I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Straight Outta Compton

tn_socSTRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a movie that will smother your mother and make your sister think it loves her. Or at least it will give them more of an idea of what N.W.A was all about. Unless they already know alot about N.W.A, which come to think of it I do expect of your mother and your sister. They’re pretty cool.

I’ve been thrilled about the idea of an N.W.A biopic for years. So far The Notorious B.I.G. is the only rapper to get one of these (the better-than-I-expected NOTORIOUS), though I remember when Steve James of HOOP DREAMS fame was supposed to be doing one on Grandmaster Flash starring Don Cheadle. A story from that era could be epic. And I would like to see an O.D.B. movie and possibly Public Enemy would work, but I don’t know if there’s much of an ending on that. N.W.A, to me, seems like the best choice for this treatment.

And their movie is pretty much what you’d expect. It captures some of the vitality and power of N.W.A and also has most of the weaknesses of biopics. I can’t honestly claim it all works as a movie, but it celebrates N.W.A without being totally embarrassing about it, so I couldn’t help but enjoy watching it.

Director F. Gary Gray (SET IT OFF) and friends absolutely succeeded in the hardest and most important part of the job – figuring out who the hell can play N.W.A – and that goes a long way. Corey Hawkins (NON STOP) is an especially impressive find as Dr. Dre. He really captures Dre’s way of speaking and his quiet focus. In many ways this is his story, as the dreamer who convinces them all to come together and make music in the first place, and who is so happy just being able to create that he’s slow in recognizing the ways he’s being taken advantage of.

Neil Brown Jr. (NEVER BACK DOWN, FAST AND FURIOUS) as DJ Yella is the comic relief of the movie, making a memorable character out of the member of the crew we the public are least familiar with. Aldis Hodge (one of Zeus’s kids in DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE!) plays MC Ren, who isn’t really given much focus other than showing up at the studio and recording, but he’s got the right presence.

The trickiest one is Jason Mitchell (DRAGON EYES) as Eazy-E. Eazy is such an enigmatic figure in rap history because he’s kind of the bad guy of N.W.A, but also the martyr. He was the actual criminal whose drug money funded their record company, who had to be talked into becoming a rapper, and as they show in the movie had his rhymes written for him and recorded one line at a time. He’s the one who was seen as conspiring with manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and ripping the other members off. He was the one stuck in bitter feuds with both Cube and Dre after they left. But since he was the one who got sick he’s also the galvanizing event that brought them to put that all in the past and remember that they’re brothers.

Mitchell has Eazy’s small stature, but not quite his high pitched voice. Still, I think he does a good job of creating a sympathetic character who we can like and understand even when he’s wrong.

mp_straightouttacomptonAnd then there’s O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube. Like Mario Van Peebles in BAADASSSSS! he’s a son playing his famous father, but he also has the hurdle of this being his first time acting. His BOYZ N THE HOOD, in other words. Man, those are some shoes to fill. If I were him I’d hang a GHOSTS OF MARS poster on the set to lower the bar a little.

It’s gotta be a weird position to be in. At one point he has the line “I have a baby on the way,” referring to himself. He doesn’t straight up imitate his father as much as another actor might, but he looks more like him than anybody could without digital effects. In the jheri curl years especially young Cube’s belligerent scowl and eponymous Attitude seem to be reborn on screen. He also does his father proud when he has to rap. (I was thinking I’d seen him as hype man to Cube but I guess that was a different son, the one he calls Doughboy. Both of them appear on Cube’s 2010 album I Am the West.)

The casting of Giamatti as Heller is important too. It’s okay that he’s a recognizable star, because this is someone we’ve heard of more than seen. On Dr. Dre’s classic album The Chronic, Snoop refers to Jerry and Eazy as “Mr. Rourke and Tattoo.” Fair or not, Heller is the poster boy for white people who take financial advantage of rappers (see industry rule #4,080). Giamatti plays him as an asshole, a chubby old guy who carries himself with swagger, flies into a few tantrums and seems fishy every time he claims “the contracts are being finalized as we speak!” But wisely the movie does give him some good qualities. It is true that they would’ve had a hard time getting their music heard without him. You can see why Eazy, when benefiting from him, enjoyed his company. And it’s probly true that Heller talked Eazy out of committing a murder (though he later said he should’ve let him do it).

In the early scenes this is about the best N.W.A movie you could hope for. It opens strong with Eazy in a tense stand-off in a crackhouse. He actually gets away because of a police raid. Saved by the bell… or actually, the battering ram. I feel actual guilt for letting out a laugh of delight at a particularly brutal action moment during the raid. This is the problem of us white dudes enjoying what the movie calls “reality rap” as spectacle. I apologize. It’s not an action movie, it’s the death trap that Eazy wisely slips away from when he shifts to the record industry. These are the types of scenes you want to see in a biopic – the things you only imagine from hearing of Eazy’s past. Or the scenes from before they become stars, like Dre laying in his bedroom on a pile of records analyzing Roy Ayers through headphones, or Cube watching a kid get a gun pointed at his head on the school bus.

The movie’s at it’s very best when it’s showing their experiences with the police. Cube is not a criminal, he’s just a kid, but he gets manhandled, yelled at, threatened and demeaned by cops, mostly white, sometimes black and bitter, in one case right in front of his house and parents. There are very similar scenes in BOYZ N THE HOOD (co-starring the real Cube, named after a song he wrote) and MENACE II SOCIETY, but here we’re seeing it happen to representations of real people who we know went on to become important contributors to our society and culture, and we’re watching it with 2015 hyper-awareness of how tragically these situations can end. And also with the knowledge that this is going to inspire their anthem “Fuck Tha Police.”

According to the movie the fire that lit that fuse is police hassling them right in front of the studio during a break from recording, making them drop their lunch and lay face down on the sidewalk. It starts to feel a little like a slavery movie. How much indignity and dehumanization can people suffer before they explode?

Despite some corny dialogue arguing with police over the validity of rap, this is a great scene about the well-meaning side of Jerry. He’s incensed by what he’s seeing, both because it’s racist and because it’s fucking with his artists. But even a powerful white guy like him can’t stop the system, all he can do is yell about all the people he knows and talking to the mayor and shit, empty threats even if he means them. He paces around, furious, but at least he’s standing up. Meanwhile five men who are in the middle of recording an album that’s still beloved a quarter century later lay at his feet like hunting trophies. This kind of shit is new to him, but not to them. And they’re real fuckin tired of it.

Shit like that begat “Fuck Tha Police” which begat a letter from the FBI and, when they were on tour, multiple incidents with local police threatening to shut them down for performing the song (or for “obscenity”). In a way it’s nice that they can graduate from being degraded in their neighborhood to being treated like Elvis’s pelvic thrusts, but the movie shows a larger threat here as standing up for their right to expression could lead to police arresting them on stage which could lead to a full scale riot. From what I was able to find I think the Detroit concert scene is taking off from media tall tales more than what really happened, but it’s a vivid illustration of the specific type of danger felt in that era of rap concerts.

When the tape of the Rodney King beating starts playing on TV Jerry doesn’t take it as personally, telling the guys to “get back to work.” We see the trial going on on TVs throughout the movie, and then the riots. Of course Cube once said “Anything you want to know about the riots was in the records before the riots.” What happened to Rodney King was no surprise to the creators of “Fuck Tha Police,” but having it on tape – and then the system deciding that it was done correctly – was new to many white or upper class people, just like it was to Jerry in front of the studio, or like it is now as news of injustice after injustice spreads on social media in almost-real-time.

But we don’t have an N.W.A now.

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SO THERE’S SOME excellent stuff about where the Attitudes came from, but the other great story of N.W.A is the breaking and repairing of the friendship. Cube leaves because Jerry and Eazy aren’t paying him what he feels he’s owed. I love the part where he dryly confronts them while they have a lobster and champagne breakfast.

