So, here we are 25 years after their hey-day and anti-establishment/authority defining group N.W.A. gets their own Hollywood Summer blockbuster-esque bio-pic grossing $60 million in their first weekend, the best in history for this type of film. Quite the evolution.
Admittedly N.W.A. was some of, if not the first rap music I not only listened to, but went back to and listened again and again. Their final album was released six months before I was born, and although I could never relate to their specific issues growing up that channeled into their music, something always resonated in me with them, particularly their themes about not caring about what other people think and doing whatever you wanted. I always gravitated to Eazy-E, I think mainly due to his voice, delivery and the charisma he oozed that just made you want to listen to song after song to hear his voice brood about his life.
I was a little apprehensive going into the film about how biased it would and what picture it would paint over the tumltuous (at the very least) history of the group and everything that spun out of it that would lay the foundation of rap for the rest of the 90s and early 2000s. Obviously, current day Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were producers of the film and championed pretty much every part of it and would tailor it to their liking. Most notably how they would treat Eazy, and how far they would go with things. Ultimately, they went just as far as really would be expected that didn’t stray too far away away from reality and didn’t completely gloss over more truly what went on. I don’t know if things were as truly amicable and “wrapped in a bow” as they were in the film, but it skirts the line enough that the fiction doesn’t completely overshadow the truth. I would’ve been interested to see in some alternate world an unbiased source taking a crack at things with all the same resources, but as it stands it is a worthy and reputable film for the namesake.
Most impressively that made the film work, and would’ve quite so easily made it fail immediately and they not succeeded were the performances by O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E. It’s gotta be hard to begin with to play a real-life figure, but tacking on top of that the added mannerisms, characteristics and performance qualities of these rappers who have been lauded in the public for years must’ve been exceptionally difficult. But, to their credit, each actor nails their role, with Jackson, Jr. stealing the show playing his father, which must’ve been really weird and daunting at the same time. I will say one thing that was kind of too much for me and sort of weird was when they had the actors performing songs whether it was in the studio or on stage, it was the actualy recording of whatever song that the real-life rappers had rapped, so it would be the master track of Ice Cube rapping coming out of Jackson, Jr.’s mouth which provided an unnerving disconnect that didn’t work.
The success of the film feels very warranted, it not only caters to older fans who grew up with the group and through these events, playing up them recording these classic tracks to the appearances of landmark figures like Snoop Dogg and Tupac, but it also moves along at a surprisingly fast clip (for the first 3/4 or so, anyways) and doesn’t really wallow in much before it’s pushing things forward. I think the film was a touch too long and thus drags a bit in the final act, but bio-pics usually land on the longer side and something of the heft and convergence of events at the end really isn’t an ending as it’s really just a beginning in the even more now illustrious careers of Ice Cube and Dr Dre.