Edgy flick about rise of notorious rappers is a triumph

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Edgy flick about rise of notorious rappers is a triumph

I WAS TOO busy listening to The Cure to fully appreciate the emergence of NWA when they first started to break through in the mid-1980s, but their influence on and contribution to modern music cannot be underestimated.

More than that, the group — love ’em or hate ’em — gave a loud voice to a previously unheard generation of black youths, and did so in the most daring and feisty of ways.

They were provocative, for sure. But they were also relevant. 

The great victory of director F Gary Gray’s NWA biopic is how it puts the music in its social context.

The reasons the group were moved to create the angry rap they did is brilliantly realised, but they quickly become corrupted and violent when fame calls, and the film doesn’t shy away from portraying this either. 

We’re given two strong stories for the price of one.

The first shows how the young rappers become accidental activists when the music  —  which we’re told was originally just for them and their friends — gives voice to a much maligned generation. 

Opening in the 1980s in the LA suburb of Compton, one of the most dangerous areas in the country at that time, the movie charts a growing anger at five young rappers who respond to aggressive authority by the police force. 

Their music hits a nerve and it’s not before the group, including Eazy-E (Mitchell), Dr Dre (Hawkins) and Ice Cube (played impressively by his real-life son, Jackson Jr) are drawing a fan base — and making the law-makers edgy.

An extended sequence climaxing in the recording of one of their biggest anthems, F*** the Police, puts the song finely into context. 

Later, the film becomes a cautionary tale about the music industry and how its power can corrupt.

As soon as the dollar bills are waved by music executives who don’t know quite what to do with them, the drugs and guns and girls only add to their notoriety. 

Waiting in the wings are the money men, lead by a nicely enigmatic Paul Giamatti, who plays their manager Jerry Heller. 

Like a great gangster rap record, Straight Outta Compton is edgy, energetic and by no means short of humour.

Straight Outta Compton 
(16) 4/5 STARS