Many people were excited for Straight Outta Compton ahead of its release last year but no one was quite expecting the commercial and critical hit it became. Seemingly neither did Universal Studios or Records because a release of music featured in the film timed with its cinema release seems like a slam-dunk.
The film itself did a great job of reminding you how well-crafted and dangerous some of the songs were. Dulled over years of re-play and imitators/homages it re-invigorated N.W.A’s back catalogue. Dr. Dre was so pumped up by the film’s creation that he ditched his long gestating Detox project and created the Compton album in a matter of months.
The packaged songs encompass some of the biggest songs in N.W.A’s career, which of course feature prominently in the film. The title track, ‘Express Yourself’ and the US-Government bothering ‘Fuck Tha Police’ are present and correct. Easy-E’s massive hits ‘We Want Easy’ and ‘The Boyz-N-the-Hood’ are prime examples of Dre’s effective early production techniques. Relatively simplistic beats made all the more expansive by a perfectly timed sample. It’s far a cry from his ultra sometimes over-produced latter day work. The two songs allow Easy-E to get his stand out moments, much like in the film itself. His charisma shining through both tracks despite the fact he was never the most gifted lyricist in the group.
There’s stark reminders of MC Ren’s cruel favour in the history books. On Ice Cube diss track ‘Real N****s’ he leads the charge turning in one vicious beating on his old comrade. It’s a nice touch of the album to include the track and Ice Cube’s own N.W.A attack ‘No Vaseline’, a song that still funky as a George Clinton Birthday party and as angry as a shark in a fish tank. It’s got a wealth of problematic lyrics when listen through post-2000 ears, but so does a lot of other music (a discussion for another day).
Sprinkled throughout proceedings (I wonder if many people have used the term “sprinkles” when reviewing an N.W.A. product) are funkalicious songs that acted as inspiration for the unique Dre sound. Funkadelic’s ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’, Parliament’s ‘Flash Light’, Roy Ayers Ubiquity’s ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ and Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame’s ‘Weak at the Knees’ blend with DJ procision on the album. Like an audio history lesson they help you get your groove on and tell you where this hip-hop game had it’s roots. You’ll marvel listening back to them how many other songs you will recognise their touch from.
As it’s final track Dr. Dre’s ‘Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang’ caps things off beautifully whilst looking forward to the future of the group’s music and lives. Again much like the film.
An unsurprising collection perhaps, save for the funk gems, but a vital reminder of just how ground-breaking Dre, Cube, Easy, Ren and DJ Yella’s blend of aggressive social/political lyrics, danceable beats and ear rumbling drums were. It’s an album to bump in your car come spring time.
5 / 5
Straight Outta Compton – Music From the Motion Picture Soundtrack is available on CD, Vinyl and download now.