The World’s Most Dangerous Group is finally getting their lives and times out in the open. Come next week, the official N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton will be in theaters nationwide, detailing the back story of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and the late, great, Eazy-E, on how they were one of the first rap groups to take something out of nothing and explode on the worldwide scene. In a nutshell, us over at Hip-Hop Wired describe the movie as “crack cinema.”
The film, which was a half a decade in the making, was made possible by several variables, including the large contributions from F. Gary Gray. Best known to Hip-Hop fans as the director for the classic first Friday movie, his relationships with the group’s members allowed him to dig deep to present an engaging, and not always politically correct depiction.
We caught up with the veteran director ahead of the release of the film for an overview glimpse of what it was like working down to the bone marrow to present this body of work.
Hip-Hop Wired: Explain the wave of emotions you had when you first saw the completed project.
F. Gary Gray: The sense of gratification actually came from seeing it with an audience. I know what I felt before I shot it and I had a vision what it could be. But what’s in your head and what ultimately ends up on the screen is different sometimes–and how people receive is different sometimes as well. But when I saw it with an audience in Detroit, Philly, Miami and Atlanta, it was a true test right there. People are loving it and they get what we were going for. Whether you’re from Sweden or Chicago, people are getting it and I love it.
HHW: I saw you had a little slick cameo in the movie…
F. Gary Gray: Ah, man forgive my bad acting; it was a last-minute thing. We were actually auditioning a lot of people [for the role of pioneering West Coast DJ Greg Mack] and at the last minute [producers] were like, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ So I tried to knock it out and keep it moving.
HHW: Nah, I think after your spot in Friday, everyone can appreciate your cameos.
F. Gary Gray: [Laughs!!!] Gotta get my Alfred Hitchcock on. It wasn’t planned that way but it worked out.
HHW: But in real-time events, what were you doing in life?
F. Gary Gray: I was on the streets of Los Angeles. Surviving! Just a young guy appreciating their music and going through what they were going through. That’s why I loved the music because it spoke to me. A lot of the things in their music I experienced or saw first hand. That’s kind of where I was.
HHW: You’ve known Ice Cube a long time, too.
F. Gary Gray: Yeah, first time I met him was on the set of W.C. and the Maad Circle’s “Dress Code.” That was my first directing job and [Cube] was doing a cameo.
HHW: When you first met him, where was he at mentally with thoughts of N.W.A or did you guys ever talk about his experiences with them over the years?
F. Gary Gray: We never talked about that to be honest with you. We talked about music videos and how dope he could be conceptually and cinematic. And then those conversations shifted to movies. We didn’t really talk much about N.W.A at all actually.
HHW: When was the moment you knew this particular movie was happening and it sort of “feel into your lap?”
F. Gary Gray: I’d say it was 2011. I got a phone call basically like, ‘Yo, we’re doing a N.W.A movie,’ and I was a little nervous about it, honestly. There are so many ways you can get it wrong. I know the guys and I know there are so many stories. How can you fit all that into two hours–it’s a lot. But then [I read the script] and was pleasantly surprised. It needed some work; needed to be a little edgier and to add some of that “thang” that you dig and all that good stuff you get from the streets and making it Hip-Hop. But I also focused on addressing some of the structural issues in the narratives and the brotherhood. So it gave me a way in when I read the script. When I pitched it to Cube and subsequently the studios, they felt it.