It has taken me a while to digest Straight Outta Compton. As a hip hop fan, I have never quite indulged in the political background of what was happening at the time until I was a teenager undergoing other issues that kept arising. It was a few years after, as a 3rd year student at University, that I delved into what happened and how it is a truly important and influential time in modern history.
Sat in a classroom surrounded by my fellow pupils from African descent, I realised that all of us sat in this room represented ethnic minorities. Which in actual fact is crap, because I am sure majority of the world is mixed race and actually probably Asian like me; but that is besides the point. The point is this music and culture sings to us because it represents a constant fight and struggle only us groups considered minorities can relate to. Studying ‘Theatre in an age of Hip Hop’ taught by a very white and very Jewish American professor was for me the epitome of this idea of connectivity between all races and people that have a background of struggle.
Straight Outta Compton, however focusing in a particular group, is brilliant as a biopic of what happened to this particular rap group at the time.
Some of the highlights of Straight Outta Compton for me were not actually directly related to the main cast. I think that the simplest choice to have white people featured in the concert audiences was extremely poignant. It showed that the discrimination between races came from older generations and was slowly disappearing.
Another highlight for me, was the scene where the group exits the studio and is harassed by the police and told to stand down regardless of them not doing anything. It was a black police officer that participated. This is extremely interesting! The power struggle here being between two of the same race. However, not once was it mentioned that the police was black nor that they were from the same race. This is very interesting as a choice, it demonstrates that actually the class system was still very much an influence at this time. To me, this shows that black educated people were considered superior, or rather were considered worthy of normal human interaction.
Placing fear on a whole demographic of people, from harassing them simply for crossing a street from one house to their own home is a truly frightening thought, one that we cannot fully concoct in our day and age. Watching it on screen, facing the fact that this happened throughout the ages in history, whether it be black people, native americans, jews, it seems a cyclical behaviour of groups that fear change or acceptance. Groups that feel they are superior by some higher power, but actually, people that are just completely ignorant.
Without wanting to get incredibly political, which I am afraid I may have already done, I am aware that Straight outta Compton selected extracts of a fuller past and history of this musical group and issues of the time. Like all movies, 180 minutes is not quite enough to show the entire story. We do not see acts of aggression from the entire group, Dr Dre being portrayed as the saint of the group, when in actual fact he was quite the opposite. However, I have to say that the choices made by writers and directors, of what to focus on were in my opinion entirely correct. The media have already informed us enough about the band’s ancient scandals and antics, we can google it all. What we truly wanted to see as a film audience, was given to us! A portrayal of the difficulties this band faced in their given political climate, and how their perseverance made them one of the most successful bands and stemmed a series of hugely influential individuals into the music and hollywood industry.
Let me sing praise to all the actors that took upon themselves the challenging task of playing influential and leading figures in hip hop industry. I am sure that in years to come Ice Cube, Dr Dre and Eazy E are going to be studied and remembered for their acts and willingness to speak of the ill treatment of the black race and even Latin Americans by authorities. Authorities who convinced themselves that for no apparent reason these people had to be culprits and simply misconstrued a small percentage of trouble makers for the whole race. They labelled entire ethnic groups forgetting that a very high percentage of criminals are white.
O’Shea Jackson Jr stepped into, or up to, his father’s shoes and legacy and it is clear that he has observed and learnt from the man himself. He hones his acting skills and craft here perfectly depicting the legend that is and paying him his respects. Aside from the striking resemblance he is simply a talented young man who could not have been better selected for the role.
Jason Mitchell has walked the paths of legends, from his humble beginnings to Eazy E his performance has been praised and critically acclaimed for such an accurate depiction of the legendary hip hop persona.
Corey Hawkins was by far my favourite actor. Given only a small look at the complex and extensive character and person that is Dr Dre, the Juilliard graduate demonstrated his skills and talents by painting the fullest picture of Dr Dre he could given only very specific aspects of his life.
The entire cast was incredible and I feel that they were all perfectly selected for the roles.
Straight outta Compton is a cultural phenomenon of a biopic. With hip hop being hugely studied and debates still ongoing regarding a lot of situations at the time of the band’s beginnings and rise, it is appropriately selected as an opportunity to provide cultural, historic and political context. I feel the story itself is not about the characters in question, as it therefore should have delved into the individuals further, but it is infact about the negativity and struggles they faced. I feel it was an opportunity to understand a lot of anger and frustration that came from some of the members of Straight outta Compton due to the legal matters in the music industry, which were still influenced and dictated by their race.
A must see for all film fanatics, but mostly for hip hop lovers and those who have an interest in racial politics and history. It provides a true insight, however narrow and single tracked, into the band’s start and rise to fame, but mostly offers a chance to learn about the difficulties of living as a hip hop artist and black person at the time.