Cube went solo and made a classic, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted. Losing Dre’s music could’ve been disastrous… except he went to New York and worked with Public Enemy’s production team, The Bomb Squad, who created an even more complex and powerful collage of funk and noise to crack and rattle furiously between his words. (Chuck D can be spotted in the studio with him, played by Rogelio Douglas Jr., Trumpeter #1, Studio Band, WHIPLASH).

Of course Cube ended up in a bitter feud with his former group, but what I didn’t know (if it’s true) is how much his old friends respected the music he was making. Dre is shown driving around bumping it. When Eazy angrily dismisses Cube, Yella defends him on the basis of how “hot” his album is.

One of the most enjoyable sections of the movie is the diss record war between the two factions. Eazy convinces Dre to call Cube “Benedict Arnold” on the song “Real Niggaz” (from the album efil4zaggiN [I don’t think they mention the earlier line on the 100 Miles and Runnin EP]) so Cube, who had kept his mouth shut on the first one, comes back with one of the harshest diss records in rap history, “No Vaseline,” as the last song on his second album, Death Certificate.

I really respect this scene because it actually made me appreciate the song more. I always thought it had some funny lines (“First you was down with the AK / And now I see you on a video with Michel’le”), but to me that song and the anti-Asian “Black Korea” tainted a great album. I always got hung up on the title and how he’s saying they’re all fucking each other. That’s such a childish insult, and it was kind of a bummer to see the members of this group we still loved so pissed at each other and calling each other names. I always think man, can you believe they were still teenagers when they started N.W.A? and then stuff like this reminds me that yeah, of course they were.

But in the movie it’s part of the story, we know the ending, we see the friendship and the misunderstanding that leads to this rift. That context finally let me really enjoy Cube scorching over the funky Brick sample, roasting them with insult after insult. And the movie intercuts the fiery recording session with the gathered members of N.W.A and management listening to the finished recording. I don’t for a second buy that that’s how they heard it for the first time, but it’s really funny to watch their faces as they hear what he’s saying about them. They’re embarrassed but can’t help sometimes nodding their head at the beat or admitting that it’s pretty funny. Only Jerry blows his top about it, and starts talking about lawsuits.

Of course, it goes down easier because they leave off the last verse, where he says “Half-pint bitch, fucking your homeboys / You little maggot / Eazy-E turned faggot.” And I’ve always believed that when he said “‘Cause you let a Jew break up my crew” he was being more descriptive than anti-Semitic, but the way some of the people in the theater cheered on that and any reference to him being Jewish did not give me good vibes.

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HERE’S WHERE THE movie runs into trouble. Dre also leaves, and has a solo career at least as accomplished as Cube’s, and harder to streamline. In order to get to (HISTORICAL SPOILER) the group’s reconciliation before Eazy’s death you have to explain Dre leaving and founding Death Row Records with Suge Knight (FORCE OF EXECUTION stuntman R. Marcos Taylor), the menacing Piru Blood turned boogie man of record company executives. They fit in what they can: debuting Snoop (Keith Stanfield, SELMA) on “Deep Cover”, working on The Chronic, showing off the instrumental for “California Love” to Tupac (first timer Marcc Rose, who does a great job). (Hey, wait a minute – he plays him the more famous remix, that doesn’t actually make sense.) Of course they can’t get into that whole story.

It starts to feel like they’re adapting Dune at some point. Even after simplifying things (leaving out original N.W.A member Arabian Prince and G-Funk staple Nate Dogg) so many rappers have to be shown that you never see them meet, they’re always somebody Dre already knows. Entire marriages and childhoods have to be summed up in a few lines. Major developments (Cube’s acting career, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony) have to be mentioned, not shown. They respectfully include the D.O.C. and his car accident, but with so little context I’m sure it’s confusing to people who don’t know what I’m referring to there.

It’s stupid, but I kinda wish they coulda done this as a KILL BILL style two parter with part 2 focusing on the Death Row years, to really develop what was going on there. But at least they’re able to get in one excellent scene where Dre hears gunshots from inside the studio and goes out to yell at Suge and a roomful of hangers-on. It’s a scene of crazed decadence as scary as the firecracker scene in BOOGIE NIGHTS, and it’s based on the kind of stuff that really went on there. It’s all draped in Bloods red, there’s a life-sized electric chair, they’re having dog fights and torturing some guy at gunpoint.

At one point as Dre lectures them he looks at a guy and says “one time,” which if I’m not mistaken is a reference to the fact that Suge had off-duty police officers on the payroll. This was at the heart of the “Rampart scandal” involving corruption in an LAPD anti-gang unit. According to the theory pushed by one LAPD detective, these Death Row employees were involved in the murder of Notorious B.I.G. In 1997 one of them was killed by an undercover officer in a road rage incident, while another was convicted of robbing $722,000 from a Bank of America.

See, that could be a movie of its own. Almost has been a couple times.

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OKAY, THIS IS A major left turn here, but it’s my biggest question about the movie: Why does Eazy have a framed CHILD’S PLAY 2 poster in the Ruthless Records office? I had to check to make sure he didn’t have a song on there or something. I think it just means he likes that movie, right? This is from Universal but I prefer to think this is an authentic historical detail than that they would say “Hey, do you guys mind pretending Eazy liked one of our movies?”

Most disappointing omissions:

1. Dre selling records out of his trunk
2. Mel Man
3. The guy who plays the racist white guy on “Fuck Tha Police”
4. Eazy-E giving a big monologue about how important CHILD’S PLAY 2 is to him
5. The filming of xXx: STATE OF THE UNION

The most unintentionally funny line in the movie is when Cube’s wife asks “How’s FRIDAY coming?” We’ve just seen him cracking himself up typing a screenplay on an old computer and saying “You got knocked the fuck out!” But then they must’ve worried maybe somebody might not know what that’s from so they gotta have her explain it. For now on people in my life are not allowed to ask me “How’s the book coming?,” they have to say the full title every time.

There’s actually less of that type of shit than I expected. In that sense it’s not as standard biopic as I feared. But in the break up years it starts getting bogged down in that school report mode that so many music biopics suffer from, becoming more of a list of references to every damn thing that happened than an actual story.

One example of a thing only referred to: the time Eazy-E went to a Republican fundraiser dinner with George Bush.

He got branded a sellout for that one. On “No Vaseline,” Cube chants “I never have dinner with the President” three times. But I always got the impression that he just thought it would be funny. He got the fundraising letter, and it wasn’t that much money to him, and he knew it would raise eyebrows. I can understand why they might not want to get into all that at that point in the story, but it’s the kind of thing that’s better to act out. Mentioning that it happened is not as exciting as making a movie about it. If we just wanted to hear it mentioned that it happened we’d be at home reading Wikipedia.

I suspect many people who aren’t into the music will enjoy it for a while and eventually get bored. And they’re kinda right. But hey, all those albums start off stronger than they end up, too. The last song on Straight Outta Compton is “Something 2 Dance 2.”

For me it’s hard not to love it for those cinematic moments that do happen. We get to see Dre fucking around on a keyboard until he figures out the riff for “Nothin But a ‘G’ Thang.” And there’s a scene where Jerry and Suge, the two arch-villains of hip hop history, give each other the stink eye through crowds of dancing bikini babes. It’s the silent changing of the guard and it takes place at “Eazy-E’s Wet ‘n Wild Party.”

Also I approve of the attention to detail in fashion. I like that Dre’s hats seem to keep up with what he wore in the videos of each era. The first time Cube talks about going solo he’s dressed like the cover of his Kill At Will EP.

