"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 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] In 2021, Rolling Stone re-ranked the song at number 190 in an updated list.[3]

"Fuck tha Police"
Song by N.W.A
from the album Straight Outta Compton
ReleasedAugust 9, 1988
Audio sample
"Fuck tha Police"

Since its release in 1988, the "Fuck the Police" slogan continues to influence popular culture 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).[4][5]

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, chicken-shit motherfucker."[6] A police officer, who 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 is led out.

FBI letter Edit

The song prompted the FBI to write to N.W.A's record company about the lyrics, expressing disapproval and arguing that the song misrepresented police.[7][8][9]

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".[10] Heller also wrote that he removed all sensitive documents from the office of Ruthless Records in case of an FBI raid.[10]

In the 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".[11]

Censorship Edit

"Fuck the police" graffiti in Cairo, 2011

In 1989, Australian youth radio station Triple J had been playing "Fuck tha Police" (the only radio station in the world to do so)[12] for up to six months, before being banned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation management following a campaign by a South Australian Liberal senator.[13] As a reaction, Triple J staff went on strike and put N.W.A's "Express Yourself" on continuous play from 9am until 4.30pm (AEST), totalling 82 plays.[14] The song was preceded on each occasion by a speech explaining that due to industrial action, normal transmission had been interrupted.[14] It was revealed in 2005 that the scratch sound from that track was sampled for the Triple J news theme.[15]

On 10 April 2011, New Zealand 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.[16][17] 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.[18]

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."[19]
  • It is prominently featured in the 2015 biopic of N.W.A, also called Straight Outta Compton.[20]
  • The song was satirically referenced in South Park's season 19 episode "Naughty Ninjas", when the townspeople are protesting the police.[21]

Charts Edit

Chart performance of "Fuck tha Police"
Chart (2015) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[22] 49
UK Singles (OCC)[23] 97
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[24] 25

Certifications Edit

Certifications for "Fuck tha Police"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[25] Gold 40,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[26] Gold 400,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ "The D.O.C. on Ice Cube Leaving NWA: Cube Was the Spirit". YouTube. November 13, 2015. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. 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. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". rollingstone.com. September 15, 2021. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  4. ^ "YouTube: Fuck tha Police (RATM cover)". Rage Against the Machine. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  5. ^ "F*ck tha Police". AllMusic. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  6. ^ "N.W.A – Fuck tha Police" – via genius.com.
  7. ^ Deflem, Mathieu (2020). "Popular Culture and Social Control: The Moral Panic on Music Labeling". American Journal of Criminal Justice. 45: 2–24. doi:10.1007/s12103-019-09495-3. S2CID 198196942.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "AllMusic: NWA Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  9. ^ Harrington, Richard. "The FBI as music critic". Washington Post. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Jerry Heller, Gil Reavill, 2006. Ruthless: A Memoir. pp. 141-143. Simon Spotlight Entertainment. ISBN 1-4169-1792-6
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Censorship and NWA's Fuck the Police: 30 years of triple j". Triple J. 2005. Archived from the original on December 16, 2016. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  13. ^ "30 Years of Triple J – Censorship and NWA's Fuck the Police". Triple J. January 21, 2005. Archived from the original on February 22, 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Chamberlin, Paul; Casimir, Jon (September 2, 2015). "Express yourself: The day Triple J played the same N.W.A. song 82 times in a row". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on January 24, 2021. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  15. ^ "Triple J News Theme's 30 years". Triple J. April 28, 2012. Archived from the original on March 22, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2015 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Satherley, Dan (April 11, 2011). "Tiki Taane arrested after chanting 'F*** the police' at gig". 3 News. Archived from the original on March 2, 2018. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  17. ^ "Tiki Taane case adjourned". The New Zealand Herald. June 1, 2011. Archived from the original on September 30, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  18. ^ "Tiki Taane – new poster boy for freedom of speech". Magic.co.nz. April 13, 2011. Archived from the original on November 26, 2020. Retrieved March 19, 2021.
  19. ^ "Fuck the Security Guards". AllMusic. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
  20. ^ "Ice Cube". Billboard. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  21. ^ Wilstein, Matt (November 12, 2015). "'South Park' Endorses 'Ferguson Effect,' Presents a World Without 'Racist, Trigger-Happy' Cops". The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  22. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. September 14, 2015. Archived from the original on March 17, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  24. ^ "N.W.A Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  25. ^ "Canadian single certifications – NWA – F**k tha Police". Music Canada. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  26. ^ "British single certifications – Nwa – F**K Tha Police". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 11, 2022.