In April this year, Tyree Carroll, 22-year-old African American man from Philadelphia, United States, was pulled over by the police, allegedly for cycling on the wrong side of the street. In footage which has since gone viral, he was seen to be beaten up for several minutes by three police officers, one of whom threw his bicycle over a fence.

Police brutality in the U.S is not new. In 1987, five young men in Compton were ordered to put their hands behind their backs and lie face down on the pavement. Their crime? For being there.

Using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, these five men put their frustration and anger about life in the most dangerous place in America into the most powerful weapon they had: their music.

“Straight outta Compton
Is a brother that’ll smother your mother
And make your sister think I love her
And if I ever get caught, I make bail
See I don’t give a f***, that’s the problem
I see a m*********ing cop, I don’t dodge him”

– Eazy-E in titular rap song “Straight Outta Compton”

Taking us back to where it all began, Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how Ice Cube (born O’Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Andre Romelle Young), Eazy-E (Eric Lynn Wright), MC Ren (Lorenzo Jerald Patterson) and DJ Yella (Antoine Carraby)—cultural rebels armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent—stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group, N.W.A (Niggaz wit’ Attitude). Their voice ignited a social revolution that is still reverberating today.

Straight Outta Compton stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, and is directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It OffThe Italian Job).  The drama is produced by original N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who are joined by fellow producers Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, Gray and Scott Bernstein. Will Packer serves as executive producer of the film alongside Adam Merims, David Engel, Bill Straus, Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni.

DJ Yella, Ice Cube, F. Gary Gray, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren attend as Universal presents the

DJ Yella, Ice Cube, F. Gary Gray, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren attend as Universal presents the “Straight Outta Compton” World Premiere at the Microsoft Theatre L.A. Live on August 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Alex J. Berliner /ABImages)

If you like the beat of rap music, but wonder why rappers sound so angry, you have to catch this docu-drama. Already a hit in the U.S, Straight Outta Compton compellingly narrates the development of the careers of the N.W.A members, from the time they were nobodies to the time the world recognised their music.

Here’s a Q&A with director F. Gary Gray, courtesy of United International Pictures.

Q: Considering your history with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, was it inevitable that you’d be involved in this movie?

Dr. Dre, F. Gary Gray and Ice Cube. (Photo credit: UIP)

Dr. Dre, F. Gary Gray and Ice Cube. (Photo credit: UIP)

GG: The one thing I’ve learned from being in this business is that nothing is inevitable. I believe there were a few people up for the job, so I didn’t take it for granted because I had a relationship with Ice Cube or Dr. Dre. I put together an elaborate presentation to show them my vision. I just showed them my passion for the story and the project, and ultimately they agreed.

Q: What was the vision that you shared with them?

GG: I wanted to focus on what was behind the music. The music and the time were kind of obvious, but I wanted to go beyond the average biopic. I focused on the universal themes of brotherhood and betrayal. I love the story because there’s triumph, but there’s also tragedy. I also felt like the backdrop was really important. A lot of times people criticize hip hop and, more specifically, street rap, reality rap, and gangsta rap, because they feel that it’s just a bunch of foul-mouthed guys going off about nothing. I wanted to focus on the reason as to why they create this music.

Q: You also grew up in LA. What are your memories of NWA and this era?

GG: I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, they must have a camera on my block watching everything that’s going on.’ NWA wrote about a lot of things that I witnessed or experienced firsthand, so I was floored by the honesty. I enjoyed NWA because it was honest and relatable in ways that most entertainment, music, television or film had never been.

Q: The movie has been in the works for a long time. What finally got it into production?

F. Gary Gray, director of Straight Outta Compton. (Photo credit: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

F. Gary Gray, director of Straight Outta Compton. (Photo credit: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

GG: I think we really hunkered down and focused on improving the original draft of the script. I pitched a version that was edgy, relevant, and more than an average biopic, and I think they were really excited by it.

Q: You mention the film being relevant – do you mean because of recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Cincinnati?

GG: The police brutality that’s in the headlines now wasn’t going on when we were developing the script. I’m sure a version of that was happening somewhere in the country, but it wasn’t making headlines yet. What I mean by relevant is that the NWA artists were still relevant. Beats by Dre was taking off, Cube was doing well in movies, and they each represented the idea of being true to who you are. Being true to who you are, unapologetically, that’s relevant. And it was relevant to me because I grew up in the same environment. When the media finally started to shine a spotlight on law enforcement and excessive force, it was kind of an unfortunate coincidence.

Q: You see it as unfortunate?

GG: I see it as unfortunate that it’s happening, but I don’t see it as unfortunate that it’s being publicized. I think that it’s great that they’re shining a light on it, because you can’t watch this and not push for change.

Q: In the film, we see things that were happening in the 80s, though much of it seems similar to what’s happening now.

GG: The more things change, the more things stay the same, but I’m optimistic. NWA shined a light on it with the tools they had then – microphones, pens and pads. Today, people have iPhones and video cameras, and it’s very prevalent in the headlines in ways that I think will force change.

Q: You took a big risk by casting unknowns in the lead roles for your film, particularly Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. He’s never acted before, though some might say he’s had the longest time to research a character in the history of movies.

