Monday, December 20, 2010

Straight Outta LA

Ice Cube | 2010 | 51 min | US

The evolution of gangsta rap and the Los Angeles Raiders football club were intertwined, from their aesthetics and thug personae to the stormy alliance with their home turf. Straight Outta LA looks at that relationship through the eyes of one of the people most responsible for stoking it, and the embers of gansta rap as a whole: Ice Cube.

The documentary features a very abridged history lesson on hip hop and a considerably more in-depth look at the beginnings of NWA. The flashbacks are told with black and white animation created by No Mas in a style reminiscent of Raymond Pettibon's artwork. It is a great style for the stories and a welcome break from the talking heads that tend to dominate this kind of doc. There are still talking heads aplenty, however, but they are culled from a very wide swath. Significant figures in hip hop are given equal weight to the stars of the Raiders' past. Commentaries from reporters, Raiders staff, politicians, and cultural critics are also included. Most of the offerings are worthwhile, but Snoop could stand a little less screen time. That guy is as un-insightful as it gets, even when speaking about rap. My apologies if that's a spoiler. Though only a television hour in length, the film provides a fairly comprehensive look at the LA years of the Raiders. Solid viewing for fans of football or hip hop.

The film was made as part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series, in which 30 different filmmakers expand on significant stories and events from the world of sports. The only other of the series I've seen is Jeff Tremaine's Birth of Big Air about the career of BMX innovator Matt Hoffman. That film also had a great style with a lot of personality. Other filmmakers involved in the series include Barbara Kopple and Albert Maysles, so I will definitely be looking into at least a couple more instalments.

No comments: