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You don’t need to like rap to love this movie

Paul Peterson

Paul Peterson

So, I thought I was back before but that was a false start. I needed to recharge and rediscover my love for movies. Or at least my love for writing about movies.
I tried to write some reviews mid-summer but I thought my writing was tired and cliched. OK that’s nothing new but I didn’t like what I had written. If it doesn’t move me why should it matter to you?
So I waited for a movie to come along that I was passionate about.

Straight Outta Compton is an absolutely great film.
I heard there was a movie coming out about NWA’s meteoric rise and ultimate demise and I assumed it would be a documentary using file footage and interviews.

straight outta comptonWrong. It’s a feature film written by Johnston Herman and Andrew Berloff. Two virtual unknowns but that will change. Not only do they capture the historical significance, they convey the urgency of the time and the music.
It’s 1987 and the hip-hop scene is basically a cheesy R and B bar where Dr. Drew is still an intern and The Sugarhill Gang are the only people making rap.
Dre and DJ Yella and Ice Cube are oddly named friends with a idea of what they need to say and a different sense of what kind of beats they want to tell it to. There’s a hustler on the periphery named Eazy E who knows the dope game is a quick exit and he’s got money and an ear.

Here’s the thing.
You don’t need to know or even like rap to enjoy this movie. It’s that good. It’s an historic snapshot that captures a defining moment in our cultural history.
These guys paved the way. They are to rap as Richard Pryor is to comedy.
If you liked 8 Mile, if you appreciated the drama there, you’ll appreciate this.
It’s a simple story.

Friends get together and are told they’ll never amount to anything. They have a local hit that convinces a local hustler to throw some money into music instead of selling dope. Throw in a semi-unscrupulous manager and let’s see where we can end up.
They become iconic, sell millions of records and even more than that. They invented a new genre of music.
There’s lots to sink your teeth into. Sex, drugs, hip hop.
There’s plenty of drama.

As the stars emerge the usual greed and slease dominate the landscape.
Even as Dr Dre and Ice a Cube are emerging as musical innovators, their fair share is being stolen by an unscrupulous manager and the hustler that made their fame possible.
It’s sad and funny.

There are some brilliant moments. Suge Knight is captured as violent and sadistic with a volcanic temper and near homicidal rage. Today he’s in prison waiting trial for deliberately running over two people, one of whom died. There’s a brilliant moment where a very young Snoop Dogg backs Knight down. Little moments like that.
We see the inspiration for their biggest hit **** The Police.
This became an anthem for the post Rodney King verdict riots and a rallying point for anti rap critics trying to silence a generation.

Watch the film. Watch the police routinely make the artists kiss the ground for being black and then reconsider why that song needs to exist.
I thought this was a great film – thoughtful and dramatic. It made me appreciate their art, their music, and it made me want to write again. That’s a pretty strong performance.

As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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  1. Nick Nowitski says:

    My kids and I Have followed NWA from the first drop of their needle. Bayside students were shocked to see my son wearing a Raiders’ jacket and Compton hat walking down their hallowed halls.

    NMA’s videos only gave you a hint as to what these young (black) men had to endure. The movie and subsequent YouTube videos by their friends and retired police officers (that were there at the time) show that hate, distrust and a feeling of entitlement ran rampant in those black and white cruisers. The fuse was lit, slowly burning, and a explosion would be eminent.

    If you and put the music aside (and I doubt it), this is a fantastic movie eplaining a brutal time in US history.

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