April 25, 2010

Straight Outta LA


I've posted in the past about the excellent short documentary series 30 for 30 that ESPN has commissioned as part of their 30th Anniversary Celebration (airing on TSN here in Canada.)  The network has assembled a list of directors, actors and personalities to tell some of the compelling sports stories that transpired during the thirty years the network has been on the scene.  Director Peter Berg did an excellent doc on the Wayne Gretzky trade to kick off the series last year and I've also seen an excellent film about the life and tragic death of Boston Celtics first rounder Len Bias and a so-so account of notorious sports gambler and cringe-worthy television personality Jimmy the Greek.   One of the entires I was most intrigued about when the series was first announced was  'Straight Outta L.A' - from director Ice Cube - and it is set to air in early in May.

'Straight Outta L.A.' tells the story of the synergy between the L.A. Raiders and the burgeoning West Coast rap scene in the late 1980's and early 1990's that saw many hip hop artists adopt the colors of the Raiders (and sadly saw some Raiders step up to the mic with predictably embarrassing results.)   Cube, who of course was one of the early adopters of Raiders gear as a fashion statement as member of the seminal rap group N.W.A. is the perfect person to tell this story.  Cube, who's making his directorial debut with this effort, draws the parallels between the swagger of the NFL's bad boys and how they inspired the hip hop scene on the West Coast.   Even the teams owner, Al Davis, had a 'fuck the authority' attitude (which, in retrospect might have just been insanity in disguise) and actually sued the NFL in order to transfer his Raiders from Oakland into Los Angeles.   The doc also makes the uneasy (for the league) claim that gang culture equalled good business for the NFL because Raiders merchandise quickly became a top seller.  (In 1988, a few years after the Raiders came to L.A. the cities hockey club, the Kings, also switched to the same color scheme, black and silver, and soon their stuff also started popping up in rap videos and at the top of the NHL's merchandise sales charts.)   Ice Cube would leave N.W.A. to pursue a career as a solo artist in the early 1990's and Davis would move the Raiders out of L.A. and back to Oakland in 1995, ending this era and making Cube an excellent choice to tell this story from the inside.  I really look forward to checking this film out.

For more on the series - and what's coming up - check out their official site.

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