On the eve of it’s release, the media frenzy surrounding the release of the filmStraight Outta Compton is reaching near Marvel-movie levels, with almost every major media outlet running coverage of some kind. Perhaps looking to stand out among the pack, Billboard Magazine enlisted one of the hottest rappers in the world, Kendrick Lamar, a Compton native himself and one of N.W.A producer Dr. Dre’s more notable disciples, to interview the living members of the outfit for acover feature.
While the story itself is fascinating and adds an extra dimension of context and exposition to the chat, the real gold mine is the nearly 30-minute videoaccompanying the profile, featuring Lamar sitting down with Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren, and engaging the four legends in conversation. It’s clear right off the bat that Lamar is humbled to be in the room and maybe a little uncomfortable with his role as an interviewer (despite his experience lobbing questions at Tupac Shakur on the To Pimp a Butterfly closing track “Mortal Man”). But as the talk progresses, he eases up and adopts an endearing student/teacher relation to them.
Prodded by Lamar, the four men in the hot seat swap stories about their formation back in the mid-to-late ’80s, the recording of their seminal album Straight Outta Compton, and their memories of their departed leader Eazy-E. Rather oddly, Dr. Dre adopts an odd sort of Mafioso stance when asked about the music industry and the group, consistently referring to it as, “this thing.” Both sides go out of their way to compliment one another throughout, with Lamar bluntly admitting that, “Anything that I do, at all, has come from what y’all done.” On the flip side, it’s clear the high esteem in which the N.W.A guys hold K-Dot—at one point MC Ren flat-out tells him, “I’m not saying this because you’re here, Kendrick, but I like your song ‘Cut You Off.’ I’ve been listening to you for a minute.”
The most profound moment of the video comes in response to Lamar’s first question when he asks the group about how they’ve managed to keep their sanity through all their years of success and failure. “The love of the music,” Dre responds. “It’s all about my passion for this hip-hop thing. Can’t let anything get in the way of that. It’s my first love.”