August 14, 2015


'Straight Outta Compton' Film Review: Brotherhood Beyond Rap

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Straight Outta Compton was the first rap album I ever owned. I was eight years old, and I remember stealing the tape from my father’s Ford Bronco and playing it at my grandparents’ house, where I lived at the time. 

One day I’m blasting “F*ck tha Police” in my bedroom and rapping along with it, and in walks grandpop, in his uniform. My grandfather is a six foot black Philadelphia police officer. He takes off his belt—one that makes Santa Claus’s belt look like dental floss—and administers the whooping of my life! I don’t remember much of the lecture I got during the spanking, but there was one line that stuck with me. He said, “F*ck the police? Well the police put a roof over your head and food in your mouth. Show some respect.” That, I am proud to say, was the only time I’ve ever experienced police brutality.

You could make a case for N.W.A being the most important rap group of all time. The fact that it launched the careers of icons Eazy-EIce Cube and Dr. Dre should be enough to win any argument. When you think of the other artists the group helped—Snoop DoggTupacKendrick LamarEminem and so on—it becomes even more undeniable. The question is: Does all of this make for a good film?

it’s so relevant to 2015 that it’s both scary and unfortunate

Good question. 

Straight Outta Compton, the new biopic about N.W.A, hits the ground running. Director F. Gary Gray takes you on an emotional rollercoaster through highs like the group getting a record deal and lows like the L.A. riots.

Although Compton takes place from the late '80s to the late '90s, it’s so relevant to 2015 that it’s both scary and unfortunate. When I spoke to the cast, I asked them if there were any current events they drew inspiration from. They didn’t hesitate to mention the news of Ferguson breaking the same week that they shot the L.A. riot scenes. The very same problems with police violence that inspired N.W.A’s still-controversial hit “F*ck tha Police” in 1988 are happening in America today.

But at its core, this film is not about gangster rap at all. It deals with many themes, but none are more apparent than brotherhood. Straight Outta Compton does an amazing job of taking these figures who’ve been labeled gangsters and showing their humanity.

--Esteban Serrano