Minutes before our interview, F. Gary Gray, director of the new N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, asked me if I was surprised the film was good.
“No, I wasn’t surprised,” I answered.
Maybe my initial expectations were low because I didn’t know N.W.A.’s story. I was very young when gangsta rap was exploding on the east and west coasts, when these hip-hop pioneers were in their prime, and I had a vague understanding of the socio-political events of the early 90s that inspired their lyrics.
So when I sat down for the screening a week earlier among adoring Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E fans, I could feel their eager anticipation of a classic—but I wasn’t convinced we would get it.
I think we did.
I’m not pretending to be a movie critic but this is why you should see this film.
O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son, plays his father in the film. The two look and sound so alike, it was difficult to remember we weren’t looking up at Ice Cube himself. Interestingly enough, the young actor who made his big screen debut in the film, wasn’t a shoo-in for the role. He auditioned for two years and trained with several acting coaches to nail the part.
There is a scene in the movie where Ice Cube tells a reporter that N.W.A’s music and lyrics are a reflection of their reality. That reality—one of racism and police brutality against African-Americans—has yet to change. It’s the same reality Nina Simone got fired up about in her song Mississippi Goddam during the civil rights movement; the same reality that all of the hashtags from the Black Lives Matter movement call to mind. The film serves as a reminder that this country is inching along in its progress.
You have five young black men in South Central Los Angeles who were hell-bent on making it out of the hood. It would have been effortless to get caught up in a life of drugs or the prison system, but their creativity saved them.
The actors recorded the entire Straight Outta Compton album for the movie. Go hard or go home!
Kimberly Brooks is an on-air host and correspondent with Fusion.