A long, ghastly nightmare. That's how we Bay Area devotees of the Raiders regard the 13 years our nomadic football team wasted away in Los Angeles.

Ah, but for hip-hop artist and filmmaker Ice Cube, those were the glory days — a period in which he not only formed a lasting bond with the Raiders, but also helped to make the silver and black culturally viable to a new generation and demographic.

In the provocative ESPN documentary "Straight Outta L.A.," Ice Cube chronicles the Raiders' tumultuous Southern California tenure (1982-94) while examining how the team's renegade swagger captured the imagination of the fledgling gangsta rap community.

As director, he certainly does his homework, piecing together interviews with football greats like Howie Long and Marcus Allen alongside the contributions of rappers, journalists, cultural experts and even crusty Raiders owner Al Davis. It's all interwoven with liberal doses of his own perspective.

"My first impression of the Raiders was that they were violent and a little rough around the edges," Ice Cube says in voice-over narration. "And I think that's what I liked about them."

The film's title is a play on "Straight Outta Compton," the chart-topping album by N.W.A. that launched the gangsta rap revolution with explicit lyrics that reflected the rising anger of urban youth.


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Ice Cube and his N.W.A. cohorts, looking to add that extra touch of menace, routinely donned Raiders apparel for photo shoots and music videos and the look caught on. Suddenly, kids who didn't know a nickel defense from a 50-cent piece were rocking the Raiders gear and turning the "outlaw" franchise into a lucrative, worldwide brand. As rapper Snoop Dogg points out, "The hip-hop nation fueled the Raider nation."

But the tale has a dark side. Gangs started associating with Raiders colors and an element of thuggery became prevalent in the Los Angeles Coliseum, prompting families to flee in droves. The Raiders lost a lot of games, as well as the city's love, and high-tailed it back to Oakland.

Lacking a full-blown commitment to excellence, "Straight Outta L.A." doesn't provide much in the way of fresh insight. And it could stand a little less self indulgence on the part of its director. Overall, however, it's a brisk, compelling, well-told tale that carries some nostalgic value for fans of both music and football (There's nothing like clips of the 1983 Super Bowl triumph to ease the pain of recent Raider ineptitude).

The highlight of the film is Ice Cube's interplay with Davis who, with a near-skeletal frame, looks awfully terrifying these days — and not in a notorious, Darth Vader kind of way. Still, even at 81, Davis comes across as the combative rebel as he gruffly recalls his many legal brawls with the NFL and city officials.

But Ice Cube gets in the last punch with a ludicrous closing statement that will have Bay Area Raiders fans rolling their eyes. "One thing I know for sure," he says. "The silver and black might call another place home, but the Raiders will always belong to L.A."

Oh, please.

Contact Chuck Barney at cbarney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read his TV blog at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/tv and follow him at http://twitter.com/chuckbarney.

TV Documentary
WHAT: "Straight Outta L.A."
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: ESPN
GRADE: B