As a young kid growing up in Glasgow in the 90's my world couldn't have been further away from the drugs, violence and gang warfare urban L.A was witnessing at the time. However watching "Straight Outta Compton" brings about a real sense of nostalgia for anyone old (or young) enough to remember the emergence of the so called gangsta rap genre of hip hop when it was at it's pure undiluted best. (And of course all the drama and scandal that came with it.)
From NWA at the beginning and then through the like of 2 Pac, Biggie and Eminem the hip hop scene was never far away from controversy during it's golden years. But even in comparison there was always something so raw and so real about NWA when they burst on to the scene in the late 80's. Their style, attitude and lyrics really exposed the situation in the neighbourhoods of L.A for what they where and inadvertently brought about discussions on society, inequality and discrimination. It was obviously too real for some and efforts where made to ban the group over the excessive use of harmful language.
Straight Outta Compton the movie captures all this and for a couple of hours really takes you back with constant references to relevant talking points from the time. With me being born in 1985 I was obviously very young when Dre, Cube and Eazy E literally shot on to the music scene and changed the landscape of it forever. But with references to films like Friday and Boyz n the hood and events the Rodney King trial and videos of his beatings it had the memories flooding back. Despite never being a massive rap fan I was always very familiar with the likes of Dr Dre and Ice Cube and the rivalries and big stories coming out of hip hop at the time. So in that regard it was also good to see all the old characters from that era get a part in the film, people like 2pac, Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight all make appearances.
The film starts off showing all the band members when they were still living in Compton, struggling to get by and having to put up with police harassment and racism. Eazy E is making a bit of money as a drug dealer so Dre, who is DJ'ing at a club, convinces him to invest in a music studio. Eventually Eazy E is convinced to rap on one of the records and it becomes the first big hit of the newly formed hip hop group. Soon they are touring the country and their album is topping the charts but everything is far from plain sailing and chaos predictably ensues. In fighting over contracts, controversy over the song "Fuck da police", criminal records, racism in middle America and a management team causing friction eventually leads to Ice Cube leaving NWA to go solo and write films. After seeing Ice Cubes success and continually feeling ripped off my the management and lead singer Eazy E, Dr Dre also leaves to join gangster Suge Knight at Deathrow records where he joins up with Snoop Dogg and 2 pac among others.
Action packed from the first moment to the last and doesn't leave any stone unturned. Documents an amazing time when a new genre of music impacted the music business and youth culture in general like nothing else has ever since. Looking back on it now 20 odd years later just makes you realise how mad it all was and a small part of me actually feels like I can relate to it despite growing up on the other end of the world. Although now looking back in hindsight maybe the drugs, violence, and gang warfare going on in L.A projects like Compton wasn't as far removed from the drugs, violence and gang warfare going on in Glaswegian housing schemes at the time. Only in the place of gangs, guns and rap music we had knifes, young teams and sectarian singing.