Last weekend, Hollywood released the epic biopic ” Straight Outta Compton” about the legendary rap group N.W.A.. I recently enjoyed a viewing of the film and discovered that the movie covers vast territory in the lives of the artists, and their cultural impact. Before walking in, I expected a movie with sub-par acting intermixed with musical sequences, but what I got was an intimate look at its subject matter and the society they came from. Here are a few thoughts.
“Straight Outta Compton” begins in 1986 and follows the formation of N.W.A.. This coalesces around Eazy-E after he comes to the conclusion that selling drugs is a dead end road and that Hip-Hop could be his way out. After joining forces with Dr. Dre , DJ Yella, MC Ren and luring Ice Cube away from another group, they began to create. With the aid of manager Jerry Heller, Easy-E and Heller created Ruthless Records. From that point, their meteoric rise and business problems ensue. Refreshingly, the strong performances from the majority of the cast brought to life 3-dimensional individuals with ambitions and heart, when it would have been just as easy to portray caricatures. Even the cameo characters were well cast and very well acted. “Straight Outta Compton” is visually interesting, well directed and transports the viewer into the world of the characters.
The Socialist Perspective
The movie does a great job of portraying the inner workings of the music industry. As you may have guessed, the music industry is filled with colorful figures looking to get rich in an environment with very few rules or regulations. Leverage and capital are essential tools for success no matter your background. It is no surprise to anyone that exploitation is rampant.
Eazy-E was mentored by manager Jerry Heller. Over the years, Jerry and Eazy developed a trust and a genuine love for one another, similar to the love a father has for his son. Jerry helped Eazy develop Ruthless Records and its business practices which included taking advantage of his fellow group members – the people he considered his brothers. However, it is worth mentioning that Eazy was also a victim. His royalties were being withheld and skimmed. Unfortunately, this was common practice in the Music Industry. Heller had the access, leverage and capital, and in a capitalist society those are advantages that are rewarded by the system. The artist did, are being and will continue to get screwed as long as we are a capitalist society. In this atmosphere, Jerry Heller was a victim as well. He debased his love for his protege, because he was conducting business as usual. In the end, Jerry lost his most valuable clients and friends. Relationships and trust were destroyed due to the inherent greed of the system.
The great thing about “Straight Outta Compton” was by the end of the movie, N.W.A. understood the value of their relationships and ultimately were able to reconcile before Eazy-E’s death. That gives me hope that through love and mutual respect, we can embrace people over profit.