Six Important Details about N.W.A (that they conveniently left out of Straight Outta Compton)
Even when it’s based on a true story, a movie’s final product really depends on who’s doing the talking. Much like Memento, The Usual Suspects and that Saved by the Bell movie that Screech put together, an unreliable narrator forces you to question everything you think you knew, which is the very problem we encounter with Straight Outta Compton, the biography of legendary rap group N.W.A. History is written by the victors, and since super-successful former members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube served as producers on the film, we shouldn’t be surprised that the movie was missing a few extremely important details.
- Ice Cube is kind of a nerd
With a permanent frown and eyebrows that point downward like the guy on those poison control stickers, Ice Cube always seemed to have a serious attitude, which was one of, I’m guessing, at least two prerequisites for N.W.A membership. He may have shared that characteristic with the rest of the group, but Cube was always a bit different. For starters, he’s the only member of N.W.A who wasn’t actually from Compton (he also isn’t actually an Ice Cube; apparently full disclosure means nothing to this man) Also, it turns out he’s kind of a nerd. While Eazy-E was busy selling drugs and poisoning his community, young O’Shea Jackson (Ice Cube’s birth name) was off hitting the books, leaving Los Angeles and N.W.A after high school to study architectural design at the Phoenix Institute of Technology. Cube picked up a degree in draughtsmanship in 1988, then returned to California to re-join the group. The movie showed high school-aged Ice Cube riding the bus and writing “Boyz in the Hood,” but there’s no scene where he walks in wearing a cap and gown, a starter jacket with elbow patches, or anything else to let you know that he pursued a higher education. Why not? Well, if Eminem taught us anything in 8 Mile’s final rap battle, it’s that there’s nothing more humiliating than coming from a two-parent household and being good at school. N.W.A had better things to talk about, they didn’t need Ice Cube jumping on the track and shouting out slide rules and graph paper, it just didn’t fit their image. By the way, it turns out he’s still crazy into architecture, and recently recorded a video for the New York Times, discussing the works of noted designers Charles and Ray Eames. He also put out a song called “Architect of Gangsta Rap,” which might be the most on-the-nose title in music since Fred Durst sang “Douche Bag” back in 2011.
- Dr. Dre beat up a ton of people
His 1991 assault on reporter Dee Barnes is a fairly well-known chapter in the Dr. Dre story, but somehow, it just didn’t make it to the big screen. An earlier version of the screenplay included the incident, but the movie was running long, and wouldn’t you know it, the “Our underdog protagonist is actually a soulless monster” part got left out. Also left out? Any of his multiple alleged assaults on ex-fiancee Michel’le, a singer on N.W.A’s Ruthless Records label. According to Michel’le, after Dre’s first attack, he told her he’d never hit her in that eye again, which, as far as apologies go, really seems like a bit of a red flag for the future. After the couple broke up in 1996, Michel’le settled down with Suge Knight, which is basically like leaving a lion’s den and moving in with a bear, only the bear is cartoonishly oversized (even by bear standards) and probably killed Tupac. Come to think of it, they also forgot to mention female rapper Tairrie B., allegedly assaulted by Dre at a 1990 party, or record producer Damon Thomas — Dre was arrested in 1992 for breaking his jaw. Oh, or those two stabbing victims in New Orleans — Dre was charged with two counts of aggravated battery stemming from a hotel lobby brawl that took somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 police officers to break up. Incriminating or not, how did they leave that out of the movie? That’s not something an audience would’ve wanted to see? Sure, it makes Dr. Dre look a bit more, well, murderer-ish than they’d like, but the scene would’ve been incredible — just like the funeral scene in Ghandi, only the exact opposite sentiment.
- Arabian Prince exists
If you saw the name “Arabian Prince” and assumed it was some sort of Aladdin/Purple Rain mashup, you’re (probably) wrong — he’s actually one of the co-founders of N.W.A, he just wasn’t in the movie. Seriously, they just completely left him out, Prince estimating that he was there for half of the scenes depicted in the movie. And not only was a present, Arabian Prince’s writing and producing skills were crucial to the early success of N.W.A’s record label. Remember “Fergalicous?” Well, he didn’t write it, but he wrote the song the Black Eyed Peas ripped off to make it, 1988’s “Supersonic,” by female rap group (and Ruthless Records artist) JJ Fad. From the platinum-selling album of the same name, “Supersonic” reached No. 10 on the Billboard dance charts, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance (they lost to DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince). So how did they explain JJ Fad forwarding all that mainstream acclaim to their label, without mentioning someone so pivotal? Easy, they left them out of the movie too. And since they considered JJ Fad expendable, maybe they felt the same of Arabian Prince, and now you’ve got a whole “McFly family photo” thing going on.
