by the cops on screen in every instance, ugly, physical, race-influenced confrontations not only in LA but in Detroit as well, is self-explanatory.

Does it attempt to be balanced with any police temperance? No, it does not. It’s their story, after all. And, hey, it does relate very much to the present high emotions and actions in Ferguson and Baltimore.

The acting is fantastic, starting with the uncanny physical resemblance of O’Shea Jackson Jr. to his father, Ice Cube. Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell are equally as believeable as the other two pillars of N.W.A., Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, and with all three, it’s about their chemistry and believable attitudes and language. Paul Giamatti, supporting actor extraordinaire, is solid as their eagle-eared manager, and the rest of the Ruthless Records/N.W.A./LA rap scene entourage are top-flight as well.

The story is real and ugly and violent as money makes them implode, explode and reload. It’s as profane as the streets and the songs were back in the day. But the movie shows the heart, too, the good and the bad and the beats. You don’t have to be a rap fan, then or now, to take it all in with wide eyes.

Have you ever been a follower of the music of N.W.A., and can you explain? Are you a rap or hip-hop fan, and can you explain? Are you going to see this movie, and can you explain?

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40 thoughts on “If you need to see the street side, Straight Outta Compton hits hard

  1. I got it when I was 14 and I probably still know the entire cd of Straight Outta Compton by heart. I think it resounded with me at the age I was, the contempt, frequently deserved, for authority. I’d say a quarter of the music I own is rap. It may well have been unavoidable for someone my age, because it was so relevant and influential. Rap has no nuance, and that really suits me at times.
    I rarely go to the theater, so I will probably only see the movie when it’s on cable, but I will see it.

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  2. I like heavy instrumentals and bass beats, so while the words aren’t so great I like the rhythm of a lot of hip hop songs.

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  3. I heard that this movie does transcend being (or not being) a fan of rap music, which I am not. I’m sure it’s a good one but not sure if I’ll be running to see it and don’t think there’s anyway the kids will be interested but you never know.

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      • I actually think my son might be okay with it. Not sure if there’s nudity or sex which is always a bit uncomfortable, but he’s definitely seen his share of profanity and violence and might be okay with it since it’s in a musical setting, whether or not he’s a fan. I’m sure my daughter would have zero interest.

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  4. I was a teen when their music came out. Although we liked happy, upbeat rap, NWA was filed under the “music by people who want to kill me” folder. That kind of rap was scary, violent, and in your face, and it felt like they would have wanted to beat me up, too. But if I had grown up in their circumstances, I can imagine I could relate. As it was, we liked cops, for the most part. I’ve seen Ice working the late night talk show circuit lately. He’s been married, what–25 yrs? A respected actor. Good guy. And you’re right, his son does look just like him. I won’t use the word, Mark.

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  5. It’s another genre of protest music, and not as “folksy” as some of that from the past, but if not appreciated, certainly needs our respect. And right now, maybe our attention…the timing of this movie seems right. Thanks for the review, Mark.

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  6. I’ve always loved the Beasties, Mark. But I can appreciate rap. I’m not a huge fan of the gangsta rap, because of how is mistreats and objectifies women. I honestly haven’t taken the time to listen to lyrics. All that said, I was interested in seeing this movie. My son wants to see it and I’m sure it’s for really mature audiences, right? Although, sometimes I think he needs to see the “real” life, the street side, because we don’t live in the real world really. Great review.

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  7. I liked this fair review and know my son likes all types of music. They will wait till redox and kids are at Nana’s apt, possibly the 6 weeks’ Dr. check up and A-ok for romance. I like Ice T on the detective show and would listen to the music probably in the movie but only like dome Rap and very few “gang’sta” style songs.
    On a close to same subject, my posts about local artists and very good friends of Felicia, “Team Knyce” use some swear words but I like their music, Mark. It includes good voices and blends of the blues, rap and jazz. I hope it is okay to put this small “plug” for a trio of family guys from Delaware, Ohio. They may have 3 Cd’s I have lost count, 🙂

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  8. Great review bro Mark, but not exactly my kind of movie, not my kind of music. I guess I’m stuck in the ’60’s folk era, love the ’40’s sound, blues, jazz, and some classics. Just never turned on to Rap, even though I tried. The language, I guess.
    Just a thought on the silly phone above–I’m working on activating a smart phone, but it’s not as smart as it claims to be. I’t a no contract phone, so I thought that meant I could buy minutes as I want them. They want me to sign a contract for a certain amount of minutes each month. I think that makes it a dumb phone. You would think a really smart phone would have that figured out before hand.

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    • The eras of music of which you speak were pretty special, yes, sis Angie. And those contract phones are a lot of pressure to stay under the minutes or pay a big, whopping extra fee. Do they come with an egg timer? 🙂

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  9. I really want to go see this movie. I like hip-hop and rap. I just don’t like the rap that dogs on women, with all those horrible names and stuff. That ticks me off royally. I think I will probably go see this with my boys – and no I am not going to share any of my Buncha Crunch.

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