‘Straight Outta Compton’ director F. Gary Gray talks N.W.A., #BlackLivesMatter

Contrino,’s chief analyst, said “Straight Outta Compton” could gross $117 million through its domestic theater run.


A generation later, the leaders of N.W.A. are using “the world’s most unsafe group” as a tagline for their big-studio biopic.

“I describe it as watching your son win the Super Bowl for the same team you won the Super Bowl with”, Ice Cube said. (“Though Flav & I up top”, the Public Enemy frontman recently tweeted, “PE members always contribute in many areas.”) The former Warner Music recorded-music chairman took his advice, bringing Migos and Remy Boyz to his new label, 300 Entertainment. Both serve as producers of the film, opening Friday. “Straight Outta Compton“, besides, is built on the abiding fierceness of the music, the unlikeliness of their hood-to-Hollywood journey and a talented young cast that handles the heavy weight of playing icons with unusual skill. N.W.A, which stands for “N-az With Attitude”, also sparked controversy with its incendiary lyrics (such as, “a young n-a on the warpath, and when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath of cops, dyin’ in L.A.”) and incurred the moral wrath of media crusaders including Tipper Gore. I loved that they were unfiltered, unapologetically themselves. There was an influx of drugs and military weapons and things like that that changed the culture. “We all decided to leave, basically ditch class when we heard they were shooting it”, Hervey said of the 1988 video for Straight Outta Compton, the group’s breakout record.

Although I’m personally straight outta Omaha, on March 23, 1989 I went to see one of the first big-venue performances by N.W.A., the godfathers of gangsta rap. Gang violence exploded, “Just Say No” was in full swing and police were merciless in trying to eliminate the scourge. It also examines the influential solo careers that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre forged for themselves, as well as the uneasy and ultimately broken alliance with manager Jerry Heller — played by Paul Giamatti, fresh off another ambiguously villainous role as Dr. Eugene Landy in the Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy.”.

“The group’s song “(Expletive) the Police” was a cultural flashpoint. But it’s the depiction of police brutality and misconduct that ring most true today following the high-profile deaths of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray-among too many others.

“At that time, I didn’t know how important we were, I just wanted to write rhymes”, he stated. He grew up in Compton, in south Los Angeles, in the 1980s and ’90s and lived what the group was rapping about in its music. The upbeat, raucous sound of Straight Outta Compton is subbed out for the laid-back side-stick-snares and slinky synth leads of the “G-Funk” style that would rise to prominence on the backs of Dre’s 1992 The Chronic and his protégé Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle of the following year.

“When you were listening back in the late ’80s, it was like you were listening to something that was illicit”, Boyd said.

Rapper Chuck D was famously quoted as saying hip-hop is “CNN for black people”.


For more on the actors who played Dr. Dre and Eazy E., read on.

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