The emergence of N.W.A in the late ’80s and early ’90s came at a pivotal moment when issues of race relations, inequality and prejudice came to a head. The group that emerged comprised of young, frustrated, once-in-a-generation talented but marginalized young men who were embracing hip hop to express anger, raw emotion and distaste with the state of our country, especially when it came to social issues.
I believe that Straight Outta Compton could have achieved critical success simply because the story of the group is so utterly captivating. But, not only does the movie successfully provide us with an amazing story, it also features the exceptional performances of several largely unknown and inexperienced actors. The acting itself creates such a visceral experience for the viewer that, at times, the film almost feels like a documentary. In a movie that is acclaimed for its ability to capture raw emotion, whether it be in a moment of creative brilliance in the studio or the tragic loss of a loved one, the actors deliver one hundred percent.
In an interview with Kendrick Lamar, the members of N.W.A., now well into their 40s, sat down and talked about their experience. All surviving members of the group were present and talked like nothing had changed in the years that had followed their breakup, explaining that it had to happen and that they held no ill will toward one another. They explained that they were simply five young men who had an insatiable love for making and producing music. While acknowledging that they were one of the most influential musical groups in history, they remained grounded. On several occasions, they said that they did it all for the love of the art form. Importantly, however, they talked about how their music was also a way to express the struggles that African-Americans and other minorities must endure daily. One of the aims of their music was to bring the recurring problems of racism, police brutality and minority marginalization onto the surface and into the mainstream.
I was struck, while watching this interview and thinking back on my experience watching the movie, by how well the actors were able to effectively capture the individual mentalities as well as the group dynamic of N.W.A. •