Seen Friday, August 14th: Straight Outta Compton
A biopic about N.W.A ("Niggaz wit' Attitudes") a rap group composed of five rapper and musician friends out of Compton, California. From a town considered to be "nowhere", these nobodies were among the pioneers of gangsta rap and "reality rap" emerging in the late '80s and early '90s, using their art to express the cruelties of their everyday reality. While many (including white parents and the Feds) lambasted N.W.A. for glorifying violence, many more loved them and their music for keeping it real. N.W.A. made history, prized their integrity as artists, and their impact helped to inspire and launch the careers of many monumental hip-hop artists who followed after them.
"The World's Most Dangerous Group"
What I really like about this film: I love how the film depicts hood life without taking any dignity away from hood people. I love how Ice Cube's legacy is honored by his son's portrayal of him, nearly 30 years after starting on this journey, the outcome and impact of which neither he nor his fellow group members could have anticipated. Most of all, I love how the film celebrates black brotherhood. A group of black men, brothas (literally, figuratively, and colloquially) being there for each other, igniting each other's artistry, backing each other up not only when it came to fights or police harrassment, but also supporting each other during their most devastating moments. Not afraid to cry for each other. Not too macho to tell each other "I love you" when it matters most. That's not something you see too often in Hollywood films, especially not in blockbuster ones ($55 million earned in its opening weekend, $27 million in its second!), and especially not in ones that are already poised to have their characters perceived as thugs and no-gooders. Oh! And of course, how could I forget! I love the film's message that people should be proud of where they're from. Not only has "Straight Outta Somewhere" been a wildly successful promotional campaign on social media, but as it concerns the film I also think it's a vital reminder that the members of N.W.A. weren't ashamed of their beginnings. They took the place that made them, repped it proudly, and used their work to change the world. Everybody comes from somewhere....
What I don't like about this film: Already there has been much criticism that Straight Outta Compton too conveniently portrays these men as good ol' boys, sweeping over the more unsavory details of their behavior and never questioning the way women are used (both around them and by them directly). To that I give the same answer I gave to a friend who questioned me about this: Those arguments are more than valid. But personally, I watched the film first and foremost to learn more about N.W.A. as people/artists with vision and integrity who made an impact, and in that vein I still think the movie is exemplary. With that said, the only complaint I have about the film is that I wish the audience would've been given more of an opportunity to become acquainted with MC Ren and DJ Yella. As someone who'd been vaguely familiar with N.W.A. beforehand, I hadn't even remembered there being members other than Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. Ren and Yella were plenty visible, but still somehow faded into the background, which perhaps also happened when the group was in its prime. I don't know. Regardless, I would've liked to know more about them.
Would I recommend it?: Absolutely! Not only that, I wholeheartedly believe that this film should be required music history viewing. Straight Outta Compton is a cinematic masterpiece and a phenomenal piece of history. Y'all know what to do. That is all.