Late to the party, again. I wanted to finally watch the Straight Outta Compton movie from 2015, before commenting, but because of it's length it took until yesterday to get around it.
It's interesting that a lot of the reviews here start with a comment about how the writer doesn't feel like he is the right person to review this. It's as if only African Americans or even African American gangsters are equipped to speak about it. Not a single other genre I know of inspires such an attitude except gangster rap. The thing is, I felt the same way.
I think the reason is that a lot of the content here still makes people feel uneasy. There is a lot of violence here, but that in itself isn't that unusual. You could find that in a lot of rock too. But whereas say AC/DC or The Rolling Stones used it more as a sort of music theatre you got the feeling here that the rappers were really violent themselves, might have already killed someone and also try to urge you follow suit. It is up for debate whether this is a fair way of interpreting the lyrics (and it differs with each gangster rapper), but the ghetto roots seemed to make things more authentic. I can enjoy AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap without ever seriously assuming that it is about real violence. Albums like Straight Outta Compton feel different.
And in a way, it was meant to feel different. Describe their world as they saw it. Something in me, as a pacifist born in a non-violent environment, would like to see a more ethical approach, a more critical look at the violence. It's not what we get here. I can't say how much of the lyrics here are to be taken straight or as mere braggadocio, but it all isn't nice. In that way the album is more like Anarchy in the UK, an album that was also way more violent than anything came before. Still, the Sex Pistols don't seem as dangerous to me now as N.W.A. still does. Well done?
Straight Outta Compton also resembles Never Mind the Bollocks in a completely other, less fortunate way: it's status seems more based on influence than on consistency. Both albums have a couple of really strong songs, but not a power that is maintained throughout, at least not to me. Not even my reluctance in embracing gangster rap could make me resist the stellar opening title track and certainly not Fuck Tha Police. That last one crosses a line for me, but at the same time I can see where they are coming from and it feels necessary. It is a wonderful song, sometimes surprisingly clever and it's real danger is part of it's appeal. I also think it Express Yourself is very good.
The remaining songs have their moments, but I rarely love them. Besides, I find this album tiresome from time to time. Dr. Dre is famous for his beats, but they get tedious to me. I have noticed that beats are something that never make me warm up to a song or album, even though it has been a leading element in pop music for some time now. Beats are rather a boring form of music to me and usually it is what happens between beats that is the meat. Still, the beats here seem repetitive from track to track, which makes the full hour this album takes something of a drag after a while.
And no, I do not relate to this personally. That was also the reason I never listened to it before this week. A bit odd when you think of it, because neither has the world of John Wesley Harding a lot to do with me. Yet there is something about the way gangster rap presents itself that doesn't seem inviting. Not even the biggest fan of it could honestly call it an inclusive genre. Maybe it doesn't need to be. But listening to it in the end is listening to any album: I can go along with it, as long as things don't stray to far into the morally repulsive (which tends to center around women a lot of the time).
6/10, though really how I do I rate something like this?
The movie was okay by the way, but not too insightful. Too much a summary of what happened, without ever creating momentum or a lived-in experience, despite the strong acting.