Considering that core N.W.A. members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are producers of the film about the band that made them superstars, it will surprise no one to discover that “Straight Outta Compton” delivers an almost laughably squeaky-clean version of their life stories between 1986 and 1995. There is no mention of Andre “Dr. Dre” Young’s assault of Dee Barnes (he tried to throw her down a flight of stairs, but not before slamming her into a brick wall), and while they show Eric “Eazy-E” Wright responding with, “But I ain’t no faggot,” upon hearing the news that he has AIDS, they do not mention that Eazy-E in fact issued a statement days before his death, making sure that the world knew that he in fact wasn’t no faggot, and that he contracted the virus the way God intended him to: through heterosexual intercourse, as if there is some nobility in that. We get it, Eazy – you’re not gay. But you’re still dead.
In spite of this whitewashing (it seems vaguely racist to use that phrase to describe a bunch of African-Americans), “Compton” is a highly entertaining film. The concert and studio sequences are intoxicating, and the performance of Ice Cube – by Cube’s oldest son, for crying out loud – is mesmerizing. It’s no reinvention of the musical biopic wheel by any means, but there is an adrenaline rush that comes with a film about a bunch of dirt-poor kids from Compton banding together, compromising nothing, and bending the rest of the world to their will.
The movie begins in 1986, giving the audience brief back stories of the five core members of N.W.A., while making no mention of any previous band affiliations the members had (of which there are several). Andre Young was a dreamer, a supreme DJ talent under pressure to make bank and take care of his baby. O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson was the main brain, equal parts poet and instigator. Eazy-E was the hustler who had the cash to make a recording happen. That recording was the Cube-penned “Boyz-n-the-Hood,” rapped by Eazy (who, if the movie is to be believed, couldn’t rap worth a damn at first) and was a massive hit out of the box. The song attracted the attention of manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who used his contacts to land Eazy’s indie label Ruthless Records a distribution deal with Priority Records.