And of course this is a movie about music, so it makes you want to nod your head or dance. They really capture the feel of big rap tours of that time, and I never saw N.W.A so thanks for giving me this simulation. Sometimes I believe they use the real recordings, but mostly they do it Sissy Spacek style, a wise move for making us feel the discovery of these great songs in the studio.

The non-N.W.A music is well chosen too. There’s a whole lot of Parliament-Funkadelic, which is smart considering how much Dre sampled, interpolated and took inspiration from them. During the scene where Cube and Eazy meet in New York they have Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M.” playing in the club, to show us how hip hop has evolved in the background of this story. Early on a little of Dre’s new Compton album is used as scoring, which is weird to me for historical reasons but it sounds pretty good.

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I LOVE THAT N.W.A gets to be honored in this way. They made great, important music, had a dramatic story, the survivors continue to have evolving careers. But the music biopic is a double-edged sword. It celebrates and enshrines the artist, but it also sort of vampirizes them. The music, the thing that made the artist so important, has to be re-recorded or repackaged. Some actor has to mimic the person, copy them, interpret what they might’ve been like in private. Famous moments have to be re-enacted in ways that don’t quite fit our memories of them. Entire human lives have to be reworked into something that fits comfortably into a movie. Inevitably, truth has to be shaved off for time, drama or palatability. And then a whole generation will be introduced to this great art through the movie, and have their idea of it shaped by this lesser form. Even in a best case scenario they only get to know it as a canonized work of the past and not a thrilling, refreshing, scary new force.

And also they can kiss the artist’s ass too much. Some have pointed out ugly parts of the N.W.A story that are left out: the homophobia and racism of Death Certificate, the incident where Dre punched female journalist Dee Barnes (which at least Eminem brings up on his song with Dre, “Guilty Conscience”). And in my opinion the misogyny in general is implied but toned down. But I also don’t think that’s a big deal because all you have to do is listen to the classic album that the movie is named after to see it. It’s not being hidden from public view.

I don’t know. It’s fair to point out that stuff, but I don’t think the movie pretends they’re enlightened. “Do I look like a motherfuckin role model?” Like any biopic they already got too much to explain in this story without having to explain or answer for every one of their character flaws. I also think if they showed more of these things then somebody else would accuse them of glorifying or defending such behavior.

UPDATE: When I wrote that last part, honestly I was ignorant of the extent of abuse Dre was accused of. It’s more and worse than I realized. Dee Barnes herself has now written a powerful, upsetting piece about the movie and makes some good points about other omissions as well.

UPDATE 2: And now Dre has acknowledged and apologized in the New York Times.

I don’t like the common refrain that it’s a whitewashed telling of the story because it’s produced by Dre and Cube along with Eazy’s widow. This is another issue with all music biopics: you can’t offend whoever owns the rights to the music you need to play in the movie. But I mean, is autobiography not allowed anymore? If we were talking books then yeah, I’d take a good biography over a ghost-written memoir. But this is not journalism, this is movies, and I’d much rather see N.W.A’s self-serving version than some Hollywood asshole’s outside view.

I bet if they weren’t involved it would start with Dre discovering Eminem and then flash back to all the events leading up to this and how that gives him the idea to make beats by Dre headphones.

Also there’d be a whole section about Tairrie B:

Thank you for reading this far. Here is my final question. Are N.W.A now too old, too commercialized, too Hollywood-mythologized, too repackaged to be The World’s Most Dangerous Group? We must acknowledge that Cube is now a lovable star of comedies and family movies, Dre is a billionaire Apple dude trying to build a performing arts center in Compton, and yes, the group has a fuckin biopic from Universal Pictures. They deserve it, but does it take away their edge?

Maybe there’s no danger left in those guys, maybe they are Aerosmith now. Sorry Dre. But their youthful cinematic counterparts? They’ve caused extra police presence, added security guards and bag checks at theaters around the country, just like a rap concert or “hood movie” in the ’90s. They still represent a threat to somebody.

Shit. Maybe nothing’s changed.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, August 17th, 2015 at 4:48 pm and is filed under Music, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

87 Responses to “Straight Outta Compton”

  1. who knew the best superhero movie of the year would be about five kids from 213?

  2. Loved it. Full stop. It’s the cornball after-school special version, full of lessons and crying, that I never knew I wanted.

    My favorite moment: when they get thrown in the paddy wagon, all kicking and swearing, and then they look at each other and start laughing. These dudes are like the motherfucking Justice League to me, so it was really touching to see their comradery in an intense moment like that. Also it’s just badass.

    One thing I wish was in it: the beatdown that they blamed Cube for on that skit on EFIL4ZAGGIN. I never really figured out that whole story so I was looking forward to seeing it dramatized.

    Another thing: Eazy making a song about shooting Rodney King with a sniper rifle for saying we should all just get along.

    One thing I thought of afterward was that Cube Jr. had to do intimate scenes with an actress playing his own mom.

    I’m glad you noticed the CHILD’S PLAY 2 poster, Vern. I’ve been thinking about it for days. Did Eazy just love Chucky, like Bushwick Bill, who made songs about him? Is it a short rapper thing? Is there a BRIDE OF CHUCKY poster in Too $hort’s office?

    I loved this cuddly hugging version of the story, but seeing them all strut down the hallway with their guns out made me hope they do a tall tale, TOUGHER THAN LEATHER version, too. Same cast, same director, just switch up the genre, BEST OF THE BEST 2 style.

    Or maybe save that for the Wu Tang biopic.

  3. I’m really glad you liked it Majestyk. I was worried you would hate it. Which skit are you talking about? Because I was listening to that album today and there’s a part where they say he ran while his friends got beat up at the New Music Seminar, and I’m pretty sure that *is* the scene in the movie where they’re coming down the escalator. “How’s that Ruthless life?” “We’re Lench Mob!”

    Speaking of BEST OF THE BEST 2, Simon Rhee (the villain in part 1 who becomes their brother in part 2) plays “Korean Shop Owner.” Also he did stunts.

    Ha, I didn’t think about O’Shea Jr. and his mom. That is funny.

    At the beginning of the movie I thought maybe I would have to go see it another time in the theater. At the end I thought maybe I wouldn’t have to see it again ever. But after writing about it all weekend I’m kind of wanting to see it again. I have a complicated relationship with it.

  4. One of your best reviews of all time! I’ll definitely check this out when I get the chance.

  5. Amazing review!

    Can’t wait to see the movie.

    Eazy-E was a known horror movie fanatic. He mentions Child’s Play in a bunch of interviews and if memory serves well some articles mention posters in his office. Supposedly his favorite movie was The First Power with Lou Diamond Phillips (and intro of his last album is named after it).

  6. Is this a “for fans only” kind of deal, or do you think someone whose taste in music is embarrassingly white and doesn’t know anything about N.W.A. would enjoy it? Asking for a friend, obviously. Clearly we’re all big fans of the rapping music here.

  7. Oh right, I forgot about that. Was that what that was? I always pictured it different, I guess.

    I liked it all the way through. I caught on quick what kind of movie it was and just rolled with it. I loved the expository dialogue introducing the famous names. “What do you think, D.O.C.?” I’d have liked the gritty, warts and all version, too, but just knowing that these guys, of all guys, got a sweet, cheesy, feel-good rags-to-riches movie like any other Rock and Roll Hall of Fame type band, just tickles me.

    One compensation about not having much Ren in the movie is that I can’t see the Motherfucking Ruthless Villain getting down with this corny shit. He never went pop in his life, no reason to start now.

    Oh shit, I haven’t even talked about Jerry Heller yet. I loved Jerry Heller! I actually felt bad for him when Eazy dumped him [SPOILER]. He fucked everybody over, sure, but the relationship with Eazy felt really genuine and sincere. I guess that’s what you hire Paul Gianatti for. It’s a much more multifaceted portrayal than in the “Dre Day” video, certainly.

