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Review: Straight Outta Compton

via The Bull 101.7
via The Bull 101.7

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

R / 147 mins.

Biography / Drama / Music

Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell

Director: F. Gary Gray


Hip-hop wouldn’t be where it is today without the heavy influence and trailblazing nature of the rap group N.W.A.  It’s a simple fact that’s hard to dispute, no matter how hard you try.  They gave a voice to the people, a voice that people from Compton (and all over the U.S.) could rally behind in the late 80’s.  The ragtag group, consisting of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren, were just looking to make it big in the streets of Compton, but it was there unique message that propelled them into the country’s spotlight.

via Black FIlm
via Black FIlm

Straight Outta Compton is the story of N.W.A.’s rise to fame, directed by F. Gary Gray and produced by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and widow Tomica Woods-Wright, wife to the late Eazy-E.  With that kind of pedigree off screen, the film already had a lot of things going for it.  This isn’t Gray’s first radio, having directed Friday with Ice Cube back in the day, and having Ice Cube and Dr. Dre producing the movie gave me full confidence that the story of the world’s most dangerous group was going to be handled with finesse and care.  The one big question when it comes to biopics is whether or not the story is worth telling.  It’s the story and the way that it’s told that can make or break a biopic.  N.W.A.’s story has been well documented and publicized up to this point, but Straight Outta Compton dives a little deeper and gives us a look not only at the group’s rise to fame, but their personal stories as well.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is the top notch acting that came from a cast full of lesser-known actors.  Aside from Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays his father in the movie and Paul Giamatti’s part as the group’s manager Jerry Heller, the rest of the cast is relatively new to the scene.  Let me break it down: Dr. Dre is played by Corey Hawkins, Eazy-E by Jason Mitchell, DJ Yella by Neil Brown Jr., and MC Ren by Aldis Hodge.  The cast might not be as well known, but they all did a fantastic job at embodying the legends that they were acting as.  Obviously they had mentors in Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, but there was an incredible amount of practice and studying that went into their characters.  Their mannerisms, personalities, and musical styles were all matched pretty realistically.  Two other rappers that garner some screen time are Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac (Marcc Rose), who looks eerily similar to his real life counterpart.  It could have just been Tupac’s hologram, I don’t really know.  (I do know I am excited for Tupac’s standalone movie, where Marcc Rose will reprise his role as Tupac)

via New Pittsburgh Courier Online
via New Pittsburgh Courier Online

Another thing that was sort of surprising is that the movie really wasn’t entirely focused on N.W.A.  The first act detailed the creation of the group and its rise to prominence.  We got to see some of the situations that the guys were coming from and how much this group meant to them.  The movie then began to focus on what happened when a group of street rappers from Compton got a ton of money and a big spotlight.  Ice Cube was in disagreement with his contractual situation and decided to branch of on his own.  Dr. Dre’s vision also propelled him to leave the group and pursue his own musical genius at Death Row Records.  We also got to see Eazy-E’s relationship with the scumbag manager that was Jerry Heller.  The guy was manipulative and started cheating the group of their own money.  The scenes involving Eazy-E and Jerry were fun to watch, but also kind of depressing considering you knew that there close relationship wasn’t going to last forever.  Anybody who knows N.W.A. knew there was a lot of internal conflict between the group’s members and Straight Outta Compton manages to capture their stories with near perfect execution.

This movie couldn’t have been coming out at a better time.  The country has been experiencing a lot of turmoil when it comes to blacks living in America and police brutality.  The movie captures angst and the feelings that guys like Ice Cube and Eazy-E had towards the authorities that were looking to bring them down.  We also start to see the government’s involvement in the group’s message.  It was a scary time for the government.  They were scared that this message, reality rap, could spark a revolution in the country that they wouldn’t be able to handle.  N.W.A.’s influence on the masses was undeniable and pretty large.

via Black Film
via Black Film

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie, which has a pretty long run time, went as far as to cover Eazy-E’s struggle with HIV and his imminent death.  Those last moments with Eazy-E on his death bed and guys like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre coming in to say their goodbyes were heartfelt and, at times, hard to watch.  Straight Outta Compton is a fantastic movie that will most likely take the torch as my favorite movie of the year so far.  It’s a gritty story full of hardship and triumph.  Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have coming a long way from their gangbanging days and their stories, along with the rest of N.W.A, are unresistingly intriguing and fun to watch.  You will probably appreciate this movie more if you are a fan of rap, but don’t let that be your barrier to entry.  Straight Outta Compton is a movie worth watching no matter where your musical tastes lie.

