‘Straight Outta Compton’: The strength of street knowledge

By on August 19, 2015

I remember when I first heard N.W.A. I was up late, flipping through the channels when I landed on MTV. Here were a couple dudes dressed in a style I had never seen before telling me they were “Straight Outta Compton” and they were some bad, crazy … well, the first time I heard N.W.A. it was appropriately censored for young ears. It was the late ‘80s and the fad of neon everything was just about going out of style. Things were changing, especially in the world of rap music.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a world dominated by the cassette tape, which meant wax albums were easily available and places like Stan’s Record Bar and The Record Connection sold rare, hard to find music. I discovered rap while looking for some dance music. As a kid, I fashioned myself a little DJ and always wanted to have the newest, hottest jams in the neighborhood. While flipping through wax at Stan’s one day I stumbled onto a copy of Whodini’s album, “Escape.”

“Five Minutes of Funk” changed my life; I was hooked on rap music and delved headfirst into the culture, soaking up everything I could learn in the pre-Internet world. I learned about rap battles under the bridge, about the beef between different boroughs of Manhattan, and a lot of colorful language was added to my vocabulary. All of this was well and good and then I saw the N.W.A. video for “Straight Outta Compton.” The world I knew transformed overnight. Over the weekend, movie production houses learned just how powerful N.W.A. has become; the pseudo-biopic “Straight Outta Compton” brought in more than $56 million at the box office, unseating “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” from the number one position.

“Straight Outta Compton” is the success story of Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s actual son), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dj Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), collectively known as the rap group N.W.A. Rated R for some strong language — as you would expect — “Straight Outta Compton” is the true story of “cultural rebels” who used lyrics, swagger, and bravado to stand up to authority. The group spoke a truth that no one had previously embraced and exposed a ‘hood life few were privy to. It is street knowledge.

Overall, without the fandom hype, “Straight Outta Compton” is a good movie. I was pleased to see the care and effort put into this story by writers and director F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job,” “Be Cool”).

Reviewer Michael Upton calls “Straight Outta Compton” a good movie. He especially praises the care and effort of the film’s writers, and director F. Gary Gray. (Photo from blackflim.com)

Reviewer Michael Upton calls “Straight Outta Compton” a good movie. He especially praises the care and effort of the film’s writers, and director F. Gary Gray. (Photo from blackflim.com)

In home theaters: 1988

“Straight Outta Compton,” the album, dropped in 1988, and seeing the movie gave me a bit of nostalgia, which made me want to turn back the dial and revisit some older films. I had not realized 1988 was so packed with great movies. The year is a gold mine of classic films. You have had to be living under a rock if you haven’t seen at least one movie from 1988.

The first Tom Hanks movie I ever saw was “Big.” I was on the fence with “Who Framed Roger Rabbit;” I was at the age where it wasn’t cool to like cartoons anymore and not old enough to fully understand innuendo. I needed a couple viewings (and a couple more years of knowledge) to fully ascertain what was so great about “A Fish Called Wanda” and “The Naked Gun.” Some people really love “Mystic Pizza;” it never really resonated with me, but I’ll never forget Eddie Murphy in “Coming to America.” Where did that Eddie Murphy go? “Cocktail,” “Bloodsport,” “Beetlejuice,” I mean, c’mon! Who doesn’t love “Rain Man?” But, the importance of the year 1988 in movie culture can be summed up in two words: “Die Hard.”

Agree or disagree? Reel Reviews works like this: 1) Watch a movie; 2) Send suggestions, comments and criticism to Michael at SomeProMCU@gmail.com.

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