  8. It’s actually very much for non fans. There is nothing in here that fans don’t already know. If anything they omit a whole lot (the entire break up segment for example was done a great disservice) and fabricates a shit ton for the sake of making it more cinematic like every other biopic. Sometimes it works (Fuck the Police origin) sometimes it doesn’t (the awfully contrived “Bye Felicia” scene) and sometimes you can’t help but laugh (the way they played Dre leaving Death Row, yeah right!). Cube and Dre also come across as angels of course since they produced it. Though ironically showing some of their flaws as people (ripping off the lench mob, biting B Real and beefing with him, Dre and Dee Barnes) could’ve helped layer the characters more.

    Overall it works as a movie but like other good musical biopics that omit a lot of facts and completely distort or recreate the truths in others (IE: RAY, WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT, LA BAMBA, WHY DO FOOLS FOR IN LOVE) I don’t know if it’s something I’d go out of my way to really see again.

  9. I will say when they performed some of the classic songs it was pretty powerful. It brought back that nostalgia of the group in their prime from my childhood and that’s where it works most but really I just hope it’s success leads to a Public Enemy movie by Spike Lee or something.

  10. Also Eazy-E is painted as far more naive and gullible than he actually was in real life. I wonder what it would’ve looked like had Eric Wright still been alive.

  11. XXx: State of the Union was *totally* in this movie! They showed a clip at the end!

  12. Great review, Vern. Prolly the best I’ve read yet, both about this film and on your site. I don’t know a thing about the history of rap, but I read about the formation of Hip-Hop in a book called Love Goes To Buildings On Fire, which I wholeheartedly recommend. It’s about the New York City music scene from ’73 to ’78, roughly, and catalogs the movements in the pop-rock, jazz, salsa and hip-hop scenes at the time. Great read. I picked it up for the Talking Heads stuff, but really got into all the other genres. Ended up Youtubing a lot of stuff I never would’ve heard otherwise.

  13. Well shit, I have to see this now. Fucking great impassioned review Vern. I may have to buy the Straight Outta Compton cd first to get the foundation right. Does it count that I already own Cubes greatest hits album? I hope so, cause I got a $100 dollar bill y’all!

  14. Crustaceanlove —

    My girlfriend had never heard NWA until after we started dating, (Though weirdly, she was a fan of Death Certificate from high school without knowing that Ice Cube was in NWA) and she enjoyed the movie. Probably a bit more than I did.

  15. Owning Cube’s greatest hits album doesn’t give you the same familiarity going into is as already being familiar with SOC + Cube’s 4 albums ever would.

  16. Bonus points if you’re also familiar with Eazy-E’s EAZY-DUZ-IT and The D.O.C.’s NO ONE CAN DO IT BETTER.

  17. No love for EFIL4ZAGGIN? For me, that’s Dre’s true dark, dense, scary, hateful, offensive, nihilistic, hilarious nightmare masterpiece. I like it about three times more than THE CHRONIC.

  18. Mr. Majestyk – It’s interesting cause a lot of my favorite songs from the group were on there. From it’s singles to Eazy’s Bootsy Collins remake to The Wayz of Wayback and Niggaz 4 Life. A lot of that shit is timeless to me. At the same time the reason I was actually kinda ambivalent towards this movie myself is because a part of me has outgrown that music particularly the rest of that second album with shit like One Less Bitch and the shit it influenced like THE CHRONIC in many ways. Then I hear She Swallowed It and can’t help but crack the fuck up so it’s definitely a weird type of emotional conflict in some ways.

    Granted I guess I’m just more of an Amerikkka’s Most and Death Certificate kinda guy in my 30’s. Then again I kinda always was growing up actually now that I think about it. I mean with both SOC and especially NIGGAZ4LIFE it’s still very entertaining when they go really over the top with their rhymes but definitely not something I’m bumping everyday anymore like I did as a kid, teen or in my 20’s especially album #2.

    Like Vern mentioned in his review It will always be the reflection of angry teens and young men in their early 20’s. I’m well past that stage now that I’m 32. At the same time the nostalgia of seeing “NWA” again one more time superceded that for me and I went to see the movie eventually and I won’t front like hearing some of those songs in that loud theater again didn’t make me feel a certain way inside.

  19. Crushinator Jones

    August 18th, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Well I think between Vern’s review and Armond White’s review I have a pretty good idea of what to expect with this film.

  20. Vern, in a Rolling Stone interview F. Gary Gray said that his director’s cut is and hour longer and covers a lot more ground. Please, when the double dip blu ray comes out down the road review it too. As a white boy from So Cal who never listened to rap, your insights into this genre of music never fails to fascinate me. The time when you covered the influence of Friday and the movies that came in its wake was one of your best consistent runs of reviews. I still think there’s a book there.

  21. I think it’s a little naive to say Cube was just being descriptive with his “Jew” line (or Cube’s hilarious excuse that it just rhymed with crew), especially since he later refers to Heller as a “Devil”, which is a common term used to describe Jews by the Nation of Islam (I’m pretty sure Cube had converted at this time). I think Black Korea could probably find its roots in some of the teachings of the Nation of Islam around this time too (unfortunately Cube doesn’t mention any spaceships or white people being created by an evil scientist, other tenets of NOI teachings). Not that I like the songs (or Cube) any less, mind you. And I don’t think he’s actually still carrying around these backwards views or that he ever really put a lot of stock in them, I just think he had a more shotgun approach to the targets of his angry persona.

  22. Why didn’t Lil’ Eazy E play Eazy E? I mean if O’Shea Jackson Jnr can play O’Shea Jackson, shouldn’t Eric Wright Jnr play Eric Wright?

    The July 1994 Source Magazine had a cool interview with Eazy E. The writer state’s that in Eazy’s Mountain View Estates home (2 houses from Jerry, 2 streets from Dre) the living room was filled with plastic monsters, and a 3 foot tall Chucky doll, with knife. https://www.flickr.com/photos/21630929@N04/2096173836/

  23. Extra super bonus points if you’re familiar with Above the Law’s Livin’ Like Hustlers. Honestly, if you do want to be familiar with the music covered in the movie it’s mostly:

    Straight Outta Compton by NWA
    a little bit Amerikkka’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube
    100 Miles and Runnin’ EP and/or Efil4zaggin by N.W.A.
    Death Certificate by Ice Cube (though the relevant song is played almost in its entirety in the movie)
    The Chronic by Dr. Dre
    (there are also scenes involving the theme song for DEEP COVER and “California Love (Remix)” by Tupac.)

    But I’d say Straight Outta Compton is the most important.

    Harvey – if that director’s cut comes out I would probly buy it sight unseen. Do you mean my HOUSE PARTY/Kid ‘n Play series? I’m glad you liked it, I had alot of fun doing that series.

    David – It probly is naive, you’re right. But it has always been my understanding that “devil” (which he does use alot on those albums) is a derogatory term for all white people, not just Jews. So I believe it’s more like if he said “cracker” than some anti-semitic slur.

    Michael – That is awesome about the Chucky doll! I really suspect that they exactly re-created what was in the office and that includes a CHILD’S PLAY 2 poster.

  24. Michael – He auditioned but they felt he wasn’t right for the part. Same with Dre’s doppleganger first born son Curtis Young.

  25. Got no shame admitting I’m the Cheddar Bob in this conversation, so I may as well add that I happen to love 8 MILE. Hadn’t paid much attention to rap or Eminem up until I saw the movie, but I liked it’s ROCKY rawness. The duelling scenes in the club, and the momentum leading up to each battle, was great inspiring stuff. The fact that Eminem actually played sort-of himself probly helped elevate this to a higher level of quality music-wise, and also an authenticity of acting. I’ve seen NOTORIOUS and GET RICH, but 8 MILE is the standout for me. I know Fiddy played himself too, but I just didn’t really connect with his story the way I did Eminem’s.

