Last night I snuck into a screening on the Universal lot to get a sneak peek of what I am sure will ultimately become historic at the box office. Like for many people here in Southern Cali, this movie is highly personal to me. Not just because N.W.A. was a massive influence for the hood education they unflinchingly provided to hip hop generation kids like me who were living outside the dark spectrum of their reality as young black men in Compton, but because later as PD of Los Angeles radio station 92.3 The Beat I worked directly with Eazy E, creating The Ruthless Radio Show, which helped launch the careers of both Bone Thugs N Harmony and now-legendary host Julio G, a mastermixer from KDAY. Eric was just as smart, funny, charismatic, loyal and sadly in the end, tragic as he was portrayed in this film. He had a major impact in my life; after all we made history on the radio together. But what I remember about him most was that he always had my fucking back, even when Suge stormed into the building and demanded I give him equal time on the radio station (for reasons he couldn't articulate beyond, Eazy has a show, I get a show-- he was also portrayed accurately) and I will never, ever forget that or diminish his importance in my world. RIP Eazy. You forever have my heart.
Straight Outta Compton casts a much wider net than simply being a biopic about the multiplatinum music group that changed rap music. The film speaks through the equally compelling story lines of its main influencers Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy E (who were so brilliantly cast, the portrayals are uncanny) to the group’s massive impact on popular culture in America—whether or not you bought their records. This was not just a rap group with some catchy songs, it was a cultural mindset among an entire generation, and the art they created became a tidal wave of change.
This film explains for outliers why we consider N.W.A pioneers—game changers not only for being the first to ring the alarm about the reality of police brutality, a daily hell for too many people of color, but of thoughtful resistance. We forget how this group stood up in the face of blinding backlash that rained down on them from the mainstream media and beyond, escalating to heights of our federal government in the late 1980s. “Fuck Tha Police” became a battle cry because it was the truth, and Cube said it best in the film: “Speak a little truth and people lose their minds.”
But there are also strong themes of brotherhood and friendship, coupled with the unstoppable force of genuine creative talent—despite multiple marauders who predictably invade the situation to fuck things up for the crew. The infamous villians in this scenario are manager and Ruthless Records partner Jerry Heller and later, Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight. (P. S.: Those scenes about the office environment at Death Row are not exaggerated even a little, and we strongly suspect you'll be shocked when you see it).
Straight Outta Compton is a powerful story about a movement, a movie that chronicles an exhilarating era of music evolution and best of all, the rise of West Coast hip-hop on the international stage. Absolute salute to director F. Gary Gray for an incredible job at the helm of this extraordinary film.