Straight Outta Comptom

After the Watts Riots of 1965, some African Americans in Los Angeles thought that a solution to the tyranny of the Los Angeles Police Department over African Americans was to move to a small town and gain majority control. One such town was Compton, not far from the LA International Airport. Yet by 1986, when Straight Outta Compton begins, the police force in LA County towns is still majority White, and the colonial tyranny continues unabated right up to the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and beyond. For example, Blacks just standing on a street together in nearby Torrance, taking a break during a music recording session, provoke police (including a Black Uncle Tom who hates rap music) to arrest them until their White manager, Jerry Heller (played by Paul Giamatti) appears outside the studio to protest. The film primarily depicts the rise of Black rap musicians from Compton to stardom, including Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Easy-E (Jason Mitchell). The group’s acronym NWA is explained as “niggers with attitude.” Their brand of rap revolutionizes hip-hop by retelling situations from the hood. But the manager’s enormous cut (80 percent) from their profits later causes members of the original group to form other music groups. Ultimately, Heller and his New York counterpart are fired. At the end of the film, one of the original group dies from AIDS, protesting that he was not gay to a physician who explains that the HIV virus can affect anyone. But the story, which has encouraged many feature articles in the Los Angeles Times about the events, is a window into the lives of African Americans, explaining how they react to the tyranny—dialog punctuated with more profanity than you may hear in a lifetime, sex parties that go beyond anything by Hugh Hefner, confrontational Black-Black interaction, use of alcohol and drugs, and rapidly spoken protest rap poetry. The appropriate tagline is “The world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group,” which was even hounded by the FBI for inciting violence—a warning released to the press that creates good publicity for the rappers. But the violence incited is from the police, who break up a concert in Detroit because they dare to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech by performing the rap song “F the Police.” For those never before exposed to those reactions, F. Gary Gray has directed a 2.5 hour film that may be difficult to endure. For those seeking solutions to the panorama of problems encountered, including Fergusons across the United States, Straight Outta Compton suggests better education, including law degrees, as well as more protest. The Political Film Society has nominated Straight Outta Compton as best film exposé and best film on democracy and human rights of 2015. MH