  26. Something else I like about Eminem – after 8 MILE he didn’t pursue an acting career but stuck to what he does best. The thing that seems more important to guys like 50cent is fame for fames sake (check out his DTV output is what I mean), as opposed to having a unique voice in the medium they were birthed in. To guys like Cube it seemed like a natural progression to movies, to mixed results, but I can’t help but think 50 just wanted on the bandwagon. GET RICH, to me, came off as insincere and a fame-grab.

  27. Yes, the kid n play saga. That’s it. Although I thought the Friday series got mixed up in there too. The way you covered the films and the Music that was mixed in was worth a book. I know it’s a type of genre your not associated with but I found your perspective to be unique. I grew up at the time all those movies and music were made and couldn’t care less. Still your series made it all seem important. Which this mini N.W.A. series is a small mirror too. Kinda why I brought it up.

  28. Poeface I agree about 8 Mile, I remember reading an interview with Mathers after the movie came out where he said it was so exhausting making the film that he will never do it again. It’s a shame because I think he did a pretty good job (even though he did play himself).

  29. In the scene in which Cube is working on FRIDAY, if you look closely you’ll notice the screenplay formatting is a little off.

  30. Kennerado, yeah the only other movie I’ve seen him in was his cameo in FUNNY PEOPLE where he abuses a stunned Ray Romano.

  31. As a 42 year old white man who grew up loving rap (mainly east coast, though I did love NWA and Easy,) I don’t feel like I need to see this hollywood-ized version of history. I know the stories that I grew up with about these guys, but I’ll probably watch it when it comes to blu ray.

    We Want Eazy was my joint though. They played that on Yo! MTV Raps all the time. Yeah he had all his good shit written by others, but his voice was so ill. There wasn’t anyone else like that back then.

    Just don’t get me started on the garbage that passes as rap these days…

  32. Here's What's Missing From Straight Outta Compton: Me and the Other Women Dr. Dre Beat Up

    On January 27, 1991, at a record-release party for the rap duo Bytches With Problems in Hollywood, producer/rapper/then-N.W.A. member Dr. Dre brutally attacked Dee Barnes, the host of a well-known Fox show about hip-hop called Pump It Up! Dre was reportedly angry about a Pump It Up! segment hosted by Barnes that aired in November 1990. The report focused on N.W.A., and concluded with a clip of Ice Cube, who had recently left the group, insulting his former colleagues. Soon after the attack, Barnes described it in interviews: She said Dre attempted to throw her down a flight of stairs, slammed her head against a wall, kicked her, and stomped on her fingers. Dre later told Rolling Stone, “It ain’t no big thing – I just threw her through a door.” He pleaded no contest to assault charges. Barnes’s civil suit against Dre was settled out of court.

    damn!

  33. Class act! (Not the Kid N Play movie either)

  34. Hey-yo! Cheddar Bob here again…so I picked up the SOC album, and being a tight-arzz I chose the discounted double album with EFIL4ZAGGIN (and I fucking figured out what it mean’t only within like fifteen minutes! Read it backwards dummy…).And yeah it’s good stuff. Straight off the bat, outta the gate like a bolt of lightning and a shit load of attitude, that first song was completely alive. I had me ho in the car az well, and she asked when the album came out. I said nearly 30 years ago, she said it sounds like it could have come out yesterday. Still early dayz, and I got lots more to listen to, but so far I’m impressed.

  35. Musically you’re really in for a treat with EFIL4ZAGGIN. Majestyk suggested it was Dre’s opus all around including content and all but while I don’t fully agree all the way I do think it’s his magnum opus musically. Never again did Dre seamlessly blend and reinterpret samples on that level. It’s one of my key influences as a beat maker.

  36. Vern – In retrospect you’re probably right Eazy-E did go to the White House for publicity, but honestly I always took it at face value that he did it because that happened when…spring 1991? Back when President Bush Sr. was still getting his ass kissed by the American public after the Gulf War, Mr. -E was just riding that wave. The same way David Lynch (not exactly a right-winger) was an admirer of Reagan and actually went to the White House, if I remember right.

    Also, I truely believe that if we ever get a definitive Suge Knight biopic…that’s potentially an Oscar-winning role right there. I do like the guy they got for the role in this film, hovering in the background for several scene as a shark circling his prey, foreboding for rap fans in the know.

    I was annoyed honestly how the film made damn sure you know how awesome Cube and Dre were after the early 1990s…but Mc Ren and Yella? Nothing. Nothing!

  37. Well, I listened to EFIL4ZAGGIN, and the first thing I noticed was the absence of Ice Cube, so I can assume he left NWA between albums one and two? Cool. And yeah, I liked it. But not as much as SOC. It’s way more dense musically and there’s a lot going on. Agree with Broddie and Majestyk on that one. Dre brings a real mellow 70’s funk to his beats, as in Real Niggaz and Findum Fuc*um & Flee, which is my type of flavor. A good comparison for me for these two albums – SOC is like THE RAID. A straight up shot of badass attitude. EFFIL4 is THE RAID 2, lots more going on, different but still great.

    Some of the more extreme sexual songs kinda border on hilarious – I’d Rather Fuck You – seriously made me think of the sex scene in TEAM AMERICA, and how it might have fit right in as satire. Musically it reminded me of a song Barry White might sing, if Barry White thought the way to charm a woman was to fuck her best friend if she wouldn’t put out for him. I’m no prude and don’t get offended by profanity, but a lot of the misogynistic lyrics made me cringe, simply because it made me ask myself was I ever that ignorant about women in my youth? (Answer: yes I was) If Straight Outta Compton is NWA’s “These Are Our Issue’s With Authority” album, then EFFIL4ZAGGIN is their “These Are Our Issues With The Opposite Sex” album.

    SOC has found a permanent place in my car music rotation. I picked up Cube’s Amerikkas Most Wanted, so I’ll check it out then leave it there for now. The movie comes out over here in a few weeks and I’d like to leave some room for a few new surprises.

  38. “I’d Rather Fuck You” is just a parody of “I’d Rather Be With You,” one of Bootsy’s great love jams. Likewise, “Automobile” is a more misogynistic version of an already sexist joke song by Parliament in the real early days. The premise of the original song is that it sounds like an impassioned love song, but then you realize he’s telling her he’s not gonna give her a ride home if she doesn’t put out. I always thought these songs were kinda lazy, just kind of like Blowfly songs or a better version of what 2 Live Crew was doing.

    I think the loss of Ice Cube is damaging. Less variety in the vocals, more juvenile and less substance in the lyrics. But for most of the album the production is amazing, slick like Chronic era Dre but aggressive like Straight Outta Compton. Bomb Squad-esque. So it’s still a great album.

    Looking forward to seeing what you think of Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, which I’ve been listening to alot this week. It’s Ice Cube right in between ignorant teenager and enlightened adult, with some of the best production he’s ever worked with. I guess it’s very in the spirit of Straight Outta Compton because it’s got that “oh shit, did he really say what I think he said?” with music so powerful that you can’t help but love it.

  39. Ah okay, cool. Thanks for the history Vern. I swear I must have been in a bubble back in those days. But it’s been great discovering some awesome new stuff.

    Can’t wait for the movie to help me fill in some more gaps. Rewatched BOYZ N THE HOOD last night for the first time since it came out just to check out Cube, and he really nailed it as a first timer, playing Doughboy both tough and tender as required.

    I noticed Dre released a soundtrack album for SOC, simply titled Compton. That could be worth a look too.

