It’s hard to believe now, but there was once a time in the ’80s when the then-Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League were so equally successful and cool that even the pioneers of the gangster rap scene, some cool cats indeed, idolized them.
What soon followed was a shared ideology between these two camps. When on the field, the Raiders, powered by Jim Plunkett, Howie Long, Marcus Allen and Todd Christensen were the biggest, baddest and roughest team in the league and when on a microphone, rappers the likes of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre told the world how it was and pulled no punches.
Compelled enough to tell this story through a documentary, Cube not only sheds light on his entry into the music scene in “Straight Outta L.A.,” but also on the reasons why he and his boys always rocked Raiders gear back then, providing a fun documentary that is only hindered by its lack of depth into both areas.
Simply put, both of these topics could have easily had their own respective documentaries and giving both of them their due simultaneously is no easy task. Luckily, with solid interviews from both sides, Cube is able to weave an intriguing and intelligent story that makes sense and in its own way and is inspiring throughout.
Nevertheless, hardcore football fans may want to hear less about Cube’s escapades and more about the Raiders. The same thing goes for rap fans who could care less about a team in the current predicament the Raiders are in.
Making the process of getting agitated at either side of this work is an easy task, due to the fact that Cube’s telling of his own story and the interview with Al Davis are a bit more uneven than they should be. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they call themselves a visionary or a maverick and even though Cube and Davis are indeed both, the documentary itself could have benefited more from someone else hailing both of their greatness than they themselves.
However, if you find yourself at a crossroads and can appreciate both the team and the music, you’ll have ultimately found a documentary that is completely different from everything else out there right now.
Proof of this is the scene where Cube and Snoop Dogg are at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum throwing the football around and talking about how the Raiders were this source of positive energy in times of unrest and turmoil. It’s also unusually uplifting hearing Dogg talk about how Cube inspired him to get into the rap game- the kind of stuff you wouldn’t expect to hear from a cat as cool as him.
Moments like this prove that the Raiders, were indeed more than a football team and gangster rap more than urban poetry accompanied by sweet and silky beats.
Because of that, “Straight Outta L.A.” manages to be a documentary that can have its cake, eat it too, then rap about it and play a game of football afterward.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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