When Straight Outta Compton was first announced, many were excited to see the West Coast super group finally get the film they deserve. NWA was a big part of my musical upbringing, so I was ecstatic to finally hear the news. Ice Cube’s Lethal Injection was one of the first albums I discovered as a child (even though I was way too young to listen to it), and the classic G-funk sound created by Dr. Dre was something that changed my life as a young music listener. When details started to arise that Ice Cube and Dre would have their hands in the film, Straight Outta Compton already seemed to be very prestigious on paper. However, along with the 80% of my conscience that this movie was going to be awesome, there was 20% that thought that this could be a bad movie. There have been many times where Hollywood studios have screwed up an idea that could have been good if the original vision was the main goal, especially when it comes to Hip Hop biopics. Remember Notorious? That disappointing film is a clear example of how something that could’ve been so closely reflective of the life of a legendary Hip Hop rapper (or rappers in Straight Outta Compton’s case) could be destroyed due to bad acting, inaccurate actors portraying characters, and an overall low-budget feeling to a triple A film. But all doubts aside, Straight Outta Compton was a great biopic for NWA, let alone a great film, and there were SEVERAL characteristics this movie had which future biopics need to follow.
The acting for SOC was very good. Each actor’s portrayal was pretty close to the actual member of NWA. Corey Hawkins did an outstanding job portraying Dr. Dre, even down to the legendary producer’s unique way of talking. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s kid) had a slow start when it came to portraying his father, due to a softer tone in vocal patterns. However, once he started becoming a major role in the unraveling of the story, you started to really see his acting talent. One thing that I did want to see more from through an acting perspective was MC Ren, played by Aldis Hodge. Although Ren was a critical rapper in NWA, his portrayal in the film kind of took a backseat compared to the other main characters in the film. While you had Jackson, Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell show powerhouse performances as the big three in the movie, Neil Brown Jr.’s portrayal of DJ Yella was definitely the comedic relief in this biopic.
One of the things that made SOC such a dope film was the standard set in the cinematography department. From the jump, the film keeps viewers interested with a unique way of setting up critical moments in the storyline of NWA. From capturing serious scenes like the verdict after the Rodney King trial to all out fun ones like Eazy-E’s Wet & Wild party, Straight Outta Compton’s visual department flourished on idea of making the plethora of scenes look like they were shot in the middle of a music video or shot by a veteran videographer who happen to be at the right place at the right time. These visuals set up the tone for how each scene plays out, and the acting from each character (whether a part of NWA or not) is added to make the film as a whole an experience that is very easy on the eyes.
The story of NWA itself is what really made Straight Outta Compton a successful film. By having both Dre and Cube behind this film, viewers had the opportunity to witness several happenings by NWA in the most accurate structure possible. Many NWA fans are aware about the major happenings of NWA (Ice Cube going solo, Dre going to Death Row, Eazy E dying, etc.), but the details that caused these turn of events were detailed and coherent. You get to find out why these turn of events happened and how they were put into action, and that’s what makes both fans and viewers connect with the struggles of NWA throughout the film. Even though SOC is mainly based on NWA, that didn’t stop the addition of major artists who played a significant role in the group’s ventures within their time sequence. For fans of classic 90’s Hip-Hop, this is definitely what you would want to see within a Hip Hop biopic. There are so many classic namedrops and appearances of West Coast (and midwest *hint*) heavy hitters that hip hop fans would leave with a big ass smile. SOC also succeeded in providing the accurate sounds that drove NWA to the top. Instead of just focusing on NWA’s music, you heard a ton of music influenced by the group or music they were influenced by. That means you heard a lot of classic funk hits from Parliment to Steve Arrington, which actually plays a role in the scenes themselves instead of being background. What’s even cooler is that they had DJ Jazzy Jeff behind the DJ’ing sequences in the movie. This comes alongside with the critical tracks from NWA that turns the tide for the group. These are just a few of the plethora of detailed additions to SOC that made it such an accurate film. Although there are some incidents that were obviously not in the film due to both time restraints and negative publicity (especially since Dre’s viol past has been showing up in the news lately), SOC goes all out to make sure that the story of NWA was as accurate it can possibly be.
In conclusion, Straight Outta Compton is the first Hip Hop full-length biopic that gets it right. It’s a Hollywood-budget film, so sure some of the scenes are more superficial than accurate. However, it doesn’t stop SOC from being the film that not only tells the story of one of the most legendary West Coast groups in Hip Hop, but also clarifies their importance during a time where both Hip Hop and our society were going through a tough situation. The director of the film, F. Gary Gray, has finally released the Hip Hop biopic that sets the tone for how others should be. Go see this movie before it’s out of theaters!
Acting score 9
Story score 10
Music & SFX score 9