Straight Outta Compton is a biopic showcasing the rise and fall of the rap group N.W.A. and their experiences inside one of America’s most notorious towns – Compton, California.
The film, directed by F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen, The Italian Job), follows the lives of five young black men who break into the music industry through brutally honest lyrics, and their thirst for rebelling against abusive authorities that swarmed the streets of 1980s Compton.
The opening of the film sets the scene. Before we are introduced to the first character, we hear police reports, sirens and news anchors warning violence is on the streets. You are, from the get-go, inside 1986 Compton.
The first person we meet is Eric Wright (Jason Mitchell) who portrays drug dealer and rising rapper Eazy-E. Eric, better known as E, is the brains behind the group – someone with management skills, quick wit and a strong “don’t mess with me” attitude. While dealing with a “client”, a police army tank comes down the street to bust the house and Eazy barely makes a narrow escape.
We are then introduced to Andre Young (Corey Hawkins), best known by his stage name Dr Dre. Dre is an aspiring DJ and producer fresh out of high school but is struggling to find a career or even a job that would satisfy his frustrated mother.
Dre, like E, is a very headstrong character with a passion for bigger and better things. It’s this passion that eventually gets him kicked out of home and off to fend for himself, but he leaves behind a troubled younger brother who seems to always land himself into trouble with his peers, and the police.
We then meet schoolboy O’Shea Jackson (played by O’Shea Jackson Jr.) who we know as Ice Cube. Cube, as he is called by friends, is a keen writer who keeps to himself. After a run-in with the Bloods gang on his school bus, we see that Cube and Dre already have a musical and personal friendship. After an impromptu live session, the pair part ways and Cube has a violent run-in with the police on his walk home.
Shortly after we meet the two other members of future N.W.A. Rapper Lorenzo Patterson (Aldis Hodge), also known as MC Ren and Antoine Carraby (Neil Brown Jr.), the right-hand man of Dre known as DJ Yella.
A recurrent and very obvious theme in this film is the abuse members of the group, in particular, are subjected to by the LAPD. When Dre is arrested after getting himself into a physical altercation with the police, he and the rest of the characters rally together to create N.W.A.
Through their own personal experiences, the group tell the brutal truth about life in their hood, spark national outcry and together they ignite a flame that not only changes hip-hop culture but with their music, they stood up for themselves and encouraged others to do so.
We get an insight into their infamous hit, F**k the Police, a song that criticises the police, and events that inspired them to make music. Naturally, this song lands them into a lot of legal troubles and sparks a riot at a Philadelphia concert when it was revealed the group were told not to play it during their live show. But of course, they did.
Although the film mainly follows how awful life was during the late 1980s and early 1990s in Compton, we also see how tricky the music business is. N.W.A. signed with a manager named Jerry Heller (Peter Giamatti), who not only contributed to the meteoric rise of the five-some but also how heavily responsible he was to the groups crumbling end.
Overall, Straight Outta Compton was a delight to watch. From the way it was shot, the perfectly selected characters and actors who portrayed them, even the rare touch of comedy and sadness, this film truly explores the world of some of the world’s most honoured rappers and producers who are still respected today.
Movie rating: 5/5
Watch: Straight Outta Compton movie trailer (Warning: Strong language)