F Gary Gray, director of numerous music videos (R. Kelly and Outkast among them) and the director behind such films as Friday and The Negotiator and The Italian Job is currently casting his next big project: a N.W.A. biopic. The iconic group Yella, Cube, Eazy, Dre and Ren formed should provide great source material for an engaging flick, as these guys shaped the course of rap history, pop music and politics. That’s nothing to sneeze at by itself, but throw in 5 guys from poor, violent backgrounds becoming worldwide icons, their internal struggles regarding the shady business dealings with Jerry Heller, Cube leaving the group and beefing from the east, Dre and Eazy battling on wax and ultimately the death of Eazy E, and there’s a story with ample drama that any decent scriptwriter should be able to spin into gold.
But who should they cast? They should be fairly young guys with decent acting chops, preferably with an affinity for hip-hop, with a couple of them big enough names to fill theater seats beyond the hardcore rap aficionados. Vlogger extraordinaire Jay Smooth already jokingly announced he’d answer the call for Arabian Prince or Yella but as much as we respect Jay, here’s five guys we think would be a bit more suitable.
Collins Pennie as Yella
Collins Pennie starred in the dystopian sci-fi thriller In Time as the young detective besides a creepy Cillian Murphy who tried to catch the flick’s hero, portrayed by Justin Timberlake. If you can do a cool bad guy you can do the DJ of “the world’s most dangerous group” too. He at least has some affinity for rap as his IMDB profile states he wrote the verse he spit on a song for the FAME remake himself. You’ll have to search it yourself if you want to find out if it’s any good though, your humble writer doesn’t have enough estrogen for voluntarily watching dancing flicks.
Tray Chaney as Dr. Dre
Dre is authority in rap nowadays, running a successful label, selling overpriced headphones like hotcakes and mean-mugging cameras in tight fitting shirts showing off his muscles. It wasn’t always like that though. Before NWA, in his World Class Wreckin’ Cru days, Dr. Dre was a skinny kid wearing mascara with a gimmicky lab coat. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the pic Eazy used on the back of his EP when they were beefing. The same as Poot (played by Tray Chaney) in The Wire, Dre had to find solid ground in unfriendly surroundings were innocence was a liability. He did so by delivering dope beats to his homies and despite some rocky roads, like Poot, he eventually proved to be a survivor.
John Boyega as MC Ren
The lead star of the excellent Attack the Block proved to be a perfect fit to play a brooding, unassuming guy, seemingly quiet but ready to go off when the wrong buttons are pushed and who’s ultimately much more responsible and intelligent than people initially give him credit for. Sounds quite a bit like Ren, right? If he’s able to do a convincing Compton voice instead of a cockney one he should be perfect for the part.
Schoolboy Q as Ice Cube
Sure, the Biggie biopic Notorious was not a perfect film, but rapper Gravy’s portrayal of B.I.G. was one of the things they did get right. It’d be slightly weird to see a thespian like Cube portrayed by somebody else but the (lyrically) most prominent and arguably most talented member of the group should definitely be played by a guy able to decently wield a mic and channel Cube’s rage along with it. Though there’s no knowing yet if Q’s got the acting skills, he’s got the microphone mathematics down pat, and he’s riding for the west to boot. If he gained a couple pounds he might just pull off Cube as a young G.
Donald Glover as Eazy E
This might seem a bit unorthodox but bear with me for a second. With most of his lyrics ghostwritten by his crewmates, Eazy wasn’t the most technically skilled MC in the bunch, but he simply oozed charisma and his commanding presence and sense of humor was vital to the group. Besides that, there was a genuinely dangerous streak to Eazy, and the sense that this guy was a ruthless hustler first and a rapper second turned out to be true on all counts. So you need a charismatic actor, with comedic timing, able to give a character a tinge of the unpredictable and a sense of danger. Despite being known for his role as Troy in the comedy Community, that same show has shown hints of Donald Glover being able to pull off a wide range of emotion and makes me believe he can pull of the dangerous edge of Eazy too. Besides all that, the guy has the potential star power and he has a couple rap albums under his belt too. That sure won’t hurt. Donald Glover as Eazy E has the potential to be the rap equivalent of ‘Heath Ledger as Joker;’ People will bitch and moan about how they got it all wrong when it’s announced at first, and do a full 180 swooning over the performance when they’ve finally seen the film.
Feel free to tell us how wrong we are in the comments section.