- The Eazy-E/Dr. Dre split got ugly
With all his fancy book learnin’, it didn’t take long for Ice Cube to conclude that he wasn’t being properly compensated for his songwriting contributions. He broke away from N.W.A in 1989, and the guys weren’t too pleased, referring to him as Benedict Arnold in multiple tracks on their 1991 album efiL4zaggiN (read it backwards, but probably don’t say it out loud when you do, especially if you’re at work right now). The movie covers this part, as well as Ice Cube’s earth-scorching response “No Vaseline,” which was basically the musical equivalent of what happens when Super Mario grabs a star.
When Dr. Dre left, also citing sketchy financial practices, his departure led to the creation of “Dre Day,” one of the biggest singles from his solo debut The Chronic. The “Dre Day” music video features a character named “Sleazy-E,” who wears a White Sox hat, falls in with a shady manager and ends up doing the running man on the side of the road with a sign that says “will rap for food.” If the symbolism is too vague for you to decipher, luckily Snoop Dogg arrives on the scene in time to say “Eazy-E can eat a fat dick,” which is a bit less open to interpretation. Despite “Dre Day’s” popularity (The Chronic sold over 5.7 million copies and spent 28 straight weeks on the Billboard top 10) and themes, it’s never discussed in the movie, nor do they get into Eazy-E’s retaliatory album It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa. Medium doesn’t let me use strikethroughs in my formatting, but just for the record, the name “Dr Dre” is crossed out of Eazy’s album title. That’s right, Eazy-E hated Dre so much that he named an album after him just so he could cross his name off of it. If the title wasn’t enough, five of the album’s eight tracks mention Dre in some capacity, none of them in a positive manner. In Straight Outta Compton, Dre angrily quits the group, some time passes, and he and Eazy reunite to bury the hatchet. It’s like if you explained America’s role in World War II by saying “The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and, long story short, now everything’s cool.”
5. Everybody got sued and/or sued each other
Entertainers are always getting dragged into court for one petty thing or another, but N.W. A had a knack for doing things on a much bigger scale. For example, Straight Outta Compton shows Suge Knight and his goons kicking Eazy-E’s teeth in over the rights to Dr. Dre’s recording contract, but it doesn’t really get into the massive lawsuit that Eazy-E lobbed in return. Claiming that that he was forced to sign the papers against his will (it’s kind of Suge’s thing), Eazy-E sued Sony, Death Row, Michel’le for some reason, and fellow N.W.A member the D.O.C, accusing them of racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and violations of the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) act, previously used to tackle such notorious crime syndicates as the Gambinos, the Lucheses, and FIFA.
And while we’re talking lawsuits, N.W.A member MC Ren was mad about not getting his fair share of screen time, but he’s probably pretty cool with them leaving out the part where he caught a paternity suit back in 1992. By a woman who claimed he’d raped her after a concert. When she was 16 years old. Oh, by the way: it’s neither here nor there, but in N.W.A’s 1991 opus “She swallowed it,” Ren says (puts on reading glasses and clears throat) “She’s only 14 and a ho, but the bitch sucks dick like a specialized pro.”
Anywho, In addition to the paternity charges, the girl sued Dr. Dre, M.C. Yella, The D.O.C, Eazy-E and several of Eazy’s affiliated businesses, ultimately settling out of court for two million dollars.
6. Their police altercations were a two-way street
Straight Outta Compton depicted N.W.A as constant victims of undue police harassment, and while that may or may not have been the case, they weren’t exactly the Compton branch of the SCLC. Take, for example, their understandably controversial tune “Fuck tha Police.” According to the movie, Ice Cube was inspired to write the song after the group was unfairly detained in front of their studio, the police assuming they didn’t belong there. In reality, the song came about when the guys were minding their business one pleasant afternoon, shooting innocent people with paintballs as they went about living their lives and trying to contribute to society in a positive fashion. The local authorities had the nerve to stop them, and well, you guessed it, fuck tha police, as if they had any other way to handle that kind of treatment. Seriously though, since when are you not allowed to shoot strangers with paintball guns? Damn shame what cops try to get away with. Oh, and there was also that time where Dr. Dre assaulted a police officer. Must have forgotten about that one earlier.