O Shea Jackson Jr. (left), Ice Cube's son, convincingly plays a younger version of the rapper. Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre authoritatively in the movie. (Photo credit: UIP)

O’Shea Jackson Jr. (left), Ice Cube’s son, convincingly plays a younger version of the rapper. Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre authoritatively in the movie. (Photo credit: UIP)

GG: It only counts if you know you’re going to play the role! My reservations were the same as any reservations a director would have with hiring a newcomer. If you’re going to be one of the leads in such an important story, you have to have it together. Physical likeness was the last thing for me in the casting process; the novelty of that wears off really quickly. I wanted to go for performance first. Then, do I believe you on stage? Are you coordinated? Do you feel like the group? Can you perform? Do I believe you’re from the streets of Compton or South Central LA? Can you pull that off? These were priorities and concerns of mine. My reservations were natural, but he more than delivered.

Q: Do you remember the moment when you were convinced you’d made the right choice?

GG: I knew I’d made the right decision when we did the chemistry test. I put him in an environment with Jason (Mitchell, Easy E) and Corey (Hawkins, Dre), and they hit it off naturally. Between his performance and their chemistry, I knew I had a group. It was important for that bond to be organic.

Q: The cast talked about your ‘bonding strategy.’ One said you left them in a room together for hours, while another said that you sent them to Boot Camp together.

DJ Yella, Ice Cube, MC Ren and Dr. Dre stand behind the actors playing younger versions of themselves. The only senior rapper missing is Eazy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. (Photo credit: UIP)

DJ Yella, Ice Cube, MC Ren and Dr. Dre stand behind the actors playing younger versions of themselves. The only senior rapper missing is Eazy-E, who died of AIDS in 1995. (Photo credit: UIP)

GG: Organic bonding is the key for natural interaction on screen. I did it on The Italian Job and on Set It Off. I don’t know if these practices are common or not, but it’s helpful, especially when you have a changing script. You don’t want to rely on someone just rehearsing words; you want to be able to put anything in front of an actor and say, ‘live in this moment, be truthful, be honest.’ If there’s a natural bond, they automatically have great chemistry on screen.

Q: Did you feel strongly about shooting the film in Compton, in the name of authenticity?

GG: Yes. We were lucky enough to get the green-light, and we were able to cast the sixth member of NWA, which is Compton.

Q: How was your experience filming in Compton?

GG: South Central is more familiar to me, and there is a difference between South Central and Compton. It’s the same culture, but different places. When we shot in Compton I felt very safe, because we were embraced by the neighborhood and the community. They were really excited about this movie being made and chronicling part of their history. It was kind of a tip to LA in a lot of ways.

Q: It seems like the cast and locals really embraced each other.

GG: The community knew how important this film was, and how important it was to get it right. They knew that capturing the history would be part of the legacy of not only LA, but of their lives.

Q: Why did you decide to re-record the whole Straight Outta Compton album with the cast?

Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube stirring up the crowd in the movie. (Photo credit: UIP)

Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube stirring up the crowd in the movie. (Photo credit: UIP)

GG: We wanted to put them through the process of understanding the music, and it was also a way of rehearsing for when they have to get on stage and perform these songs. We didn’t know which songs we were going to use, so we just over-corrected by recording the whole thing. It gave us a way to get these guys prepped for either performing or recording on screen.

Q: That’s a very tough job for actors. Did they all rise to occasion?

GG: It’s a lot to ask of an actor to be a double threat who can sing and act. Especially when they’re so young and it’s not their background. We threw them into the fire and they not only survived, they persevered and rose to the occasion.

Q: How involved were the original NWA members in the re-recording?

GG: The original NWA members were very involved in the re-recording. Harvey Mason, Jr. produced the music; Dre, from afar, listened to make sure they did a good job. He was actually really floored by the recreation of the music. He didn’t know if it was going to be possible as you can’t even buy that equipment now. Harvey did a great job by researching the music, then finding all the old equipment to recreate it. When the group showed up to record, everybody had a hand in quality control to make sure it was what it was supposed to be.

Q: The in-the-studio scenes seem particularly authentic.

GG: I think my experience in music really helped with those scenes. I’m a fan of the music, and I have a great sense of what I want to see, and how I want it to feel. And I had great partners in Dre and Cube to consult with. A combination of all those things made those moments work.

Q: Having delved deeply into this band’s life and work, what’s been the biggest surprise to you?

GG: As Cube mentions, once he left the group he didn’t know what they were thinking. They learned a lot about each other in developing this script. It’s a testament to communication – when you’ve got a beef with somebody maybe you should just pick up a phone! They just split up, dived into this battle, and never really understood or communicated with each other. They probably could have solved a lot of problems if they’d opened up a little bit.

Q: Did you get a fresh perspective on the achievements of NWA?

GG: It wasn’t a surprise to me that these guys were creative, but I really think that they’re borderline genius in what they do. Neither one of them went to school for what they currently do. Dre is a master in music and sound, and I saw that in this process. Meanwhile, Cube has an uncanny ability to jump into a story in ways that you wouldn’t expect from an untrained writer. His instincts are great. I’ve been doing this for 20-something years, yet Cube would come up with new suggestions that I couldn’t come up with. Those were revelations.

Q: Now that this movie is out there, do you think there’s any chance the band would reunite?

GG: It’s a good possibility. I don’t want to start any rumors, but I’m optimistic.

Straight Outta Compton opens in cinemas here on Oct 8.