My fascination with rap artists like NWA has been reignited for good by the highly anticipated Straight Outta Compton, which promised to deliver a hardcore and truthful story of one of the most well-known rap groups of all time. My expectations generated by the trailer were not let down, with F. Gary Gray’s memorable biopic hitting on all the elements, including the iconic rap numbers, police brutality, and the personal lives of the rappers.
The principal strength of Straight Outta Compton is its sporadic portrayal of scenes that add to the historicity of the film. The rapping scenes are cool and drive the energetic nature of the film, forcing you to bob your head to the beat, or in my case, rap along to the lyrics. We are subtly reminded of the notion that “our art is a reflection of our reality”, and fortunately, the message doesn’t wear out its welcome.
The scenes in which the police arrest the rappers for no good reason are portrayed in a grizzly and spine-chilling fashion, especially if you consider how police brutality continues to stain American society. However, in a similar fashion, one of the most memorable scenes for me personally, is when Ice Cube demolishes Bryan’s office, enraged that he has not been paid his money, yet despite this barbaric act, Bryan still operates as Cube’s manager. Holding my breath as the scene unfolded, I was jolted not only by the foreshadowing of Jerry Heller’s deviousness, but how the unscrupulous nature of the music distribution/copyright industry is an alarming reality. Speaking of Ice Cube, the decision to cast O’Shea Jackson Jr. as his own father was a decision that paid off immensely, as the actor brings an enormous amount of veracity to his character you don’t often find in cinema.
While the story and ideas of Straight Outta Compton are interesting, there a few flaws hidden in the script’s nooks and crannies. In addition to the worrisome runtime (2 hours 30 minutes), the engagement starts to dwindle during the more monotonous conversations. I also feel like the whole subplot of Eazy-E dying of HIV received too much attention, with its sentimental tonality betraying the passion that is present in the first half. Although the editing makes you feel like a participant in the conversations, the overall cut of the film feels like a tender, well cooked rack of lamb that still has a bit of fat that could have been trimmed off. While the filmmakers’ difficulty in achieving a steady pace is noticeable, the themes, characterisation and historical weight more than compensate for that, cementing its reputation as one of the best rap films history has seen so far.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