Straight Outta Ignorance: A Non-Rap-Fan's Review Of Straight Outta Compton

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I know nothing about rap. Not that I’m one of those people who sneer “God save me from rap and country music!”- but when I was growing up, the primary exchange of music was The Mix Tape.  I like KISS because my friend Dean made me a mix tape of the best KISS songs. I like Frank Zappa because my friend Mark made me a mix tape of Frank Zappa.  I like punk because Neal and Rocco made me mix tapes of punk.
I knew no one who liked rap, and hence, never got into rap.  As such, my knowledge is sporadic – I know a couple of tunes, but couldn’t pick out a West Coast vs. East Coast beef.
As such, going to see “Straight Outta Compton” was an interesting experience.
First off, “Straight Outta Compton” is a good movie. I have my Pee Test when it comes to films – am I sufficiently interested in this movie that my teacup-sized bladder can distract me?  And though SoC was 2.5 hours and a 40-oz drink, I kept my ass in the seat.  Great story.
Yet SoC is clearly a movie meant for people other than me.  For example: early on, in the studio, the guys talk Eazy-E – who has, until now, provided only their money – into rapping.  The music starts up.  It’s clearly a familiar riff.  Eazy-E steps up to the mic, swaggers a bit –
And blows the line.  Off-tempo, terrible delivery, you name it.
The scene still works if you’re ignorant, but clearly this played off of expectations where the audience was ready for the first magic of That Track to drop.
Likewise, SoC has a fair number of Dramatic Pauses where they’re about to announce their new track, or the company they’re starting, and someone asks them what the name is – and – they – hold, for no good reason except to build an anticipation for a Significant Moment that I had no idea was coming.
Hell, they don’t even bother to introduce Suge Knight.  He just shows up without introduction.  Fortunately, he’s such a menace it becomes clear that he’s a bad guy.  Death Row records is presented as a literal hell, complete with torture chambers.
SoC is not a subtle movie. At one point, a character contracts a terminal illness, which is conveyed by them coughing dramatically.  Yet in a way that works better – this is an old-fashioned popcorn drama, where everyone’s presented in clear clean lines (Dre is talented but naive! Ice Cube is suspicious but hard-working! Eazy-E wants the money and the women!) and the plot churns along.  It’s not subtle, but it’s a big story, and frankly, the Ray Charles biopic attempted to be subtle and it got boring.  This is the Greatest Hits track of drama, where if it’s not over-the-top dramatic, fuck it, leave it on the sidelines.
And I spent a lot of the walk home with Gini wondering if this movie was Oscar-worthy.  Paul Giamatti put in a great performance, I know that – but I know that because I’ve seen Paul Giamatti work before, and this was different than his other work.
But as for the three actors who played Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre? I have no idea how to calibrate. I’ve never seen them work before so I don’t know their baseline – Ice Cube looks a hell of a lot like Ice Cube, but that’s because he’s Ice Cube’s son – and I have insufficient familiarity with Dr. Dre to know whether these guys have captured his essence.  So was it good acting?  Zero clue.  They kept my attention in a bombastic script, and that’s all the quality I can speak to.
I know enough not to take this as history.  I know that some of the other NWA members got shafted in this biopic because a) there’s not enough space, and b) Dr. Dre and Cube produced it, so guess who gets to be the stars?  And I know that it glosses over the fantastic misogyny present in a lot of NWA’s songs and backstage actions, and probably their youth wasn’t as idealized.
Still. A good movie. Brought me up to speed on a lot of the inner tensions, and how fame (and bad contracts, and money) can split friends apart.  I’d recommend it, even if you’re basically a rap yutz like me.

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.