Winners get to tell history and there was plenty of controversy surrounding the telling of the N.W.A. story in Straight Outta Compton earlier this year by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
In an interview with Variety, the Los Angeles rapper/actor discussed how the movie came to be and explained that the specifics the film contains are simply a story told from a certain perspective, saying that there could be ten different takes on the times, but he believes his to be the best. Since the release of the movie there has been a lawsuit filed by manager Jerry Heller regarding his depiction as a sleazy, money hungry businessman and questions have been raised about omissions. Among them is Dr. Dre's well-documented assault of hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes.
“I believe trying to put 10 years or more into two-and-a-half hours, there’s no way in the world you’re going to be able to tell everybody’s story,” he said. “I didn’t put this together by myself. I put this together with the blessing of [MC] Ren, [DJ] Yella, Easy[-E]’s widow Tomica [Woods], Dr. Dre — and Gary wasn’t going to just take my version of what happened. He did his own research and his own interviews. So to me, the movie is an accurate account of N.W.A, the rise and fall of the group. I’m pretty sure you can probably make nine, 10 different versions of the N.W.A movie. They’ve done about seven Elvis movies. So I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of different versions of what this movie could have been, and everybody is more than welcome to have a crack at it. But to me, we put together the best N.W.A movie that’s ever going to be put together, and if we left some people out, we left some stories out, there’s just too much to tell in two hours and 20 minutes.”
Touching on music, Cube also talks about contemporary hip-hop when asked if the genre still "has something to say," a rallying cry for NWA as a revolutionary group. In response, the OG of west coast rap talks about the plague of escapism permeating the music today, the use of fantastical scenes to offset less exciting realities.
Ironically enough, it has been artists from his ground zero, artists like Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples, who have been the driving force for the more meaningful side of the hip-hop game as of late. While much of the mainstream and radio hits focus on trending dance moves, drugs and opulence, Cube asserts it's all a cover up for not wanting to talk about more important topics.
“I think it’s always going to have the potential to have something to say,” Ice Cube said. “It’s really up to the artists. The ‘something to say’ has been really kind of drained out of hip-hop. It started to lose its steam in about ’93 and escapism rap became the top dog. When I say ‘escapism rap,’ I mean talking about weed, getting high, cars, women, jewelry, money — a whole bunch of excess. Don’t worry about your real problems, just go to the strip club and smoke them away. So that started to take over and we ain’t really came out of that, because all that stuff is fun. It’s cool to do. There ain’t no struggle in it. It ain’t hard. Anybody can do it. So I think hip-hop heads have taken the easy way out.”
The idea of artists' need to create music for themselves rather than chasing the flavor of the month is a sentiment Cube made clear in an interview earlier this year with Nathan at Soundset and one that apparently he sees failing in the larger hip-hop spectrum. One thing that is undeniable though is that the legacy he left out west is being carried on well as of late.