Album Review: Straight Outta Compton (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

A few notes, following the purchase of the Straight Outta Compton motion picture soundtrack—

Why now?

The movie was released in August, but the soundtrack just came out on Jan. 8. Why now? I guess in an effort to re-promote the movie, which is being released on DVD on Tuesday. But the whole thing seems a little ill timed.

Why did I buy this?

Because it was $10 at Target, and I happened to see it on the “New Release” end while I was wandering by the entertainment department. It’s a convenient collection—nothing more, really. It takes eight popular NWA tracks, two Eazy E songs, two solo Ice Cube songs, four classic funk songs, and “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang” for good measure, and puts them into one location for ease of listening.

But don’t you already have all of those songs already?

Yes, almost. Shortly after seeing the movie Straight Outta Compton, I bought the album of the same name by NWA from iTunes, and also downloaded Ice Cube’s first solo album following his departure from the group. I do own a vinyl reissue of The Chronic that I purchased from a Barnes and Noble (of all places.) However, I did not have the four funk tracks—Parliament, Funkadelic, et. al, prior to owning this compilation.

Is it worth buying the soundtrack?

Yes and no. I mean, it’s kind of an introductory course to gangsta rap for people who have apparently never heard any of these songs before. And, again, putting them all in one place makes it a very appealing purchase.

There was something incredibly thrilling about the Straight Outta Compton movie, despite the inaccuracies and liberties taken, and despite how self-aware it became in certain moments. I feel like part of the thrill had to do with the music—specifically this music. The music included on the soundtrack. But I think the thrill had to do with how the music was used, i.e. live performances in the movie. A bulk of the movie takes place at NWA concerts, and therefore, they perform a lot of these songs live in front of frenetic audiences.

I think it’s that thrill—the thrill of these songs being brought to life on screen—that this soundtrack is actually missing.

But what about the music?

One thing I did find myself asking as I listened to this soundtrack album was if the music of NWA has aged well, the answer is both yes and no. For better and for worse, it is a product of its time

Musically speaking—it has not aged well at all. Hip-hop has come a long way since the late 1980s, and the beats themselves, as well as the lyrical delivery—time has not been kind to them. What may have been revelatory back then sounds very, very dated by today’s standards.

However, these songs (most of them anyway) are looked upon as classics.

Lyrically speaking—despite the delivery, the message still rings true in 2016. When Ice Cube says “Fuck the police,” the reason why he said it then is the same reason why it resonates now.

A conclusion

The soundtrack to Straight Outta Compton serves two audiences—hard-core fans of NWA and the movie, and people who know nothing about gangsta rap and want a good place to begin.

It’s strange that music that is looked upon as being so essential has wound up packaged in something that is rather inessential. My life would have gone on just fine had I not spent the $10 on this, and chances are yours will too. If you don’t already have the NWA album itself, Straight Outta Compton, you should begin there as a point of reference, rather than the ephemera that comes along with a Hollywood biopic.

Straight Outta Compton is out now via Universal and Ruthless Records. It's prolly at Target for $10.