  40. It’s not a soundtrack. It’s an unrelated new album. We discussed it on the TOP FIVE review. I hated it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, Vern kind of liked it, we both agreed that the song Snoop was on was good.

  41. It’s kind of a soundtrack, in an arty sort of way. Pieces of a couple songs are used in the movie, and the whole thing is a concept album about the city of Compton.

  42. People keep saying that it’s a concept album. It sounds like the same shit all of Dre’s albums have been about to me but I’ll admit that I am physically incapable of listening to most of these songs all the way through. I keep trying to give the album a chance, figuring maybe I just had a kneejerk reaction and it’ll get better if I go in knowing what to expect. Doesn’t help. Even the songs that start well will have some cacophonous singsong asshole or tedious instrumental interlude break in at some point and my hand will leap out reflexively to the skip button. It’s like some kind of fight or flight instinct I can’t control. It’s a physical reaction. I viscerally hate this album. So I guess I’ll just have to take everyone’s word on it that it has a concept beyond “Stuff that pisses Majestyk off.” The cure for cancer could be in these lyrics and I’d still never be able to listen to them.

    That one Snoop song is still pretty great. (Not about Compton in any way, I might add.) Not the other one, though. That one is hot garbage.

  43. I had the same first-response to Amerikkkas Most Wanted that I got with SOC, which was immediate love. I’ll put it down to Cube’s charisma and energy. The song A Gangsta’s Fairytale was a standout. Great lyrics, funny as hell. Whoever that little kid was that played off Cube – I hope he went on to an acting career – “Rock that shit homie, rock that shiiit!”

    Does anyone know who Cube’s referring to when he says – “A message to The Oreo Cookie”, followed by all the racial slurs? There’s so much detail in these albums I don’t get the reference’s to because I missed the NWA train back in the day. Some are easy, like Andrew Dice Clay – “Mother Goose? I fucked her.” Thanks for being patient guys while I display my ignorance.

    I checked out Dre’s 2001 album also. Not totally sold on him yet. I like his funky 70’s sounds and his low deep voice, especially from EFIL4ZAGGIN. His song’s haven’t grabbed me yet. I guess he’s the dark horse of the group and he’ll probly grow on me over time.

  44. As far as I know that’s not addressing a specific person, but a portion of the black community who he’s accusing of wanting to “switch” and be white. I suspect he would tone that down now. The racial slurs are, if you didn’t recognize them, from a scene in DO THE RIGHT THING.

    N.W.A turned his “here’s what they think about you” against him on Efil4zaggin, so maybe they thought he was talking to them, but it doesn’t seem like the shoe fits so I don’t know.

  45. By the way, this is a great time, giving N.W.A tutoring. I love it.

  46. Ha, MC Vern is in the house. Yeah Oreo cookie, black outer white center, of course. Is there a white man equivalent? Twenty years ago I worked with a skinny white kid who loved rap. He went on holidays to the USA and walked through South Central in his reeboks and baggy jeans past a group of black guys, and the biggest guy stepped off the kerb and snapped him in the neck from behind with a wet towel and said keep walking Vanilla Ice. I never forgot that story.

    Haven’t seen DTRT since it came out, but I’m excited to see it again, as well as the FRIDAY’ses, which I’ve never seen.

  47. After reading Heller’s book ‘Ruthless’ and Savidge’s book ‘Welcome to Death Row’, there is plenty to turn over that the movie doesn’t, or can’t, take the time to go for. Not the least of which are the conspiracy theories about Suge shooting Eazy up with the AIDS blood (see Suge’s Kimmel appearance) or the suggestion from Tomica Woods Wright that Suge had his prison cronies rape Eazy that night at Solar Records. Then the next page has Eazy’s first daughter saying that Tomica was the one who brought the whole house down with bad financial management. Man, the more you read, the more confusing it gets. These two books are sorta all over the place, but interesting if you’re interested.

    I will say this, the underrated album of the NWA days when everyone was still together, and the movie doesn’t tip to many hats to it, is the D.O.C.’s ‘No one Can Do It Better.’ Great album.

    Oh, and I still liked the movie quite a bit.

  48. I never knew about the Suge-injecting-Eazy theory until after the movie (I didn’t realize that was what some dipshit was yelling about when he suddenly decided to loudly fact check the movie before being told to shut the fuck up) but I gotta call bullshit on it. First of all, it’s such a far-fetched James Bond sounding idea that it’s kinda silly to treat it seriously in the first place. Second, Eazy would’ve known that was how he got it and would’ve been pissed and not tried to use his disease to promote safe sex. Third, the only evidence I’ve seen anyone point to is the video of Suge Knight on Kimmel, where it doesn’t seem to me like he is even making that claim, he’s just referring to HIV as “the Eazy E thing.” Fourth, there are also videos online of Suge claiming that Tupac is alive in that same exact tone of intimidating-by-making-lame-jokes-that-are-clearly-in-bad-taste-to-any-reasonable-person.

    I should read those books though. Did you read LAbyrinth?

  49. I always felt Suge Knight got demonized way more than he should’ve. He was a symptom not the disease.

  50. Saw the movie. Loved it. Fucking.Loved.It. I suppose I’m biased because of my new found love for N.W.A. and Ice Cube in particular, so I’m not gonna be very critical about it. For me it was just a perfect immersion into this world of awesome rap music and talented guys and sharks and bottom-feeders and attitude and bitches and ho’s and fucking disgusting racism and gob-smacking police brutality and middle-finger-fuck-you’s to these c*nts. I.Fucking.Loved.Every.Goddamn.Minute.Of.It.

    The early scenes in Compton reminded me of the Wild West. Gang-banging cowboys with pistolas terrorizing innocents on stage-coach school buses, packs of motorbikes cruising through the streets doing wheelies like outlaws on steeds. The fucking “law” equally terrorizing the innocents. No surprise that N.W.A. were like a goddamn godsend, the black cowboys come to shake shit up. Loved the movie, gonna see it again and probly once more on top of that.

    I love discovering new(to me anyway) shit like N.W.A and when I can honestly say “I had no fucking idea”. And Ice Cube man…fuck I had no idea how good he is. If you don’t believe me listen to The Nigga Ya Love To Hate. But y’all already know that, I’m just joygasming.

    So I wrote this lame-arse rhyme about my cinematic experience watching STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. It sucks but I had fun. It’s called Fat Motherfucker. I don’t mean to offend anyone who may be sensitive about their weight. I did it in the spirit of angry rap, and this guy just happened to mildly piss me off during the screening so I ran with it.

    FAT MOTHERFUCKER (to the beats of You Can’t Fade Me – sort of)

    Now the taste of Pepsi-Max is filling up my bladder
    And it don’t fuckin matter
    Cause there’s a fat motherfucker in row twenty-two
    Thinks he’s real cool with his cap like Ice Cube
    Hey man you’re blocking my view, take that cap off, shit
    Fuck you skinny white boy, smoke a dick

    Ah fuck it I don’t care
    I came to see N.W.A. not a man-shaped bear
    Already paid my twenty bucks so I sucked it up
    Talked myself down before I fucked shit up
    Yeah you’re alright man-bear, you in the house
    No wait, you ARE the house, fat motherfucker. Peace.

    Riding the adrenaline of the Compton boys
    Raised in a town called Hell not by choice
    Dealing dreaming dodging battering rams
    Knock knock said the pigs, boom the bitch got slammed
    White against black, black against brother
    Bloods in crips out but you don’t sell your mother

    Thats all I got.

