*When actor and co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro, saw rapper-turned filmmaker and former N.W.A. member Ice Cube at the world premiere of his rapumentary “Straight Outta L.A.,” the thespians gave each other a strong hug. De Niro and a packed house had just screened Cube’s movie which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 23, 2010 garnering high praise.
The breakthrough film that was presented by American Express and served as the gala premiere of the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival tells the story of the groundbreaking hip-hop group N.W.A. consisting of rappers Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Cube who wore black instead of the colorful colors worn by fellow rappers and because it was the predominant color of the uniforms worn by the Los Angeles Raiders. It was gansta lookin’.
For many years the Raiders had the dubious distinction of being compared with N.W.A. and gansta rap. It was just a matter of time before someone would make a film about this rare liaison.
ESPN contacted the rapster who director 1998’s “The Players Club” and has worked as actor and producer in such movies as “Boyz n the Hood” and “Friday,” to contribute a film to “30-for-30.” “I thought about it for a minute, and this was the story: the L.A. Raiders coming to L.A. and how their image and persona, in a lot ways, changed the trajectory of hip-hop,” admits Cube.
Enter Cube who stepped up to the goal line and gladly chronicled N.W.A.’s connection to the Raiders. “It was a team we could identify with, from the neighborhood that we came from,” says Cube. “The Lakers was real glitzy and glamour; the Dodgers were seen as a little out of reach. But the Raiders, it seemed like my uncles played for the Raiders.”
The Super Bowl winning Raiders who won the Super Bowl in 1976, 1980 and 1983, called the famous Los Angeles Coliseum home from 1982-1994. Ironically, the team had a renegade reputation – not too unlike N.W.A. — thanks largely to owner Al Davis.
Adding to the team’s rap appeal were the silver and black colors, with a pirate logo that also fit the violence of Compton. As a member of the notorious rap group N.W.A., Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. “To me, they were always known as the bad boys of the NFL,” Cube says. “It was some kind of crazy synergy.”
An astute businessman, Cube felt that the Raiders were capitalizing off of N.W.A. association. Former Raiders linebacker Rod Martin says in the film that he thought N.W.A. was “too hardcore” and wasn’t “a good advertisement” for the team.
However Cube questioned why he and N.W.A. should fill the Raiders’ coffers with no reciprocity and on his 1991 solo album, “Death Certificate,” he rapped: “Stop givin’ juice to the Raiders/ Cause Al Davis never paid us/ I hope he wear a vest.”
Cube interviewed Davis for the film as they have long since forgotten those rap lines and he’s still a rabid Raiders fan and an admirer of Davis. “Sports without music is just a game,” says Cube. “The music adds the same thing it does for the movie soundtrack — It tells your emotions where to be.”
“We are thrilled to launch this year’s Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival with a film that shows how sports are intertwined in so many other cultural arenas,” stated Keith Clinkscales, senior vice president, ESPN content development and enterprises.
“All of the sports documentaries in this year’s Festival truly illustrate that the reach of sports in society extends far past solely athletics and into such disciplines as music, language, art and of course, film,” he further stated.
“Straight Outta L.A. gives us an entertaining, firsthand account of how a professional sports team captivated a city and ultimately changed the culture of L.A.,” said Nancy Schafer, executive director of the Tribeca Film Festival.
“For the past three years, the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival program has been an audience favorite at our Festival, and this year’s line-up will continue that tradition,” Schafer concluded. (Photos by Kyle J. Cassett)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.