NWA, like its east coast contemporary, Public Enemy, was considered a very controversial rap group by white folks in the 90s, primarily because of their anti-police stance and the risks they took with language. That’s the angle the filmmakers have chosen to highlight in this group biopic featuring a host of newcomers in the principle roles.
If you happened to grow up in Los Angeles in the 90s or live in that city now this film will resonate with you in ways only Angelinos can appreciate. It achieves nearly perfect pitch in its portrayal of LA area hood culture and does an equally admirable job in its depiction of the creative process for rappers and hip hop beats producers.
It does, however, go a little off tune in casting. You’ll have no trouble suspending disbelief viewing the screen versions of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Wren, nor Suge Knight. But Snoop, and the film’s lead, Easy E? What was casting thinking?
As expected, the soundtrack is thumping and you’ll party in your seat when not riled up by the plethora of scenes exposing police discrimination and brutality, white exploitation of black talent, and black-on-black crime and misogyny. The 2 hours and 45 minutes will fly by and as the credits roll you’ll probably sit in your seat thinking that while much hasn’t changed in our urban streets sociopolitically, there does seem to be an absence now of music groups like NWA calling attention to the inequities that persist.