Last night, I was finally able to rewatch my DVR’d version of ESPN’s special30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A. presentation.
Produced & directed by citizen of L.A./Raider Nation, O’Shea Jackson (aka Ice Cube), the product was highly anticipated by YKI. As both an academic purveyor of the socio-cultural influence of hip hop and fervently enthusiastic Angeleno, the integration of hip hop against the backdrop of sports politics – featuring YKI’s favorite football team – was truly must-see programming.
O’Shea Jackson’s inclusion in the select group of filmmakers (Barry Levinson, Dan Klores, Spike Jonze, Albert Maysles direct other 30 for 30 spots) was notable, inspiring a tenacious – if a bit sophomoric – effort behind the camera for Jackson. The focus is narrow and the thesis precisely simple, or as phrased by Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg): “Football is a violent sport; L.A. is a violent city – it was the perfect marriage.”
*The hero shot of Snoop & Cube entering the L.A. Memorial Coliseum was particularly cliche, if not entirely genuine.
Early in the film, Jackson makes it known that the antagonist of his documentary is a Montgomery Burns/Skeletor hybrid played by Al Davis.
Davis’s iconoclastic, regimented, paranoid, paranormal, tumultuous, chaotic, stoic, daunting, controversial, vexing and exhilarating ownership style was summed up with a single sentence in Cube’s opening act: “Do it your way. Don’t let the culture tell you what to do.”
With basic production and shot selection vis-a-vis filming, Cube ingeniously interspersed animated storytelling to portray the introduction of The Silver & Black to the literal Boys(z) in the Hood. No Mas & James Blagden (famous for their similarly animated, charming interpretation of Doc Ellis‘s no-hitter, thrown while under the influence of LSD) take a literal approach to the animation, crafting the conversations & actions of a young Jackson, Andre Young (Dr. Dre), Eric Wright (Eazy E), DJ Yella & MC Ren, with austere black & white minimalist portrayals.
Excellent interludes, and a good introduction to the underlying premise of the violence/perfect marriage thesis: Los Angeles had the Showtime Lakers, the Fernandomania Dodgers, the ’84 Olympics, but they needed something to more aptly reflected the increasing undergrowth, conflict & influence of the inner-city streets. Snoop again: “we needed something a lil’ more mean, a lil’ more nasty.”
And with that, Davis’s hit-parade on the NFL continued, uprooting the league’s antitrust laws and moving the team to L.A., bringing the ass-kicking swagger & brazen disregard for formality & structure inherent in being a Raider. Covering the tumult in an expedient 48 minutes, Jackson sits down with Raider Nation royalty such as John Madden, Howie Long, Todd Christensen & Marcus Allen, but the best insight comes from defensive stalwart Rod Martin: “Definitely didn’t want to leave Oakland, but if it had to be somewhere I’m glad it was L.A.“
USC Cinematics professor Todd Boyd, eMCees Chris Reid (Kid of Kid n’ Play), Tracy Marrow (Ice-T) & Carlton Douglas Ridenhour (Chuck D) lend equal insight regarding the Los Angeles street culture, reflected in the rapidly ascending influence sales of west coast rappers, which – when viewed in this prism – began with the aforementioned N.W.A.
Along with King Tee & Ice-T, they were the original gangsta rappers – “they intro’d as a gang called N.W.A.” Ice-T notes – in the consummate gangsta city. The land of drive-bys & six-foh’s was being exposed nationally, and N.W.A. was doing the narration (*as Jackson does in this film, bytheway, and its distracting-yet-charming, much like the same tactic in Friday). Most symbolically, the N.W.A. gang all rocked Raider paraphernalia, courtesy of Raider marketing exec Mike Ornstein, who actually provided the first gear to the group’s members.
From the release of N.W.A.’s defining Straight Outta Compton through Ice Cube’s solo move to the East Coast – coincidentally right around the time the Raiders moved back to Oakland – Raiders merchandise sales exploded. Whether or not this was directly due to the group’s inexorable link to the team & colors is a dubious assertion, but Jackson’s point is made: “This is a ‘hood team,” says Professor Boyd. Despite the violent nature of the Nation’s fans, when “the streets came to watch the game,” the Coliseum best represented the diverse demographics of the city, most proudly with the victory in Super Bowl XVIII.
The ending-we-knew-was-coming is eloquently summarized by Howie Long, while discussing the move back to Oakland following the lost years of the post-Marcus Allen era: “the Raiders are a ship without a port.” And Ice Cube/Jackson makes sure that the Raiders realize that they will always be welcomed back in the land of the Raider hat, poignantly closing the film with: they might be the Silver & Black, but they’ll always be our Raiders.”
Scorsese or Fellini he is not, but Jackson/Cube executes his vision, palpably connecting the influence of the group & the team – more importantly, Raider fans & native Angelenos can both enjoy an internal look at the City that spawned a Nation.
Oh yeah, you MUST watch this – note Howie Long’s “Verse”