Rap has become a core foundation of music - with the likes of rappers such as Eminem or 50 Cent globally acclaimed and renowned. However, there was a time that a hard-wound group, from the rough, brutal streets of L.A, rose and shaped rap to what it has become today: N.W.A. And, this year's Straight Outta Compton aims to finally share their story with the world.
There is a line about half-way through this film, in which Ice Cube (played by his actual son, O'Shea Jackson Jr) says, "our art is a reflection of our reality." It's an important line. Not only does it sum up the state of L.A back in the late 80's but it also summarises the band N.W.A ("Niggaz With Attitudes for the non-music fans out there) themselves, as it does this film in general. The group's art is brutal, vicious but, most of all, it's also deep, potent and inspirational. It reflects their reality perfectly because as this biopic shows, this was a group that went through so much; their lives were rough, brutal and distorted but also potent and deep and inspiring - as is this film, contrasting nicely with its leads.
If you're not familiar with them, Straight Outta Compton tells the story of a down-on-their-luck, rough living, big dreaming group of friends and artists - Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) and "a motherfucker named Ice Cube" (O'Shea Jackson Jr) - that rose above all the challenges of race and culture, in the mid to late 1980s, thrown their way to become one of the biggest and most influential rap groups, not only in L.A but in the world and in history, N.W.A - "the world's most dangerous group." Using their music to inspire millions and to express their voice and their rage, this film shows just how they revolutionised the Hip Hop industry with their songs about life in the hood.
For any fan of N.W.A, the story is basic knowledge. Seeing it translate to the big-screen is necessary viewing. However, that can be said for even those not familiar with the artists or even rap, for that matter. Straight Outta Compton is an essential biopic. Not only is it an informative piece about the band and the state of Los Angeles during the time of their rise, but it's just a compelling, invigorating and thoroughly entertaining film in general. Sure, it follows the genre template - from their rise to their fall, the hardships and the reunion - but it's just so enthralling and well-made that it's hard not to fall in love with F. Gary Gray's feature and Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman's script.
Of course, as is with any biopic, the line between fact and fiction is blurred, made all the more poignant sine Dre and Cube were producing, and, whilst there are some moments of make-believe, the film is not afraid to show the reality of the group and their struggle - what they went through but also some of the mistakes they made. It's never biased nor does it ever try to glamorise the band tho and is, instead, fittingly raw and real and crude. The picture's look on the world is an intriguing one but a relevant one and the messages that Gary Gray and crew get through - about race, background and living your dreams - are powerful and resonating, more so in today's society too.
The acting in Straight Outta Compton is phenomenal. O'Shea Jackson Jr plays his father to perfection, carrying himself and acting and talking exactly as Ice Cube would. The resemblance between the two is uncanny, as it is for Corey Hawkins and Dr. Dre - who also gives a wonderful performance. Everyone knocks it out of the park here. Jason Mitchell is especially spectacular as founder of the group Eazy-E. His rage and heart embodies the artist to a par and his portrayal is quite emotional too - working as a nice tribute to the man himself, who sadly passed away in 1995. It's hard to deny that the performances are nothing short of astounding, made all the more impressive by the fact that these are all newcomers, to the extent that it feels as if you're watching the real guys themselves and not just some actors' portrayals. Paul Giamatti also makes an appearance (in a similar role to what he had in the equally great Love and Mercy) and he's - as always - a delight to watch.
The soundtrack is astonishingly good, using a mix of the real tracks and the actors' covers. The use of the music is exceptional and adds a real layer of depth to the proceedings. You can't help but get so invested and wrapped up into this story and these guys, impacted by their compelling lyrics and interaction. The energy of the first half of the film feels a little lost towards the third act when the momentum dies down but delivers an emotional, fitting finale, nonetheless. The pace never lets up though and the film is beautifully shot and looks absolutely gorgeous to watch. Straight Outta Compton is exceptional. It's brutal, violent, no-holds-barred but, at the same time, it's honest, emotional, genuine and boasts a big heart too - with only the minor of inconsistencies, but it's not worth nit-picking.
Straight Outta Compton is the N.W.A of biopics - rough, tough and epic. Infused with energy, F. Gary Gray's feature is both brutally honest and brutally brilliant; as raw and powerful as the group themselves.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.