In January of 1991, producer/rapper and then-N.W.A. member Andre “Dr. Dre” Young attacked hip-hop journalist Denise “Dee” Barnes in a nightclub. If you hadn’t heard about the incident going into F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, which hits theaters in two weeks, you’d leave the theater none the wiser. It’s never mentioned.
The movie is a well-acted, energetic neo-blaxploitation throwback that I suspect will be a hit. It’s also a refreshing counter narrative for a group of guys who were mostly vilified by the mainstream media during their short stint as the most notorious rap act in the country. In Compton, you’re given a sense of how creative energy and oppressive persecution by authorities helped foster a brotherhood in this group of young, black men. The movie, which surviving group members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre had a hand in producing, exists partly to humanize. It depicts an N.W.A. that is kinder and gentler than any previous existing conception of the group.