Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 American biographical film directed by F. Gary Gray, depicting the career of gangsta rap group N.W.A. Titled after N.W.A’s 1988 debut studio album, the film focuses on members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. Members of N.W.A were involved in making the film: Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were among its producers, as was Eazy-E’s widow, Tomica Woods-Wright, while MC Ren and DJ Yella served as creative consultants. Ice Cube is portrayed by his son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., with Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. Paul Giamatti also stars as N.W.A’s manager Jerry Heller.
Released August 14, 2015, Straight Outta Compton was a commercial and critical success, making over $200 million against its $50 million budget and being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It inspired Dr. Dre’s third studio album, Compton, which debuted at no. 2 on the US Billboard 200 album chart a week prior to the film’s release. The film’s soundtrack album, featuring music by N.W.A, debuted at no. 1 on the Rap Albums chart and reached no. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Jerry Heller filed a lawsuit against those involved with the film, protesting the way he was depicted and claiming that parts of the story had been taken from his autobiography without permission.
In an impoverished, oppressed Compton, California during 1986, Eazy-E is a drug dealer, Dr. Dre is an aspiring disc jockey, and Ice Cube is a young rapper. Intrigued by Ice Cube’s “reality raps” reflecting on the crime, gang violence, and police harassment, and frequent systemic oppression that they and other African Americans encounter daily, Dr. Dre convinces Eazy-E to fund a startup record label, Ruthless Records, with Dr. Dre as record producer. When their song “Boyz-n-the-Hood” is rejected by a New York rap group, Dr. Dre convinces Eazy-E to perform it instead. It becomes a local hit, and Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren form the group N.W.A (“Niggaz Wit Attitudes”).
Eazy-E accepts Jerry Heller‘s offer to manage N.W.A and co-run Ruthless, and Priority Records offers N.W.A a record deal. While recording their debut album, Straight Outta Compton (1988), the group are harassed by police due to their race and appearance, prompting Ice Cube to pen the song “Fuck tha Police“. The album becomes a controversial hit due to its profanity and violent lyrics, and the group’s style is dubbed gangsta rap by the press. During a 1989 concert tour, the FBI demands that N.W.A stop performing “Fuck tha Police” as it encourages violence against law enforcement. Police in Detroit forbid them from performing the song, but the group collectively decides to perform the song anyway. They attempt to flee the concert to avoid arrest but are captured regardless, although they are quickly released.
Jerry delays the individual members’ contracts with Ruthless, and when he insists that Ice Cube sign without legal representation, Ice Cube quits the group. His debut solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990), becomes a hit, but when Priority Records is unable to pay him his advance on his next album, he trashes the label head’s office. When N.W.A heavily insult Ice Cube on their next record, 100 Miles and Runnin’ (1990), he responds with the diss track “No Vaseline“, criticizing Jerry and his former band mates and prompting accusations of antisemitism. This, combined with his activism alongside the association with the Nation of Islam, outspoken criticism of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the beating of Rodney King, and starring role in the 1991 film Boyz n the Hood, make him even more famous and controversial.
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