Behind the History and Meaning of the N.W.A. Song “F**k Tha Police”

Before we begin this, let us be clear: American Songwriter does not condone violence. Not against peaceful American citizens, not against law enforcement.

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However, as the country and its people witnesses yet another video in which police brutally murder a non-violent, non-threatening citizen—this time Tyre Nichols—it’s important to understand the emotion and the experience that underlies the rap song “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A.

Below, we examine the protest track “Fuck Tha Police” from N.W.A.

The Song’s History

“Fuck Tha Police” is a protest song from the rap group N.W.A. The song dropped in 1988 as part of the group’s LP, Straight Outta Compton. The origin of the song is also a prominent scene in the group’s collective biopic, also named Straight Outta Compton.

The lyrics for the song talk about police violence and police brutality, along with racial profiling. These are felt all too often in Black neighborhoods and have been for decades. In fact, some police reformists, including the NAACP, allege that the police department itself was created as a means to find and punish runaway slaves.

Since the song came out, the title continues to play a role in contemporary culture, appearing on T-shirts and in other political arenas. Big-name groups like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Rage Against the Machine, and even the Insane Clown Possee have been part of covers.

The Content

The song parodies the courts by presenting N.W.A. producer and DJ, Dr. Dre, as a judge who is hearing various trials prosecuting the police department. The rappers in N.W.A., from Ice Cube to MC Ren and Eazy-E, each take the stand to testify before Judge Dre. Each rapper criticizes the police.

And the end of the song, the police are found guilty of being redneck, white-bread, chickenshit motherfucker[s] despite the fact that “officers” in the song say that the rappers were lying. Dre orders him from the court.

To open the track, the booming-voiced Ice Cub raps:

Fuck the police comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
Fuck that shit, ’cause I ain’t the one
For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
To be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail
We can go toe-to-toe in the middle of a cell

Fuckin with me ’cause I’m a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product
Thinkin’ every nigga is sellin’ narcotics

You’d rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin’ in the Benzo
Beat a police outta shape
And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
Still getting swole off bread and water

The FBI and Censorship

After the song was released, the FBI wrote to N.W.A.’s record company saying that it did not approve of the song, alleging it misrepresented police. Many believed its claim—claims that continue to be harder and harder to discredit in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and now Nichols’ at the hands of police.

In his autobiography, former N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller, who split with the group acrimoniously, wrote that the letter was actually from a “single pissed-off bureaucrat with a bully pulpit” named Milt Ahlerich, who was falsely representing himself as part of the FBI. Nevertheless, Heller removed any important documents from the N.W.A. offices in case there was an FBI raid.

In 1989, Australian radio station Triple J was playing the song (the only radio station in the world at the time to do so) for around six months. Soon the Australian Broadcasting Corporation banned the song. Triple J staff went on strike and put N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself” on a continuous loop from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In 2011, New Zealand musician Tiki Taane was arrested on charges of “disorderly behavior likely to cause violence to start or continue” after performing the song at a club.


While the song may seem offensive to some, even brash and harsh, it’s important to note that it comes from a place of creativity and expression. Those who feel anger at the song may not have the same experience as those who wrote it and perform it.

Art is a form of expression, even if it causes discomfort. And as time passes and more and more people are found killed at the hands of police—from Floyd to Nichols to Breonna Taylor to countless others—maybe, just maybe, the song has always been truthful in its original intent and message.

With clarity can come change.

Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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