N.W.A (Niggas With Attitude) was a hardcore rap group from Compton, California, a predominantly black suburb of Los Angeles. This song expresses their displeasure with the police, who they feel are racist and constantly harassing them. With lyrics like "I'm a sniper with a hell of a scope, taking out a cop or two, they can't cope with me" and "a sucka in a uniform waitin' to get shot by me or another nigga," it became one of their most controversial songs.
This song's proud justification of violence against the police didn't go unnoticed by law enforcement, who refused to provide security for N.W.A's shows. When the police actually did attend a concert in Detroit, it was only to storm the stage just before the group was about to perform the song. The FBI even sent a warning letter - the first official denouncement of a record ever made by the agency - which claimed the song "encourages violence against, and disrespect for, law enforcement officers." The letter soon went public and only added fuel to the N.W.A fire. MC Ren sounded off to Melody Maker about the FBI's claims in 1989: "The FBI claim that 'F--k tha Police' incites violence and has been responsible for the death of police officers is bullshit. There was violence long before NWA came along, the same as there was profanity, and there'll be violence and profanity long after we've gone. If the FBI are looking for a cause of violence, they should take note of what's on TV."
The uproar over N.W.A wasn't just contained in the United States. Australia's Triple J radio station was one of the only stations in the world to air the controversial "F--k tha Police" in 1989. It had been on regular rotation for about six months when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation lowered the boom and ordered the station to ban the song. The outraged staff responded by going on strike, but they had one last record to spin: N.W.A's "Express Yourself" - which played on a loop for the next 24 hours.
N.W.A doesn't just take aim at white cops in this song. In fact, they reserve most of their anger for black cops who, according to the group, are purposefully brutal to black suspects so they can earn the respect of white cops. Ice Cube raps:
But don't let it be a black and a white one
'Cause they'll slam ya down to the street top
Black police showing out for the white cop
N.W.A claimed they were not condoning violence, but they were documenting it. Their fingers were on the pulse of street life, which throbbed with animosity against the law enforcement. It would come to a head a few years later when Rodney King was beaten by police, inspiring the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Assistant Director of the FBI Milt Ahlerich wrote a letter to Ruthless Records in response to this song. He claimed N.W.A were advocating violence and disrespect towards law enforcement authorities. This provided a great deal of publicity for N.W.A and boosted album sales a great deal.
Group members Ice Cube and M.C. Ren wrote this track. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2015, Ice Cube explained that he was an angry young man when he wrote the song, and that he was simply lashing out at the problem of police brutality without understanding it or offering solutions. "It was easy for me to say, 'F--k the police, f--k everything, f--k the world,' but that's not going to help you," he said. "What's going to help you is for me to say, 'F--k the police, and her's how,' or to be the example of how to get out of the hood."
This was featured in the 2015 South Park episode "Naughty Ninjas" in a scene where the citizens of the town fire the entire police force, which has admitted that they those their careers so they could beat up minorities. When the homeless population starts camping out at the Whole Foods, the townspeople beg the police to return, and get this reply:
"Who was it that said, 'F--k the police?' Was that Ice Cube? Tupac? Oh, right, that was you guys."
Before the show was produced, Ice Cube made some comments in a Twitter Q&A where he took some credit for the series. "We let the world know that you could be just as famous doing it hard and rough and taboo and dirty and all the other things that they call our music," said Cube. "We opened a door for artists like Eminem and shows like South Park."