The hip hop group NWA are among the most influential artists in the medium’s history, and with the still comparatively young artform gaining more contemporary respect than it commanded back in the 80s, this biopic of their formation, breakup and subsequent legacy is suitably timely. Its relevance is also exacerbated by the growing topicality of the hugely important and effective grassroots and social media political movement Black Lives Matter, as there has sadly been too little improvement with the racial problems that NWA railed against back in their day. It’s a solid example of its sub-genre, making a compelling narrative with the events it includes and tellingly chooses to omit.

Produced by two of the surviving original members of the group, Dr Dre and Ice Cube, it veers a little close to hagiography at times, depicting them fairly positively throughout and ending with an almost comical level of triumphalism. The stench of misogyny that the group never quite managed to shrug off is also present here, but the power of its politics are just so painfully relevant today that these narrative flaws become secondary to the film’s message. As more black lives are caught on camera being victims of police brutality, the anger that made the group write such an incendiary song like “Fuck tha Police” becomes crystal-clear to understand.

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON
Exemplifying and amplifying the message of Black Lives Matter10
Sticking to the tried and tested structure of a typical musical biopic, but an excellent example of such9
Treating hip hop like the serious artform it is10
Not even trying to be modest, much like the braggadocio of NWA's lyrics9
Omitting the violent misogyny that seemed to follow the group and its members5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the named female characters talk to each other
9Overall Score

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