How did you help your son prepare for the role?
I really wanted to see if he was serious and focused. Sometimes you ask your kid for something and when it’s time to really go and do it, they start to back out. Other than that, I would just tell him my perspective on the situation–how I was feeling about other people. I just wanted him to have enough ammunition.
The film depicts the abuses of power by cops that inspired N.W.A’s “F-ck tha Police.” What was it like working on this film as the conversation around police violence reignited?
I knew that whenever we dropped this movie it would be timely because problems persist, which is really a shame. We haven’t held enough officers accountable for misconduct, abuse and–in some cases–flat-out murder.
The movie shows how predatory the music industry can be. Is that still the case?
There’s a long line of snakes out there. You have black guys taking advantage of black guys, white guys taking advantage of white guys and everything in between. Money really only has the color green.
This appears in the August 24, 2015 issue of TIME.