Fuck tha Police

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"Fuck tha Police"
Song by N.W.A
from the album Straight Outta Compton
ReleasedAugust 9, 1988
Recorded1988
Genre
Length5:43
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Audio sample
"Fuck tha Police"

"Fuck tha Police" is a protest song by American hip hop group N.W.A that appears on the 1988 album Straight Outta Compton as well as on the N.W.A's Greatest Hits compilation. The lyrics protest police brutality and racial profiling and the song was ranked number 425 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2]

Since its release in 1988, the "Fuck the Police" slogan continues to influence pop culture today in the form of T-shirts, artwork, political expression, and has transitioned into other genres as seen in the cover versions by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Dope, Rage Against the Machine, and Kottonmouth Kings (featuring Insane Clown Posse).[3][4]

Composition[edit]

"Fuck tha Police" parodies court proceedings inverting them by presenting Dr. Dre as a judge hearing a prosecution of the police department. Three members of the group, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and Eazy-E, take the stand to "testify" before the judge as prosecutors. Through the lyrics, the rappers criticize the local police force. Two interludes present re-enactments of stereotypical racial profiling and police brutality.

At the end, the jury finds the police department guilty of being a "redneck, white-bread, chickenshit motherfucker."[5] A police officer, which is revealed to be the defendant, contests that the arguments presented were all lies and starts to demand justice as Dr. Dre orders him out of the courtroom, prompting the police officer to yell obscenities as he's led out.

FBI letter[edit]

The song provoked the FBI to write to N.W.A's record company about the lyrics expressing disapproval and arguing that the song misrepresented police.[6][7][8]

In his autobiography Ruthless, the band's manager Jerry Heller wrote that the letter was actually a rogue action by a "single pissed-off bureaucrat with a bully pulpit" named Milt Ahlerich, who was falsely purporting to represent the FBI as a whole and that the action "earned him a transfer to the Bureau's backwater Hartford office".[9] He also wrote that he removed all sensitive documents from the office of Ruthless Records in case of an FBI raid.[9]

In the FBI letter, Ahlerich went on to reference "78 law enforcement officers" who were "feloniously slain in the line of duty during 1988" and that recordings such as those produced by N.W.A. "were both discouraging and degrading to these brave, dedicated officers". Ahlerich did not mention any N.W.A. song by name in the letter, but later confirmed he was referring to "Fuck tha Police".[10]

Censorship[edit]

"Fuck the police" graffiti in Cairo, 2011

In 1989, Australian radio station Triple J had been playing "Fuck tha Police" (the only radio station in the world to do so)[11] for up to six months, before being banned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation management following a campaign by a South Australian Liberal senator.[12] As a reaction, the staff went on strike and put N.W.A's "Express Yourself" on continuous play for 24 hours, playing it roughly 360 times in a row. It was revealed in 2005 that the scratch sound from that track was sampled for the Triple J news theme.[13]

On 10 April 2011, New Zealand dub musician Tiki Taane was arrested on charges of "disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence to start or continue" after performing the song at a gig in a club in Tauranga during an inspection of the club by the police.[14][15] On 13 April, Tiki told Marcus Lush on Radio Live that the lyrics often feature in his performances and his arrest came as a complete surprise.[16]

Notable references in popular culture[edit]

  • The song and the group were parodied in the 1994 hip-hop mockumentary film Fear of a Black Hat and its soundtrack album, as a single for the fictional gangsta-rap group N.W.H. (Niggaz With Hats) as "Fuck the Security Guards."[17]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has proven popular, covered by various bands. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's version first appeared on the 1997 compilation album, In tha Beginning...There Was Rap, and was later added to the 20th anniversary edition of Straight Outta Compton.[20]

Also covered by Dope, an industrial nu-metal band on their debut and best selling album to date Felons and Revolutionaries in 1999.

Charts[edit]

Chart (2015) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[21] 49
UK Singles (OCC)[22] 97
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[23] 25

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The D.O.C. on Ice Cube Leaving NWA: Cube Was the Spirit". YouTube. November 13, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". rollingstone.com. December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "YouTube: Fuck tha Police (RATM cover)". Rage Against the Machine. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  4. ^ "F*ck tha Police". AllMusic. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  5. ^ https://genius.com/Nwa-fuck-tha-police-lyrics
  6. ^ Deflem, Mathieu. 2020. "Popular Culture and Social Control: The Moral Panic on Music Labeling." American Journal of Criminal Justice 45(1):2-24 (First published online July 24, 2019).
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "AllMusic: NWA Biography". Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  8. ^ Harrington, Richard. "The FBI as music critic". Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Jerry Heller, Gil Reavill, 2006. Ruthless: A Memoir. pp. 141-143. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. ISBN 1-4169-1792-6
  10. ^ HOCHMAN, STEVE (October 5, 1989). "Compton Rappers Versus the Letter of the Law : FBI Claims Song by N.W.A. Advocates Violence on Police". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  11. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/30years/stories/s1286179.htm Archive
  12. ^ "30 Years of Triple J - Censorship and NWA's Fuck the Police". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. January 21, 2005. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  13. ^ Triple J News Theme's 30 years. YouTube. April 28, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  14. ^ "Tiki Taane arrested after chanting 'Fuck the police' at gig".
  15. ^ "Tiki Taane case adjourned". The New Zealand Herald. June 1, 2011.
  16. ^ "Tiki Taane - new poster boy for freedom of speech". RadioLIVE, MediaWorks NZ. April 13, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  17. ^ "Fuck the Security Guards". AllMusic. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  18. ^ "Ice Cube". Billboard. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  19. ^ "'South Park' Endorses 'Ferguson Effect,' Presents a World Without 'Racist, Trigger-Happy' Cops". The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  20. ^ "JB Hi-Fi - Straight Outta Compton: 20th Anniversary Edition N.W.A." jbhifionline.com.au. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  21. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. September 14, 2015. Archived from the original on March 17, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  22. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  23. ^ "N.W.A Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 25, 2015.