Straight Outta Compton explodes to life in its opening scenes, set against a backdrop of late 80’s Los Angeles. It begins with Eazy E (played by Jason Mitchell) doing a drug deal, before being forced to make a quick getaway when the house he’s in is busted up by an LAPD battering ram.
We are then introduced to Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (played by his uncannily similar looking son, O’Shea Jackson Jnr.), DJ Yella and MC Wren, setting the scene for the music they are about to unleash on the world.
NWA were pioneers of gangsta rap, their songs “F**k Tha Police” and “Straight Outta Compton” – much criticised at the time in the press and by law enforcement and government agencies – reflected the reality of the world in which they lived, hence the name, ‘reality rap’.
While the film does go on a bit long and one can’t help but think that if there had been less squabbling over money and power, this would have been a neater production, it never gets ‘man I wanna get outta here’ boring. You are aware that it is long, but you are there for the long haul.
However, it is true that history is written by the winners. Produced by Ice Cube, Dr Dre, and widow to Eric ‘Eazy E’ Wright, Tomica Wright-Woods (who still runs Ruthless Records), the story is told, how these guys want to remember it, giving us a reconciliation of sorts, minus the misogyny, anti-Semitism and the extent of the epic rivalry between Dre and Eazy; and there is truth.
The first half of the film depicts the lived experiences of a bunch of kids facing discrimination and brutality at the hands of the Los Angeles police department and becoming superstars, reaching a film-stealing climax in Detroit, where they play “F**k Tha Police” live on stage after being threatened with arrest by police.
The second half exposes some of the negative effects of the excesses of money, fame, and power, and, the final scenes depict Cube and Dre in the present day, in particular Dre’s empire, including the epic sale of his Beats Music company to Apple. The truth here is that, these guys can now afford to tell this epic story of their lives the way they want to.