I don’t think that N.W.A was started as a way to incite change. But they did. “Straight Outta Compton” is far beyond a music biopic and just like its subjects, will fan the flames of an already burning inferno.
Never mind that it opened to a $56 million weekend, bringing in over 4 times as much as its fellow weekend debuts.
Let’s look beyond the casting. Knowing only the public images of these rappers, the casting was perfection. At one point early in the film, rapper and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. (playing his father Ice Cube aka O’Shea Jackson) holds out his arms, palms up, cocks his head to the side and flashes a delicious grin and it’s obvious even he can’t help sometimes being the man he’s pretending to play.
A group of black men, a product of their neighborhoods is harassed, damn near on the daily by the police sworn to protect. They’re cornered. They’re frustrated. They share their art and in turn, their art becomes a voice to millions who feel voiceless. Of course people try to silence them but they will not be silenced. So, they fight and they keep fighting. And they keep fighting because their voice is THEIR voice after all. They strive for greater. A major media moment? Rodney King. The response? Riots.
Watching the moments being replayed, I couldn’t help the moment of deja vu. More black lives. More cornering, more frustration. More yells of “Fuck tha police”.
But SOC is a phenomenon. Just like the album, this film has perfect timing, it has heart and it’s inspiration in its purest form. The best part, the storytelling never misses a beat. Even the dirty, broken story choices are shown but they’re not told in a way that throws dirt on its characters, rather it reminds us that mistakes are universal. Even the subtle things, the lingering cameras, the hints of future endeavors, the attention paid to getting each character right (“cameos” are made by actors playing major gamechangers like Snoop Dogg and Tupac and they’re all spot on). A subtle but important detail is the portrayal of producer Suge Knight. He was volatile, short-tempered and of course creative freedom comes into play but this film is a glimpse into the life that has been shown on news outlets for decades.
“Straight Outta Compton” is more than a damn good story. Simply put, it makes sense. It’s lessons learned. It’s the importance of black lives and the attempted silencing by the government we are supposed to trust. It’s starting from the bottom and showing the beautiful, indirect route to the top. What it isn’t is a film that can be ignored.