In one of the biggest surprises at the box office this summer, “Straight Outta Compton” was the number one movie of the weekend, bringing in a whopping $56.1 million, just about doubling its production budget of $29 million.
The movie, which took over a decade to make, is a biopic of the founders of N.W.A, a gansta rap group started in the Los Angeles area in the ‘80s by rappers Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella. The movie features a predominantly African American cast, including O’Shea Junior, playing his real life dad, Ice Cube.
Universal’s marketing and production efforts with respect to the movie were obviously right on target, as the movie played extremely well across the country. According to the studio, approximately 46% of moviegoers were African-American, 23% were white, 21% were Hispanic, and other at 10%.
N.W.A’s songs were inflammatory for the times and created tensions between African Americans and law enforcement everywhere.
In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Dr. Dre pointed out that, “It’s crazy how we were getting criticized for this years ago. And now, it’s just like, ‘OK, we understand.’ This movie will keep shining a light on the problem, especially because of all the situations that are happening in Ferguson and here in Los Angeles. It’s definitely going to keep this situation in people’s minds and make sure that everyone out there knows that this is a problem that keeps happening still today.”
Ice Cube echoes the sentiment and proffered that, “It was always about free speech, being able to express yourself, whether people like it or not. That’s the great thing about being in this country, is to be able to speak your mind and not be censored.”
While a lot has changed in the thirty years since the group began rapping about the trials of living in the inner city, a lot has remained the same.
While there is still police brutality and race riots taking place across the country, a major, powerhouse studio felt it could successfully produce a film about the controversial group – something that would have never happened in the ‘80s. Somewhere between the ’80s and now, it became a good idea to make a movie about N.W.A, who wrote songs with titles like “F*** the Police,” and “One Less Bitch.”
As aptly stated in the Hollywood Reporter, “The group went from being public enemy No. 1 to marketable mainstream entertainment in multiplexes in every neighborhood in the country.”
Donna Langley, chief of Universal, responded to criticism that the movie would not play well across the globe and explained that, “[She] would argue that everybody knows hip-hop. There probably isn’t a culture in the world that doesn’t engage with [rap] in some way. We were looking through that lens, as opposed to handicapping it as an ‘urban’ film.”
When talking about N.W.A’s relevance today, Ice Cube stated that, “It shows that we were not only ahead of our time, but right on time. It’s a constant situation between the powers that be and the neighborhoods we’ve come from. And most of the time you look and you see that it’s a thing where someone is abusing their authority or abusing their power and they’re s***ing around.” Langley agrees with Ice Cube’s sentiments that, “there are things in the movie playing themselves out in the news today.”
When asked if today’s law enforcement would appreciate the movie, Ice Cube responds that, “Oh, they’re gonna love it. True story. Inspired by them. I mean, why wouldn’t they love it? It’s what they do. They’re not misrepresented. True that.”