In high school American History class, we were given a general breakdown on how rock ‘n’ roll influenced our culture following the 60s. Rap is a genre I feel shares a common chain of events. You have its cosmopolitan roots on the west coast, the surge of fame and emergence of various groups, before the assimilation into mainstream music, and the stagnation we see today. Because of its impact, more people should know how rap music came about. Does Straight Outta Compton (SOC) provide a keen insight into the origins of the genre or was I left wanting?
As a veteran nihilist who does not care about music unless it is good, I feel I learned a lot about the history behind modern rap. It follows the perspective of the three main members of NWA from ’86 to ’93 and takes its time to show what they were like as people. It is so detailed it quickly becomes the movie’s biggest problem.
Frustrated with a job that does not allow him to explore his creativity, Dr. Dre, played by Corey Hawkins, enlists the help of his friends Eazy-E, played by Jason Mitchell, and Ice Cube, played by O’Shea Jackson Jr., to purse a new kind of music. Their success turns into ambition as they set off on a path to fame and fortune.
SOC focuses on the three founding members of NWA. Other members MC Ren and Dj Yella are present, but inactive as characters. We see where each of them came from, how they contributed to the group, and what happened after the split over issues with manager Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti. It is an ensemble effort as we gain an in depth perspective on how they developed their music and changed over the years. The movie is very dense in that regard and where the main issue begins to arise.
SOC leaves no stone unturned when it comes exploring the life and times of NWA. It is so thorough and detailed the two and a half hour runtime becomes overwhelming. I was reluctantly checking my watch as I waited for an ending that did not come until an hour later. It is still a great movie that is relevant to today, but there is an excess of information that would have been best served cut down or in two separate films.
All ensembles require chemistry and the cast of SOC feels like they have been friends for years. They even look like their character’s real life counterparts with Jackson Jr. very similar to a young Ice Cube. Everyone was good in terms of performances as they convey the lives of men that go from down-on-their-luck artists in Compton to superstars. Each changes in different ways with E becoming arrogant, Dre cautious, and Cube smarter about the business side of music. Hawkins was the standout in a more dramatic sense.
As I have already pointed out the major flaw, I could not find any other issues. It is worth mentioning SOC has a very humorous side in addition to the tense and serious moments. However, it is also very specific and I do not think many people outside of African Americans will understand. Since I grew up on Chappelle’s Show, I am in the minority, no pun intended.
Straight Outta Compton is an insightful look into a music genre that many have yet to realize the impact on our culture. It gives more than enough information to the uninitiated on how modern rap music came to be. If you can stand the runtime, I recommend giving it a look.