Ice Cube and O'Shea Jackson Jr talk Straight Outta Compton

Ice Cube and O'Shea Jackson Jr
Ice Cube and O'Shea Jackson Jr

After breaking box office records in North America, NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton has opened in New Zealand.

The film tells the story of the 'F**k tha Police' hitmakers formation and rise to fame and notoriety. Like their music, the film is brutally honest about life in South Central Los Angeles in the late '80s and early '90s.

Straight Outta Compton also follows the band's falling apart as Ice Cube and Dr Dre left to forge hugely successful solo careers before Eazy E died from AIDS in 1995.

I flew to Sydney this week to talk to Ice Cube and his son O'Shea Jackson Jr about the film.

There's a lot crammed into the film, but there's also a lot of NWA's complex history left out. I asked Cube how difficult it was deciding what to include.

"It was tough because there were so many things that could've gone into the movie," he says.

"You have to pick and choose what's perfect for the movie you're making. The movie we were making was about brotherhood, rags-to-riches, break-up to make-up, David vs Goliath, freedom of speech - so many different things. We knew we weren't making a documentary, but a feature, and you have to play by the rules."

My favourite Ice Cube song is 'No Vaseline', the diss track he released attacking NWA after he left the group and they publically criticised him for doing so.

It's a particularly nasty song with a palpable anger in its lyrics, but it's also very clever and highly amusing. It's played almost in full in Straight Outta Compton in one of the film's best scenes.

"It's a very pivotal song, it caught the group at an already fragile state. It was kind of like the knockout blow that really broke NWA all the way apart," says Cube.

"[Director F Gary Gray] wanted to really play the song and show the impact of it on the group. It plays almost like an action sequence in a way, it really resonates. Audiences love that part."

The track is probably harshest to Eazy E, with Cube telling the other members of NWA they should hang him from a tree and set him on fire. I asked if it was hard singing those lyrics after Eazy died.

"I put the song to bed for something like 20 years, I usually don't perform it out of respect for the death of Eazy E," says Cube.

"It's not a song I do a lot at all and it'll probably stay that way."

During the interview we also talk about the death of Eazy E, the police brutality that inspired 'F**k tha Police' and why its message is still relevant today, and what it was like for O'Shea Jackson Jr to play his dad onscreen.

Watch the full interview.

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