Loading...

Commitment to the Raiders 

Ice Cube's new documentary chronicles the team's L.A. years

Thursday, May 6 2010
Comments

In the opening scene of Straight Outta LA, two globally franchised multihyphenate multimillionaires stroll around a deserted theater of public spectacle, talking about the iconography of cultural revolution. If that descriptor conjures up an image of old white guys in suits and ties offering an academic address of an anthropological tidal wave, think again. The moguls in question are Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg, two gangsta rappers–turned-actors-turned-corporations; the empty public space is the L.A. Coliseum, once home to the Los Angeles Raiders, whose silver-and-black pirate aesthetic was co-opted by Cube and his fellow members in pioneering hometown rap group N.W.A.

"The patch on his eye, the sword, the shield," says Snoop of the pirate in the Raiders logo. "It just seemed like, 'We here to take what we come to get.' By any means necessary." The rappers donned Raiders gear as both fashion statement and political provocation. The "added layer of menace" that the Raiders brand gave them helped Cube and Snoop (as well as Dr. Dre, Ice-T and other rap icons featured in the film) rise from the hood to the top echelon of mainstream culture, even as the team itself declined, and eventually defected back to Oakland.

Straight Outta LA, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week and will debut on ESPN May 11, marks the documentary directorial debut of Ice Cube. With the rapper providing first-person narration and interviewing difficult subjects like Raiders owner Al Davis himself, the film feels surprisingly handmade and intimate, telling the story of the Raiders' relatively brief but spectacular stay in L.A. from his perspective as a fan.

click to enlarge Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg survey the former home of the Raiders in Straight Outta LA.
  • Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg survey the former home of the Raiders in Straight Outta LA.

Related Stories

"Nothing impacted me more than when the Raiders moved to L.A.," Cube tells the Weekly. From Compton teenager busing to Taft High in Woodland Hills by day and gangbanging by night, to his days with N.W.A, Cube's Raiders cap was a constant, and when Straight Outta Compton went platinum and tours through the hood were broadcast to the suburbs via MTV, a kind of thematic synchronicity between the gangsta lifestyle and the Raiders brand was broadcast with them, to audiences far outside L.A. In Cube's subjective memoir, the romance between the team and the increasingly pop stars could only last so long. He's defensive but straightforward in dealing with the perception that the ensuing "gangsterfication" of the Raiders scene — increased violence at games, the banning of Raiders gear in L.A. public schools for its supposed criminal connotations — may have hastened the team's departure.

Cube effectively makes the case that when Los Angeles lost the Raiders, the city lost more than its last pro football franchise. In the mid-'80s, when the team came to town, L.A. "felt like the center of the universe," Cube says in the film, which closes with sports columnist Bill Plaschke describing the team as the "heartbeat of L.A., the kind of L.A. you don't see on TV," an embodiment of the repressed rage of outsiders brought together within the city. "And just like that, it was gone."

If directing a documentary seems an unlikely move for Cube, it's just the latest twist in a remarkably diverse career, encompassing X-rated rhymes and action heroics (he starred in David O. Russell's Three Kings and replaced Vin Diesel in the sequel to xXx ), the stonerz in the hood Friday franchise and the family-friendly Are We There Yet? series. Immediately after L.A.'s ESPN premiere, Cube will shift into promoting his new TBS series, based on Are We There Yet? You don't get much more middle-of-the-road than a sitcom on basic cable; at the very least, Cube has come a long way from the time when, as his lyric goes, not having to use his AK would make it a good day.

Cube, for his part, insists that his current dayjobs as G-rated sitcom star and all-purpose entertainment mogul bear no impact on his credibility as a spokesman for the streets.

"I still do gangsta rap. I just went from being a boy to a man, that's what changed," Cube says. "It don't seem like the world's changed, looking at what my family, friends and cousins still have to go through, living in South Central Los Angeles. The world is still as real as it was back in 1989, when [N.W.A] first came out. Movies are just movies — make-believe."

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Wed 20
  2. Thu 21
  3. Fri 22
  4. Sat 23
  5. Sun 24
  6. Mon 25
  7. Tue 26

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office Report

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!

Slideshows

  • 20 Neo-Noir Films You Have to See
    The Voice's J. Hoberman was more mixed than most on Sin City when he reviewed it in 2005, but his description of the film as "hyper-noir" helps explain why this week's release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has us thinking back on the neo-noir genre. Broadly speaking, neo-noir encompasses those films made outside of film noir's classic period -- the 1940s and '50s -- that nevertheless engage with the standard trappings of the genre. As with most generic labels, there isn't some universal yardstick that measures what constitutes a neo-noir film: Where the genre might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown. Our list falls closer to the latter stance, mainly featuring works from the '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Though a number of the films mentioned here will no doubt be familiar to readers, it's our hope that we've also highlighted several titles that have been under-represented on lists of this nature. --Danny King

    See also:
    35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing

    15 Documentaries That Help You Understand the World Right Now
  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.

Now Trending