Straight Outta Compton arrived in theaters yesterday, and audiences around the country are already responding in huge ways. Early projections pegged it at taking in around $40 million at the box office, but it's already clear that those estimates were way off. Deadline reports that the N.W.A. biopic took in a massive $24.3 million on Friday, en route to an opening weekend that could surpass $60 million. While we wait for the box office estimates to come in tomorrow morning, we thought this was the perfect time to share a slew of video interviews with the cast and filmmakers who brought this incredible true story to life.
In 1987, five young men, using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how these cultural rebels-armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent-stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world's most dangerous group, N.W.A. And as they spoke the truth that no one had before and exposed life in the hood, their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.
Straight Outta Compton, the 1988 debut album from N.W.A., took the music industry by storm, pushing new boundaries many thought could not be pushed. The album was the first in music history to attain platinum (1 million albums sold) without any radio airplay or major tours whatsoever. The album went on to go double-platinum, on the strength of hit songs like the title track, "Gangsta Gangsta," "Express Yourself" and "F--k tha Police," the latter of which helped cement the group's reputation as "The World's Most Dangerous Group." The song lead to the FBI and Secret Service sending the group a letter expressing their displeasure with the lyrics, and the group was actually banned from performing at several venues around the country.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the controversy, Straight Outta Compton has been heralded as one of the most influential albums of all time, consistently landing on a number of lists citing it as one of the best in music history. The actual group itself disbanded just a few years later, but in that short amount of time, they paved the way for scores of gangsta rappers that stepped up in their place. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, M.C. Ren and Eazy-E went on to achieve massive success and fame in their own solo careers, but sadly, Eazy-E passed away in 1995 from AIDS, at the age of 32.
This biopic has been in the works since March 2009, when New Line Cinema announced it was developing the project. It ended up landing at Universal Pictures in 2013, with the studio eventually choosing F. Gary Gray to direct, with original N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre set to produce. F. Gary Gray had worked with both rappers in the past, with the filmmaker directing Ice Cube in the 1995 comedy Friday and Dr. Dre in the 1996 action-thriller Set It Off.
Last June, Universal Pictures announced the main cast of Straight Outta Compton. O'Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube's own son, signed on to portray his father, with Corey Antonio Hawkins set to play Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell playing Eazy-E, Aldis Hodge playing M.C. Ren and Neil Brown Jr. portraying DJ Yella. In the weeks and months that followed, the supporting cast started to fill out, with Paul Giamatti playing Jerry Heller, the group's manager who co-founded their label Ruthless Records with Eazy-E, Keith Stanfield playing Snoop Dogg, Carra Patterson as Eazy-E's widow Tomica Woods-Wright (who also serves as a producer) and Alexandra Shipp, who will next be seen in X-Men: Apocalypse, as Kim. R. Marcus Taylor also stars as Death Row Records founder Marion "Suge" Knight, a polarizing figure who was actually arrested while production on the biopic was under way.
Suge Knight was arrested in January for a hit-and-run murder that was originally thought to have taken place on the Straight Outta Compton set. Reports later claimed that the record executive showed up on the Straight Outta Compton set and was told to leave by security, where an altercation took place. The fatal accident actually took place in the Tam's Burgers parking lot, where Suge Knight fatally ran over Terry Carter, the co-founder of Heavyweight Records. Suge Knight has been in police custody ever since the arrest.
When Straight Outta Compton first came out, its critics claimed the record glamorized their violent neighborhood, but both the film and the interviews below, reveal that was not the case. These artists simply expressed how they felt about their hometown, in ways that had never been heard on a record before. While the album went on to basically give birth to the "gangsta rap" genre, the members themselves called their music "reality rap," since, as O'Shea Jackson Jr. puts it in the trailer, "our art is a reflection of our reality." Their story is possibly even more relevant today than ever before, given the state of unrest after a slew of questionable police shootings around the country.
We have broken down these video interviews into a couple of different categories. First up, the original surviving members of N.W.A., Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, M.C. Ren and DJ Yella talk about making Straight Outta Compton. Ice Cube talks about his son playing a younger version of himself, writing the original N.W.A. material to feel cinematic, and what he thinks Eazy-E would think of the project. Dr. Dre, M.C. Ren and DJ Yella also discuss how this project has brought back memories and events many of them haven't thought about in decades, while discussing their thoughts on the actors who portray them. Check out the first wave of these video interviews below, and click over to the next page for even more.
Now that we've seen what the original members of N.W.A. have to say about this critically-acclaimed biopic, the Straight Outta Compton stars themselves have chimed in about playing these rap icons. We hear from O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), Corey Antonio Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), Aldis Hodge (M.C. Ren), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella) and Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller), along with director F. Gary Gray and producer Scott Bernstein.
The 23-year-old O'Shea Jackson Jr. makes his acting debut in Straight Outta Compton, but the actor reveals that it would have traumatized him if anyone else would have landed the role of Ice Cube. He added that he first realized his father was "a bit different" at the age of five, and started delving into N.W.A.'s legacy when he was a teenager. Corey Antonio Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr. and Paul Giamatti also discuss N.W.A.'s legacy, and much more in these informative interviews, which you can check out below.
During the Straight Outta Compton press junket, cast members O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube), Corey Antonio Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E), director F. Gary Gray and original N.W.A. members Ice Cube and DJ Yella discussed this long-awaited biopic in even more detail. While both O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Corey Antonio Hawkins had the real-life Ice Cube and Dr. Dre to turn to, Jason Mitchell's character Eazy-E passed away 20 years ago. The actor discussed how he turned to the surviving N.W.A. members for support while portraying their friend, and how everyone on the set just wanted to get the story and characters "right."
Ice Cube said that they wanted to give fans a better sense of the environment they grew up in, and how that lead to the music they created, and how happy he is that his son portrayed him. F. Gary Gray revealed how personal the project was for him, because he grew up in that same area, and why their story deserves to be told. Take a look at these new video interviews below.
While there was certainly a number of prominent rap artists before N.W.A. burst on the scene, they changed the game for the entire genre in ways that no one imagined. Even though the group only put out two albums, their influence and legacy is still celebrated to this day. Leading up to the release of Straight Outta Compton, a number of influential rappers sat down to discuss N.W.A.'s place in history.
We hear from Kurtis Blow and Chief Rocker Buzzer Bee, who reveal they were glad that the group said what they said, since they were in no position to do so since they didn't come from N.W.A.'s neighborhood. We also hear from notable rappers such as DJ Quik, The Game, Xzibit and Afrika Bambaataa, who was one of the first to bring the group's music to the East Coast in New York. We also hear from Ice-T, who reveals that the whole genre of "gangsta rap" was born completely out of this groundbreaking album. Watch as these rappers explain why N.W.A. was so important to them.
Finally, N.W.A.'s legacy cannot be fully examined without paying tribute to the late Eazy-E. In our last group of videos, iconic rapper Fab 5 Freddy interviews Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, M.C. Ren and DJ Yella, who talk about the late Eazy-E and how this revolutionary group would not exist if it weren't for him. Ice Cube calls him a "genius" when it came to marketing and promoting their work, while M.C. Ren wishes he were here right now, because he would love Straight Outta Compton.
In addition, we also have a number of featurettes that explore N.W.A.'s history and the production of Straight Outta Compton. Director F. Gary Gray reveals that it took O'Shea Jackson Jr. two years to secure the role of playing his father Ice Cube, along with a number of intriguing details about the production. Are you planning to see Straight Outta Compton in theaters this weekend? Check out these new videos below, and let us know what you think about this biopic when you see it in theaters.