It’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen the film itself and I’ve been contemplating whether or not my own perspective would be a worthwhile addition; but as someone who watches films, the biopic Straight Outta Compton moved me in a way which hasn’t been done for a long time. A lot has been said about what wasn’t featured and I cannot argue with factual things being left out, but I will address what I take as the theme of the film and what was featured. Not only did it seem as if portions of my childhood were being laid out on the screen, there was almost an ironic tone behind the film that what was so groundbreaking about NWA was the celebrating of the plight which was their reality , becoming critiqued for it and ultimately icons because of it. They found the initial beauty in their struggles and were vilified by those who created the struggle for them but even with this, they persisted which has had a ripple effect on hip-hop as a culture since then.
They were deemed too much for mainstream media, with songs blacklisted but as stated, they were giving ‘Reality raps’. This was the aggressive tone that had bubbled under for years in 5 young black men in a place known for police brutality and the hatred that the media later accused the group as spreading was a circumstance of the hatred they had ensued on the daily. This was a reaction to the hatred of their own existence where they come from, and their tone summed up their circumstances as well as the fire of the lyrics. The fact is, with all that is being documented in the world on systemic racism, police brutality and the like, nearly 30 years have passed since Ice Cube first says ‘Fuck the police coming straight from the underground, a young n**** got it bad cuz I’m brown’ can still be said with as much vigour and rage as it was when first being performed and when crowds first recited it back.
This is the underlying theme throughout the entire film for me. Of all the achievements that the breakthrough of NWA would open doors for (the ending for eg – Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent + Kendrick Lamar paying tribute) their experiences were always fighting against their reality. Although parts were romanticised (MC Ren doesn’t get enough credit, DJ Yella is genuinely portrayed as a filler role throughout the whole film and Eazy-E diss songs after Dr Dre leaves the group weren’t mentioned at all but albeit understandable due to it being a tribute to his legacy) you leave recognising and loving the constant fight which characters fought to get what they wanted. The struggle which underlies so much of the members of our society because of the injustice within it births people who’ll rise above it and fight against in anyway possible. This is what all 5 were born into, from the moment the film begins, most of the character dynamics are portrayed to show how much struggle these artists went through just to be taken seriously, to get what they felt they deserved and ultimately, to get what they want.
It’s a timely film and one I would hope people watch, as Hip-Hop has always been demonised, hopefully this film can give context as to the circumstances which led to the rise of the so-called ‘Gangsta rap’ especially with the coverage of Rodney King being in the film. A timely reminder that brings us to the present day. The conditions still exist and the fight isn’t over.
This film allows a deeper psyche exploration into the minds of these men who represented a generation and whose legacies span further than they would’ve dreamed all those years ago I’m sure. The film provides hope and inspiration as well as a firm reminder to be aware of your surroundings. Now I hope more hip-hop films will be made. So may I ask – when shall I be expecting a Public Enemy film to be out then?