In a special review segment, Dom Kureen got in touch with 90’s hip-hop almanac Sam Cox to discuss the finer points of recently released N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton”.
DK: Hello Sam; as a musician who grew up heavily influenced by 1990’s hip-hop, what are your overriding thoughts about “Straight Outta Compton” the movie?
SC: The film was visually impressive, obviously sounded good but felt weak. I imagine it’s what 50 Shades of grey felt like on the big screen to all those female minions of the novel.
The casting was relatively strong, but do you think having Ice Cube & Dr Dre producing might have affected the portrayal of certain key players?
I don’t think the casting was strong. Dre was well represented. He’s always been in the background and doesn’t shout about things media wise – he came across as you’d expect. Ice Cube clearly had no issues with his son playing him, but watching was a reminder that his Dad can actually act a lot better than Junior. “Boyz ‘n’ the Hood” was special. Eazy was poorly represented – the dude was nuts in real life!
For anyone not familiar with this era of hip-hop what/who would you recommend as essential listening?
Cypress Hill got me going. DJ Muggs is for me the best beat maker of that period. Rugged and natural – uses real beat samples; loops not just hits. Somehow the Hill clicked like the Prodigy back in the UK. I remember watching the video of Snoop’s “What’s my name?” when rap video was starting to kick off. That tune killed it – all of a sudden there was a focus on the west coast of the states
Why do you think the early 90’s seemed to produce so much amazing rap compared to the present day?
It was fresh back then. James Brown’s funky drummer gave groups like Public Enemy and N.W.A a starting point for percussion. The rest followed for a good decade but sadly thinned out. These days it’s fake drum sounds – sounds apparent in the 80’s, which is cool, but I’ve yet to hear them transfer well onto a track.
Sprinkle some shoddy vocals about one’s demeanour, and some new age R ‘n’ B and It’s a recipe for the masses. I guess the thing is the masses seem to lap things up without complaint these days and who can blame them? Hip-hop is now more a state of mind than a movement.
In a perverse way is a lot of what N.W.A discussed even more taboo in 2015 than it was in 1991?
Quite the opposite, but sadly not much seems to have changed. It’s been static for so long that the hip-hop we hear in 2015 seems designed for stagnation. God only knows the effect that has on young black Americans. There was a time just before the ‘net when (Talib) Kweli, De La Soul, Mos Def, the Roots et al threatened to break through… then came Pirate Bay and Kanye West.
Now all I can gauge is a strange blur of hip-hop and R ‘n’ B. Neither seems to represent anything other than MTV. Drake can suck my balls.
Kanye West is a clumsy rapper, but an excellent producer and self-publicist!
He’s the next President.
Do you think people’s progressively shorter attention spans aligned with the on-line nature of music has spelled the end for really exciting underground record releases?
Yeah man, absolutely. Gone are the days of record shopping – guys are screwed on UK high streets these days. I spend most of my time now in New Look recommending dresses for my girlfriend. Ten years back she’d be commending me on my new knee high socks and Mobb Deep album. The underground is still there, it’s just a lot further beneath the surface, and ironically easy to find.
Did you ever wear a large clock around your neck?
No, but I did have Nike tick ear studs. They don’t sell those in New Look.
Straight outta Putney!
Doesn’t get much more ghetto than SW15.
Can you throw out a couple of lesser known hip-hop tracks from that time that people wanting to learn about the scene should listen to?
Here are a few;
And finally; with regards to the film, how many stars would you give it and how would you sum it up?
Two stars… The film does nothing for the era that was. I remember smuggling N.W.A cassettes upstairs when I was 7, getting friends round and listening to them. Good times. Hip-hop progressed almost magically for a decade after that. When N.W.A split there was genuine excitement to see who was going where.
Straight Outta Compton is now showing across the UK, apart from in the Commodore cinema in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, which will receive the film reel in late 2038.