Straight Outta Compton (2015)
They called themselves N.W.A. and appropriately their biopic is brimming with attitude. Straight Outta Compton focuses on three of the group’s founding members and immediately establishes the environs from whence they came. Eazy-E narrowly avoids being caught by the police after a battering ram demolishes the house of a fellow criminal; Dr. Dre is kicked out of home for wasting his time on DJ’ing; and Ice Cube pens lyrics based on his experiences with gang violence and police harassment. Not your typical introduction to a musical biopic, but then again, N.W.A were far from your typical musicians.
After the success of their debut single 'Boyz-n-the-Hood", Eazy-E is approached by Jerry Heller with promises that he can open doors that would otherwise be shut to the group. He invites several record exec’s to a concert and fortunately one of them likes what he sees. A deal is signed between distributor Priority Records and Ruthless Records, a company co-owned by Eazy-E and Heller. A platinum album and sell-out concerts follow, but so too does frictions within the group and controversy over their explicit songs. Soon the criminal element that was so prevalent in the film’s opening minutes resurfaces, as Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube go their separate ways.
Portraying this trio of pioneering rappers are relative newcomers Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson Jr as his father Ice Cube. Each give accomplished performances, supported by a typically arresting turn from Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller. While the film’s story may start and end with Eazy-E, all three characters are given satisfying arcs by the Oscar-nominated script. Having previously directed video clips for Ice Cube and Dr Dre before making his feature film debut with Ice Cube’s Friday, director F. Gary Gray brings his own lived experiences to the film, providing it with a swagger that befits its subject.
Though by no means a sanitised look at N.W.A’s history, a less flattering portrait can be found in the Lifetime biopic Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel'le.
Dr Dre was in jail for unpaid parking tickets, not for defending his brother in a parking lot.
Eazy-E had already started Ruthless Records before bailing Dr Dre out of jail. He asked Dr Dre to produce a record as a way of paying him back.
NWA were arrested by the Detroit police in their hotel, not amidst the riot at Joe Louis Arena immediately after their concert.
According to Jerry Heller, Ice Cube did not quit the group. He was voted out by the other members.
Eazy-E was not in financial dire straits towards the end of his life.
NWA founding member Arabian Prince is omitted from the film, as is Dr Dre’s well documented abuse of women during this period.
No recreations from Ice Cube’s film career in this biopic, though it does reference his performance in Boyz n the Hood. Also features Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg discussing their theme song for Deep Cover.