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I did not know anything about the real life incidents that led to the formation and breakup of N.W.A., nor did I know anything about the West-East struggle for Hip Hop supremacy, or the clash with the police force. Nor do I care a lot, to be honest, as most of the people involved in this seem like a thoroughly despicable bunch I would not want to meet in the dark, or at all. As I do have some appreciation of the work Dr. Dre has done over the years (in particular with Eminem, so not part of this film’s story), I found my character to develop an interest in. As I had never even heard of Eazy-E, and only vaguely know about Ice Cube, but have no clue on whether this is a rap force to be taken seriously, the whole narrative was a bit skewed to me. It still works, though. The film does convey where the anger of the gangsta rap comes from, what combination of harassment, disillusionment and macho attitude plays together to produce an almost comic level of mutual hatred and rage. While it is not clear exactly how this particular group of musicians made it to fame beyond their own neighbourhood, maybe that’s exactly the point. There is a lot of coincidence involved, a lot of being in the right place at the right time, and only a few of the characters (again, maybe Dre in particular) appear to have worked hard and systematically on their professional career. Then how this mostly street gang bunch clashes with the mechanisms of the music market, how their urge to make to riches and all that comes with it makes them blind to the consequences of what they are doing, and also makes them blind to their actual economic positions and vulnerably exposed to those who do. I liked the ambiguous role of manager Jerry (played brilliantly by Paul Giamatti, Oscar for best wig guaranteed), at least I could never quite decide whether the suspicions about his abuse of his position were justified, or whether he is right when insisting “This is how it works.”.

A mostly strong cast of guys and girls I did not know, very credible in their physique and demeanor, with special mention to the Suge Knight, a truly terrifying presence.

And the music: I don’t mind hip hop and rap (while I don’t even know how to use either term correctly), so this was a powerful movie experience.

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