1989: Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Arabian Prince, DJ Yella and MC Ren pay the price for their defiance and N.W.A. gain a new layer to a growing outlaw mythology.
Upon its release in 1988, "F**k tha Police" drew plenty of criticism for using confrontational lyrics that accused law enforcement officials of racism.
"F**k the police! Coming straight from the underground/A young nigga got it bad ‘cause I'm brown," raps Ice Cube in the opening bars from the song.
In the film's version Straight Outta Compton, the rap group makes a Joe Louis Arena stop during a 1989 tour. Before the show, Detroit police warn the group not to perform their controversial song "F**k the Police." N.W.A. play the song anyway, stirring the crowd into a frenzy. An explosion sound is heard — ostensibly gun shots — as undercover cops bum-rush the stage. The show ends abruptly and N.W.A. run offstage, only to get arrested in front of rioting fans outside the venue.
In reality, N.W.A. weren't arrested in front of a cheering crowd — in fact, they managed to evade police long enough to sneak back to their hotel room. But when they returned to the lobby, the police were waiting for them.
According to N.W.A.'s Ice Cube in an 1989 interview:
"They took us into this little room. All they did was talk to us. They told us they wanted to arrest us onstage to front us off in front of everybody to show that you can’t say 'F*ck the police' in Detroit."
Since its release in 1988, the "F**k 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.
Today, that song's message is, sadly, still as relevant as ever.
Since June 2020, "F**k tha Police" has seen a resurgence with a 272 per cent increase in on-demand streams, according to Rolling Stone. As demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd, anti-Black racism and police brutality continue across the United States and around the world, people are turning to the music that speaks to that experience.