  51. Poeny Starks [You must dig deeper to understand this reference but I believe in you, you are a soldier for hip-hop now]: I was working on a whole long post praising you for your adorably caucasian appreciation of the motherfuckin’ ruthless villains in black and explaining why you should check out DEATH CERTIFICATE because it’s actually Cube’s finest album and one of the most thorough portraits of a man and his environment ever contained within a rap album, but then my computer crashed and I lost the whole fucking epic document so now I’m just gonna say fuck it and give you the short version: Get DEATH CERTIFICATE, it is the best Ice Cube album to prominently feature a vocal sample from PREDATOR 2, much better than the other one.

  52. Thanks Majestyk, I’m on the case.

  53. DEATH CERTIFICATE has been in my top 10 albums of all time for the past 20 years. Not RAP album either I mean in any genre of music. As a young person of color it really put into perspective a lot of the shit I’ve dealt with in my community at the same time in 2015 it’s also very much a product of it’s time still though some of the best shit ever made. Look Who’s Burnin, True to the Game, A Bird in the Hand and Givin up the Nappy Dug Out were all instrumental in influencing me to one day start creating my own instrumentals. Some of the greatest sampling ever. The Wrong Nigga to Fuck With is also one of the most hardest opening tracks to any rap album then or now.

  54. DEATH CERTIFICATE is also one of the first albums I go to whenever people ask me what are better produced 90’s west coast rap albums than THE CHRONIC. Along with SAFE + SOUND, GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN, Cypress Hill’s self titled debut and REGULATE…G FUNK ERA.

  55. Dr X, your patient has arrived.

  56. I’m just here to get a physical, like for my job and shit.

  57. That’s gold, Majestyk. Do you mind if I keep the name? I might still bring out a Poeface when needed, you know, in case anyone fucks with Boo.

  58. It’s Yourz.

  59. I didn’t care for this one. Too scattered and bloated out with characters and their subplots, too slavish in its need to check every major box on the timeline The plot and character development play out like a scripted performance of a Behind the Music episode. Competing for time are several perfunctory, uninvolving subplots (here’s what happened when Cube went solo at Priority, here’s what Dre went through at Death Row). The dialogue is virtually always either corny, expositiony, or total fan service. The performances are competent, but the characters are consistently painted as either wooden (Dre, Cube) or maudlin (Jerry, Eazy). The Dre and Cube performances are fine (again, competent, if unremarkable), but the characters have zero charisma. Dr. Dre is a hip hop legend, and Corey Hawkins seems like a fine actor doing an excellent Dr. Dre impression, but the character on the screen has absolutely zero gravitas. Why am I watching this guy?

  60. Majestyk, thanks dude. Today, the world makes so much sense.

  61. I listened to Ghostface Killa’s 36 Seasons, and his new one 12 Reasons To Die II. I like them. Completely different in style from Cube and N.W.A. Dark and cinematic. Would that be partly credited to RZA’s involvement? Makes sense given RZA’s work with QT and his love for cinema. Both albums in their entirety follow their own unique story – 36 Seasons the story of Tony Starks(props to Mr Majestyk) and his love for Bamboo and the betrayal by her and Rog, and his superhero-esque transformation into Ghostface Killa. 12 Reasons was a great New York crime saga, partly reminding me of a bleak Abel Ferrara flick, and not just because two of the songs are named after his movies. I don’t think that was intentional but it’s a nice cross-over for me. It brings Tony Starks back in with another memorable villain Lester Banks. And it’s got a great supernatural ending with the song Rebirth. I like GFK’s 70’s style music, like Thin Line Between Love And Hate.

    And yeah, Broddie and Majestyk, Death Certificate is great. I’ve only listened to it twice and, like my previous delight at discovering N.W.A.’s first two albums and Cube’s AMW, there’s so much to take in that it’s gonna take a while for it all to sink in.

  62. Twelve Reasons 1 is a masterpiece. Even U-God delivers, completely spazzes on Murder Spree. I had more trouble getting into part 2, and the only song on 36 Seasons that I wanted to keep listening to was the Love Don’t Live Here single. GFK’s Sour Soul is really dope, on the other hand. Very trip Jazz fusion kind of thing going on. Also highly recommend Czarface. Inspectah Deck is the unsung hero of the Wu. Czarface restores my faith in humanity–or at least 2010s hip hop.

    As for Cube, he did a song a couple years ago called I Rep That West, which was pretty dope, classic Cube. And for horror geeks, he did a horrorcore song called Sasquatch, which somehow is creepy and menancing and dorky and cheesy–all I can say is that I enjoy listening to it.

  63. RZA does some narrating on 12 Reasons to Die, but I think it’s the brainchild of Adrian Younge, who is also the guy who did the score for (and edited) BLACK DYNAMITE. He’s a very talented guy obsessed with analog intstruments and re-creating vintage sounds exactly. I like 12 Reasons and loved seeing them perform it live, but after those two albums and 36 seasons in a row I’m ready for Ghostface to change up his energy. To me it kind of seems like the same tone over and over again, and never really getting my blood pumping like “The Champ” or something.

    My favorite Adrian Younge project in a while is PRhyme, where he gave all his records to DJ Premier and had him create an album only using those samples. So it’s those sounds but with more of a dope hip hop feel. The rapper on that is Royce da 5’9″, who I never really paid attention to, but he’s really good on it. Try that album out if you haven’t heard it.

    I agree Skani, Czarface is an underrated gem. The super hero theme seems like Inspector Deck doing MF Doom or something, but it really works. And there are lots of weird pro wrestling samples for some reason.

  64. Great to hear that you appreciate Death Certificate’s genius Poeface.

    I haven’t really given the original 12 Reasons the proper amount of play. I got so caught up in the Apollo Brown version that I pretty much abandoned the Adrian Younge one. I do have to say that I’m looking forward to listening to the second one though since I’m about to catch up with it soon. I think I’ll revisit the original’s Adrian Younge cut.

    36 Seasons was madness to me. I loved every bit of it especially those vicious AZ features. At the same time though I feel where Vern is coming from. Ghost has been on the experimental tip now since BIG DOE REHAB and that was years ago. I kinda want him to go back to more of the charismatic yet irreverent boastfulness and subterranean slangage that made shit like IRONMAN, SUPREME CLIENTELE and THE PRETTY TONEY ALBUM consistently worth revisiting now. That manic energy needs to come back from Starks he’s been too dreary for too many projects in a row now.

  65. I’m reiterating the recommendation of Ghostface’s Sour Soul, which gets off the concept album thing. It’s more bluesy, jazzy. Good stuff.

    Also, yes, Vern, I love Czarface’s weird wrestling and cartoon samples. I guess it’s 7L’s answer to the Wu Tang Kung Fu samples. Whatever it is, it works. There’s a lot of texture to the Czarface albums. A lot of familiar things coming together in a way that feels grounded in old school East Coast but also still feels like it’s own thing.

    I have not listened to PRhyme, yet, but I need to. Didn’t realize Adrian Younge was involved. Royce and Premier are dope, so I’m on board.

  66. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 12th, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    You guys are costing me a fortune this month on new CD’s, but I’ve never been more happy to have my skinny white-boy cells rearranged and nerve-endings smashed by the hammer of Black Art.

    Just listened to the first half of GFK’s Supreme Clientele. It’s good. His song One references Johnny Blaze and, most notably for me Castor Troy from my homie Cage’s best-fuckin-movie-ever you know what I’m talking about. Shit just gets better and better.

  67. Skani – Czarface albumS? I didn’t know there was a #2! Gonna have to get that.

    Poeface- I always loved that he mentioned Castor Troy. Just so you know, Johnny Blaze means Method Man. Everyone in Wu-Tang has multiple nicknames. For example RZA might be referred to as Bobby Digital, The Abbot, Zig Zag Zig Allah, Prince Rakeem or RZArector, and ODB might be called Osirus, Ason Unique or Dirt McGirt.

