Straight Outta Compton, arguably the most anticipated film to release this year, will be slamming into theaters in a matter of days, August 14 to be exact.
It’s the story behind N.W.A., one of the most important and influential rap groups in the world, told from the men who lived it, and portrayed by the actors, Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), influenced by them.
But before you race out to see this incredible film there are 12 important things you must know about Straight Outta Compton.
1. F. Gary Gray was serious about prepping the cast:
I had these guys go in the gym. Some had to lose weight, some had to gain weight. We went to DJ school. These guys recorded Straight Outta Compton. I had them record the entire album. I had these guys do so much in eight weeks, it was like a two month period where they worked around the clock with wardrobe and their trainers and they worked with WC, who is William Calhoun, where I got my start. He worked with them to perform on stage and how to walk, talk and absorb the LA culture and West Coast hip hop culture. And they did it in such a short amount of time and it’s such a great feat what these guys did and delivered such a natural performance. These guys didn’t come up and mimic. They didn’t come up to pretend like Dr. Dre or Ice Cube or DJ Yella. These guys gave a world class [performance] and I don’t want to minimize their effort at all.
2. O’Shea Jackson Jr. spent 2 years of auditioning to portray his father – here’s a glimpse of what he did to prepare:
If you really want to be technical I’ve been doing my research for 20 plus years. But there was certain things that I did to put me into that time period. I know solo Ice Cube. I know that guy. I had to dip into how he was hanging with his friends, how he acted and things like that. I would look at old interviews and see how they were joking around or get some of his lingo the “you know what I’m sayin” stuff like that. Just to put myself back in that era.
3. Ice Cube gave pointers to his son how he should take on… well, Ice Cube:
I just wanted to give him all the ammunition he needed, what I was thinking at the time, my perception of everybody, what I thought of Jerry Heller, to Eazy, Dre, Ren, Yella just so if he did adlib or did go off script, he would have that ammunition he needed to address this one, address that one and just how to be in the scene because I knew Gary wouldn’t go for anybody being mimicked, so all I knew is to just fill him up with information and then let him do his thing.
4. What Ice Cube says the movie is successfully going to show audiences:
The movie shows the “why” not just the where, when but why did we do this kind of music. And people have to understand that where we come from, that forged N.W.A. It was the streets Compton, Watts, South Central, Long Beach that’s what forged N.W.A. and we wanted to show that in a movie.
5. Straight Outta Compton gets a chance to explain why a 16 year old Ice Cube would write a song calld “F*** the Police”
Ice Cube: What we wanted to show is the humiliation because that is the real issue. We understand that cops have to be heavy handed with criminals. But we don’t understand why they have to be that way with citizens. So what we wanted to show is the humiliation that we faced and we wanted the audience to feel that same kind of ‘what if this was happening to you?’ Eazy was doing his thing in the beginning but ultimately most of the incidences were situations that can happen to anybody at any time and when the audience knows that we’re not criminals and sees that happening to us it feels like it could be happening to them or their neighbors – that’s why we did these songs. It wasn’t because we didn’t like police. If somebody breaks into my house [now] I’m calling the goddamn police!
Gary: It was important to understand why a 16 year old would write these lyrics. And we give you a sense of the backdrop, what was happening socially and otherwise. NWA stepped out and shined a light on it, pre-Internet, pre-camera phone.
6. Ice Cube and Yella reveal what the hardest scenes in the film were for them to watch:
Yella: I would say the hospital scene was probably the worst for me. I was like ‘oh God,’ reliving this. The actors did such a great job! On the day of filming you couldn’t even talk to the actors because they were so focused. They acted like they lost a friend in there. The way they acted and the way the scene came off it was just so – it was just like wow, I had to shed a couple of tears.
Ice Cube: I found myself putting the movie together like ‘whoa’ tearing up, welling up. It was emotional in a lot of different areas… the hospital scene was real rough for me shooting it. We had to walk out a few times.
7. Jason Mitchell on taking on the legendary Eazy-E.
It’s a great privilege because there are so many people who have never met him and I get to humanize him. There are people who will forever envision me like ‘man you’re Eazy E.’ I won’t even be Jason Mitchell to some people. They had a dude get under my bill of my hat and he said ‘bro you’re like sining a ghost it’s so real.’ And that’s incredible. I will live with that forever. Dre is a perfectionist who we see work. Cube is larger than life. And these guys are right there like (imitates them staring at him to see if he can pull it off). That really has to be the pressure. And I think it’s a great privilege in disguise. It comes with a lot but it’s definitely a great privilege.
8. One can only imagine how Dr. Dre would deal with someone portraying him given artist’s account of him being a perfectionist in the studio – here’s what he told Corey Hawkins when it came to filling his shoes:
I just remember he pulled me to the side and he was like “you’re the man for the job. You got this role. Don’t worry about mimicking me or impersonating me. We could have easily have found somebody who looked just like me, sounded just like me … I’m just interested in you capturing the essence of what we all represented individually, our humanity, the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between.
9. Corey Hawkins and F. Gary Gray reveal how Dre reacted to one very emotional scene in particular while filming.
Corey: He came to the set. He brought his whole family. All the guys were there and we did the first few times and I remember looking over to check in and about the third time I looked over and he was gone and I was like “damn guess I missed the mark on this one.” And I found out later that it was still that heavy for him. He literally couldn’t sit there and relive that moment again.
F. Gary Gray: I was right there when we were watching the monitor and this big guy, who you don’t normally associate with vulnerability became so vulnerable in that moment because of Corey’s choices, he couldn’t stay.
10. O’Shea on building a brotherhood with the cast:
Gary really worked on us building that chemistry because it has to translate on screen “You guys gotta be lifelong friends right now! it has to happen.” And he would do things like call us out for rehearsals and we’re waiting for Gary to come down for rehearsal and during that time that you’re waiting we’re talking, having conversations and getting to know each other. Re-recording the album, critiquing each other, trying to get each other to sound like the artist we’re portraying. Things like that made us really build a brotherhood. We really are friends ‘til this day.
11. N.W.A. wasn’t going to let a very important part of their history be untold. Ice Cube explains how they handled including the “NWA vs. Ice Cube” history-making beef in the film
We just wanted to be real. We wanted to be honest. We all got blemishes that we wanted to show. We didn’t mind and we were looking for them too. It was like we’re not hiding nothing – anything you know about your boy is going in the movie! We’ve always been like that with each other. Just honest. We don’t pull no punches. It’s all love … it’s just a part of our history that we weren’t going to gloss over, especially if Gary Gray had anything to do with it. He wasn’t going to let us gloss over anything. So it’s just something that we did without having to ask each other or look for each other’s shorthand and say “is this cool? Is this all right?” It was like, let’s just do what’s great for the movie.
12. Ice Cube may surprise you on how they decided to portray Jerry Heller in Straight Outta Compton given what we already know about their relationship – thanks in part to Cube’s colorful descriptions of him in “No Vaseline”.
As far as Jerry Heller’s concerned, he was always a champion for the group. When it was about NWA vs. the world, Jerry Heller would jump out front and fight. Now, dealing with us individually, it was a different story. But as far as being a champion for the group he always fought for our right to be who we are. We wanted to show him and show his humanity as well as everybody else. We didn’t want to short change him even though he’s our villain, we didn’t want to shortchange him. We wanted to be fair and authentic with this whole movie.