Straight Outta Compton

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Review: Compton: The Soundtrack

via Rap God
via Rap God

Compton: The Soundtrack (2015)

Dr. Dre

Rap / Hip-Hop

Aftermath / Interscope


When’s the last time Dr. Dre released an album?  You’re telling me it’s been sixteen years?  It seems kind of crazy when you say it, but in fact it has been over sixteen years since the rapper/producer and former member of N.W.A. has released an official studio album.  His name has not been forgotten in that time, but musically he has been silent for a long time.  Now that his final album, Compton: The Soundtrack, has been released, the musical silence has officially come to an end.  You would think that Dre would be a little rusty on the hinges after all those years, but he delivers in every aspect, giving us what some have already been saying an “instant classic.”

What does a Dr. Dre album look like in the year 2015?  He’s come a long way since his rabble-rousing days roaming the streets of Compton with N.W.A.  He’s brought up some of the best names in hip-hop, most notably Eminem.  He has also produced a pretty honorable library of albums that hold a lot of regard critically.  Compton, the rapper’s grand finale showing, gives us a taste of old and new and aims to please everybody’s tastes.

via Hip-Hop n More
via Hip-Hop n More

Compton is like a personal ride through the city streets of Compton, with Dr. Dre rolling in the driver’s seat.  As you make your way through the city, which has gone through its fair share of triumphs and hardships, Dre earnestly tells a story full of recollections of past memories, reflective analyzations of the present, and glimpses of the opportunistic future.  Dre realizes the position that he stands in and the kind of influence that he has on the masses and he runs forward with eagerness and passion, without ever forgetting his humble and pain ridden beginnings.

The album, from beginning to end, contains almost no slip ups.  Dr. Dre is still sharp as ever and his classic flow comes back like a nostalgic knockout punch.  To my surprise, Dre leaves a lot of room for others on the album, both old and new, giving them room to breathe.  Former member of N.W.A. Ice Cube makes a loud appearance on “Issues,” a track that looks at the current state of rap and pretty much disses the entirety of it.  Dr. Dre puts it simply: “Man this industry to me, it feels like plastic.  I ain’t heard nothin’ that I’d consider a classic.”  Although it’s only a snippet, we also hear the voice of Eazy-E, one of the most iconic voices from N.W.A.   Snoop Dogg makes two appearances as well, providing lyrical back-up on songs like “One Shot, One Kill” and “Satisfiction,” a fitting look at the fake satisfaction that comes with the rap lifestyle.  Finally, “Loose Cannons” features the like of Cold 187um and Xzibit, who both give pompous performances on a track with an extremely dark ending. It was these features that really brought back the sound that we all came to know and love from back in the days.

via Softpedia News
via Softpedia News

There were also features from current hip-hop powerhouses like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.  Lamar shares a lot in common with Dre, being that there both from the same hood, with his lyrics reflecting that.  “Darkside / Gone” and “Deep Water” are two tracks that the West Coast rapper appears on, but the most notable song is “Genocide.”  Dr. Dre, Lamar, Candice Pillay, and Marsha Ambrosius give a chilling, but real account of one of the biggest problems that the city of Compton faces; the murder rate.  Towards the end of the album, Dre and Eminem team up for probably one of the best tracks on the album; “Medicine Man.”  Dr. Dre gives us a great verse, but it’s Eminem that really takes the song by the reigns, delivering a fantastic verse that, in classic Shady fashion, covers a lot of ground in little time.  At this point, it’s almost like Eminem can do no wrong.  However, the song contains some alarming lyrics that made me frown.  Lines like “I even make the bitches I rape come” are not the kinds of lyrics that will go unnoticed.  There might be backlash, there might not be, but either way it still doesn’t bode well with most.

I have to give major props to some of the new talent that gets a lot of time on the album to shine.  Justus, Anderson .Paak, Marsha Ambrosius, and King Mez are all up-and-coming artists with a whole lot to prove.  Dre takes them under his wing and gives them a chance to take the spotlight on a number of songs on the album.  Songs like “Talk About It” and “It’s All on Me” are two of the tracks that really stick out.  Anderson .Paak truly makes a name for himself on “Animals,” a song that dives into the problems that black people face on a daily basis.  It’s well-trodden ground at this point, especially given the events that have transpired this year, but .Paak manages to demand your attention.

via Okay Player
via Okay Player

The journey through the city concludes with the finale, “Talking to My Diary.”  It’s a fitting end to our ride with Dre through his city of Compton.  As he flips through the pages of his work, he takes one final gaze at the road that he has travelled behind him and looks into the future with eagerness.  Compton shows that the rapper, although dormant for more than a decade, still has what it takes to grab listeners by neck and show them what real rap sounds like. I may not agree with his line about there being no classics out there today, especially given the amazing year of rap that we have had so far.  With that being said, I can agree that Dr. Dre has given us an epic final swan song, a masterpiece that has indeed earned classic status.

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