On Repeat: “Straight Outta Compton”

Straight Outta Compton

On Repeat is a feature that aim to cover the kind of movies and TV shows that may not have a specific military theme but can stand up to the kind of repeated viewing that can help get someone through a deployment.

Straight Outta Compton is a controversial movie. It’s controversial this week because it wasn’t nominated by the academy for Best Picture, Best Director or any acting awards and was maybe the biggest inspiration for the #Oscarssowhite hashtag. It’s been controversial for the last six months because it celebrates the life and career of N.W.A., the rap act whose song about the LAPD generated so much anger at the end of the ’80s. It’s out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD that all feature a new Director’s Cut.

Kids will be surprised to learn that Ice Cube, famous for acting in movies like Ride Along and 21 Jump Street, and Dr. Dre, famous of his ubiquitous Beats headphones and now the richest Apple employee, got their start in gangsta rap’s most notorious group.

Younger readers who’ve grown up with hip hop understand that N.W.A. are as influential on our culture as the Beatles or Elvis Presley, something that’s just going to make our older readers really, really angry.

Director F. Gary Gray has made a movie that’s more Goodfellas than music biography. He highlights the Compton street culture that inspired the original music, covers the controversy that fueled their rise and the business agreements that hastened their implosion. Then it continues through the post-N.W.A. feuds with Ice Cube and leader Eazy-E’s eventual death as an AIDS casualty just as the group contemplated getting back together. There are cameo appearances from Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine.

Dre and Cube coproduced the movie alongside Eazy’s wife and there’s a real sense that everyone has made peace with one another and their role in music history. Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson, Jr. plays his father and Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell give outstanding performances at Dre and Eazy.

138664_front

Unlike most home video “unrated” or “special” editions, this is actually a new version of the film that runs over twenty extra minutes. Most of that new footage is extended live and studio performances of the group’s songs but there’s some extra nudity in the hotel and party scenes as well.

If you can’t see the band’s music as a stark critique of the LAPD’s racial attitudes in the ’70s and ’80s and just see it as music meant to incite hate towards all authority, then you’re going to hate this and should stay away. Anyone who grew up listening to hip hop in post-Rodney King America might have more understanding of what the guys were saying.

The group’s attitudes towards women back then are most definitely played down. It’s an even less defensible part of their legacy but Dre and Cube have made statements since the movie’s release that they regret some of the things they said and did back then.

If you can handle N.W.A.’s message, Straight Outta Compton is one of the best music films in years and the kind of movie that stands up to repeated viewing on repeat.