ESPN’s latest “30 For 30” sports documentary
series focused on the biggest sports subjects of
the past three decades takes a look at the National
Football League’s Oakland Raiders and its relocation to
Los Angeles in 1982 until 1995 when the team moved
back to the Bay Area. Unlike previous 30 For 30 entries,
Straight Outta L.A. — directed by rapper/actor Ice Cube
— is as much an autobiographical account of Cube’s
life and music career as a member of the rap group
N.W.A. as it is about the Raiders’ history in Hollywood.

Yet Ice Cube does a good job illustrating throughout
the one-hour special how his development as a rap artist
with N.W.A. and the overall emergence of the gangsta
rap culture — along with the tough, black-and-silver
colored “just win, baby” image of the Raiders and
iconic owner Al Davis — were compatible ingredients
successfully stirred within the ethnically and economically
diverse melting pot of Los Angeles in the 1980s.
As Cube poignantly says about halfway through the
documentary, “Our image was their image and their
image was our image.”

Through a series of interviews with Davis, former
Raiders players, local sports journalists and several rap
artists such as Snoop Dogg and Ice-T, Ice Cube deftly
paints a picture of the love affair the city of Los Angeles
had with the Raiders once they relocated to Hollywood
from Oakland in 1982. It also shines a light on the fan
fallout from several losing Raiders seasons and the
eventual heartache Los Angeles felt when Davis moved
the team back to Oakland after failing to secure a new
stadium in the city.

within that setting
are personal comments
from Cube
about how he
grew up in L.A. as
an Oakland Raiders
fan and how the
Raiders’ signature
colors were eventually
adopted by
the N.W.A. and the
West Coast rap
community. Cube
spends nearly
as much time in
the documentary
chronicling the
history of gangsta
rap music and its reflection of and influence on L.A.’s
urban community as he does on the Raiders’ history in
the city.

To help tell his story, Cube uses black-and-white
animation to accompany his narration of events in his
life, alongside vintage clips of the Raiders on the field
action — both during the team’s L.A. glory days and
during its losing years. Cube also examines the initially
enthusiastic and then somewhat tentative embrace the
Raiders gave the popular but raw and at times violent
gangsta rap movement.

Straight Outta L.A.
is not your traditional hour-long
sports documentary, but both hard-core and casual
sports fans — as well as a few music aficionados — will
enjoy this informative and entertaining program.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.