  68. Method Man calls himself Johnny Blaze because of Ghost Rider. So in the end it all comes back full circle. It also comes back to Nicolas Cage the movie Ghost Rider funnily enough. The whole Wu is made up of comic book geeks.

  69. Couple of my favorites off the newer Czarface:

    CZARFACE [Inspectah Deck + 7L & Esoteric] Deadly Class ft Meyhem Lauren

    https://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/id981169145 http://getondown.com/album.php?id=17945 http://getondown.com/album.php?id=17946 http://getondown.com/product.ph...

    Sinister

    Provided to YouTube by The Orchard Enterprises Sinister · CZARFACE Every Hero Needs a Villain ℗ 2015 Brick Records Released on: 2015-06-16 Auto-generated by ...

  70. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 14th, 2015 at 4:07 am

    Thanks Vern, Broddie, that’s new to me. Today I listened to the Wu-Tang song Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’, and they introduce Ghostface. The pieces are slowly coming together.

    Has anyone seen Ice-T’s doco THE ART OF RAP? I’m gonna watch that next. I think it’s close to four hours of rap history.

  71. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    September 14th, 2015 at 4:11 am

    Strike that, I just found your review Vern, I’m all over it!

  72. NWA was announced today as one of the nominees for the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    I voted for "2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominee Fan Vote!"

    Vote for the TOP FIVE nominees you think should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! The fan votes will comprise a fans’ ballot that will be tallied along with the other ballots to choose the 2016 inductees to be announced in December!

    You can vote there. They’re currently in 10th place.

  73. Poeface a.k.a. Poeny Starks

    October 8th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    They just got my vote! But shit, I saw the tally list so far and out of 15 nominees N.W.A. is only on number 10! Below Chaka Khan and Janet fucking Jackson! Shit ain’t right…

  74. To be fair, I didn’t vote for them but thought it good to share here since it’s relevant. Voted for Yes, Deep Purple, Nine Inch Nails, Chicago and Steve Miller btw.

  75. NWA, The Cars, The Smiths, The Spinners, and NIN. Also, can I say how goddamn depressing it is that Chicago is at the top of this fucking ballot.

  76. NIN, Janet Jackson, The J.B.’s, Deep Purple, The Smiths

    It was pretty tough not also selecting Yes, Chic, The Spinners or The Cars.

    N.W.A. is in pretty good company.

  77. I’m surprised Steve Miller wasn’t already in. The Joker is one of the most overplayed classics of all time. Everybody learns how to play that song in some form growing up if they’re into music. That poll is filled with quality artists. I mean shit man Los Lobos is even on that list. On top of their underground legend status we can’t forget their fine musical contributions to both conventional cinema and badass cinema. They deserve to be in there as well.

  78. So, they got in. Steve Miller, Chicago, Deep Purple and Cheap Trick as well. Bummer Yes didn’t get in again, but I think they will soon enough.

  79. I’d be excited about this if assuming all popular music made after 1955 would be honored to be classified as rock n roll wasn’t more of that Boomer smugness I find so infuriating.

  80. This year’s RRHOF list feels more like them clearing out long time snubs than anything else. Meanwhile the Cars, Smiths, Yes, and so forth keep waiting.

  81. Started watching this new Dre/Jimmy Iovine documentary THE DEFIANT ONES yesterday. Decided to start with the last one, since I was most eager to hear about the Aftermath Records period. It was just aight. Since I sprung for a month of Amazon HBO just to watch this, I’ll probably try the other 3 episodes.

    This documentary shares one of the problems of the STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON film, which is that it’s clear that the subjects of the biography enjoy strong influence on the tone, subject matter, and editorial perspective of the film, which is a circuitous way of saying that it’s a puff propaganda piece that is designed to lionize Dre and Jimmy as bold and courageous artists and men who deserve every success they’ve gotten. This episode I watched is shockingly tone deaf in trying to manufacture drama and tension in the lives of two millionaires-many-times-over who become billionaires over the course of the episode. Poignant narration of the risks and the rough patches of signing Eminem or launching Beats are accompanied by shots of Dre in his Ferrari, Jimmy’s fairytale celebrity wedding, Dre and Jimmy peering out at the coastline from their Malibu beach houses, or Dre taking you on a guided tour of his under-construction Brentwood home that will contain his perfect in-home recording studio. Because what the 99% of us need right now is to identify with conspicuous consumption, romanticism around Iovine’s crass and manipulative marketing schemes, and a bullshit Horatio Alger “we deserve everything we’ve earned” narrative. This was like a very staid episode of LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS.

    I like Dre and his music, and I think he’s basically a good guy, but he’s an incredibly boring speaker and interview subject, and this film is just wallowing in the worship of people living in the 1%-er’s bubble and the celebration of conspicuous consumption. It’s just a big self-congratulatory jerk-off that implicitly celebrates income inequality and economic winner-take-all false consciousness.

    As the Donald would say, Sad!

  82. Oh, yeah…to pick up on how this relates to STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. I can’t believe there wasn’t more discussion here or elsewhere as what an overrated puff piece the STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON film is. Everything I said about this film upwards in this thread stands. The characters are thinly drawn, the film is more interesting in checking boxes in the NWA (and post-NWA solo diaspora) timeline than in telling a cohesive and compelling narrative with a clear through line, and the role of Dre and Cube as producers (and F. Gary Gray as director/acolyte) rules out any hint of exploring real flaws or dark corners of the characters’ lives. We learn nothing except that these are headstrong artists who refuse to compromise. Not only is the film not Oscar-calibre, but I think it’s really kind of a piece of shit.

  83. How much is Trent Reznor in the doc?

    RRA: Fortunately Yes didn’t have to wait too long. Unfortunately it came only after Chris Squire passed, but it was still a thrill to see as many of the original members together (plus Geddy Lee on “Roundabout”). Very happy Electric Light Orchestra got in, too. I think the Hall, after Prince and Bowie’s death, is no longer taking certain bands for granted anymore and finally letting them in if this year was any indication. They were passed over this year but Steppenwolf was in this year’s list, and they absolutely deserve to be in.

  84. Skani, you’re the opposite of me – I would have zero interest in the Aftermath section. I didn’t realize that show was a documentary, am more interested in it now.

    And Straight Outta Compton – despite the points that you noted, I still think it was a really entertaining movie so I can’t really complain.

  85. Hallsy, yeah, tbh, I was curious to hear more about the behind the scenes Dre-Eminem relationship, since I’ve already heard or read up a ton on Eazy and Suge Knight and all of that, and I’ve seen the shitty NWA biopic. That said, I’ll probably give the other three episodes a try.

    onthewall, I’d say Reznor was in there for maybe a total of 2-3 minutes for this episode. It’s a 60-minute episode. It’s mostly Dre and Jimmy, and some other music execs. There is some Eminem, but not a ton. Various folks pop up ever so briefly. I’d say Reznor gets more screen time than Springsteen or Bono, fwiw. Then again, stock footage or stills of Steve Jobs get about as much screen time as Reznor, so your results may vary.

  86. Watched the first 2 episodes of DEFIANT ONES (so, now just the 3rd one left), and I feel better about it. Decent amount of time spent with Tom Petty, Bono, Stevie Nicks, Cube, Ren, Yella, and D.O.C. Looks like maybe I picked the worst episode to watch first.

  87. Okay, finished THE DEFIANT ONES. My bad, I was too harsh above. When you watch it from beginning to end, it’s pretty good. I’ll stand by my basic conclusions above, but my tone was a bit too harsh. It’s Dre and Jimmy telling their narrative, which is valuable in its own right, even it ends up feeling like they took out a 4-hour HBO add in prep for their 2020 presidential run.

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