‘Straight Outta Compton’ is Our Nation’s Reality

NORWALK-No one can tell your story the way you can. With that being said, there is no one who could have told the N.W.A. (Niggaz With Attitude) story any better than the way Dr. Dre and Ice Cube did. “Straight Outta Compton” is just like the music N.W.A. unleashed during their heyday. It is just as hard-hitting and uncompromising as Ice Cube’s lyrics. That’s what I like about the film.

But the best thing about the film is that it captures the moment of now. The connection of dealing with inner city issues such as an impoverished existence, high crime rates, unrest and police brutality, resonates just as powerfully today just as it did back in the 1980s and 1990s, when N.W.A. lit up up the music charts with their braggadocious rap swagger.

Today, we have Freddie Gray and the unrest in Baltimore to think about. Back in 1991, the beating of Rodney King opened the nation’s eyes to the legitimacy of police brutality. Today, we’re left to deal with the aftermath of the tragic and unwarranted death of Michael Brown. Ferguson, Missouri has now become a boiling point of anger and unrest.

Trayvon Martin, with his young life cut down by George Zimmerman, will always be in the back of our minds just as the unjustified shooting death of Latasha Harlins by South Los Angeles grocer Soon Ja Du does. The parallels of race tension when N.W.A. hit the national spotlight with their “Straight Outta Compton” hit record in 1988, to today’s Black Lives Matters movement bringing attention to, in the eyes of many, the mistreatment and deadly harassment of black people, echoes with power.

It is real. It is raw. And it hits home with a lot of clarity. What some people didn’t understand or failed to embrace in the plight of the black struggle during the Civil Rights Movement through the hit film, “Selma,” they see it in “Straight Outta Compton.” They see themselves in the two hour, 30 minute film. It is a dose of reality that bond the Baby Boomers with today’s generation of young people.

Corey Hawkins and O’Shea Jackson Jr. in Straight Outta Compton (2015). Photo by Jaimie Trueblood – © Universal Pictures

That is the beauty of “Straight Outta Compton.” With those living in lower-income situations, fighting for daily survival, “Straight Outta Compton” simply breathes life into their reality. To others, the movie serves as a refreshing, in-your-face piece of artistic work that allows us to capture a picture of the societal ills that minorities, especially blacks, endure with little no recourse to move forward.

Members of N.W.A. chose to use a microphone, tough lyrics and a turntable to move their lives to higher heights. Everybody living and working in urban communities like a Compton or South Los Angeles, are not always so fortunate to get ahead of the game.

Even if they do, what “Straight Outta Compton” hammers home with relentless authority, there are just some things as a black man or black woman (upper-class, middle-class or poor) that are hard to dismiss.

The stereotype labeling of young black men and the forces of police brutality is as real today as it was when the N.W.A. crew formulated during the heavily-induced crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s. It is kind of weird to see Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the rest of N.W.A. so revered today.

Back when they putting their stamp of gangsta rap on the rest of the music world, these are the same guys who were simply reviled and despised by plenty of people. When you have the moxie or the gall to put out songs like “Dopeman,” “Gangsta Gangsta,” “F*** The Police,” and “Straight Outta Compton,” the backlash is going to be pretty fierce, which it was.

But through the testament of time, “N.W.A. and “Straight Outta Compton,” have outlasted the busters, the haters and all the naysayers. N.W.A. and “Straight Outta Compton” came on the scene like a force of nature that we weren’t prepared for. Trend-setters have a way of doing that. “Straight Outta Compton,’ the film, only adds to that legacy.   

Dennis J. Freeman Written by:

Dennis J. Freeman is a veteran journalist who enjoys the moviegoing experience and sharing his thoughts on films.

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