Straight Outta Compton
1988 | Rap
Spotify | Amazon
"Fuck the police and Ren said it with authority. -- Because the niggas on the street is a majority. -- Without a gun and a badge, what do ya got? -- A sucker in a uniform waitin to get shot."
- The song provoked a response from a rogue FBI agent to write NWA's record label, purporting to speak for the entire FBI.
- Was #417 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time.
- A cover version of the song by Bone Thugs n Harmony was added to the 20th anniversary edition of Straight Outta Compton.
THE HOT TAKES
Shiny badges don't grant extra rights, as they say. This song is a classic look at the relationship between minorities and police. My (strictly libertarian) angle on this is that color doesn't matter. Anyone being abused by the police is tragic. This is an everyday occurrence. Today though, 30 years after the song's original release, it is still certainly true that police profile based on race. Does this justify the kind of retaliatory violence proposed in the song? No. But there are thousands of specific victims that deserve to be freed and compensated for the wretched state of the United States "justice" system.
This bold song with it’s straightforward title pulls no punches. It is overflowing with the anger and frustration of young black men who have grown up being perpetual suspects and perpetually harassed. I can’t help but feel the narrative device the song uses of a courtroom where NWA are putting the police on trial is a fantasy of finally having the power to accuse and examine the police in the ways that they have been all their lives. Finally having a say in a system that is meant to enforce laws that have been made against the interests of individual rights. I think the biggest thing this music provides is an education for the rest of the country of what blacks in many inner cities have known for years. Law enforcing, rather that peacekeeping, order following, rather than personal responsibility, and the conflict of interest of a system that has a monopoly on violence and law, is a terribly oppressive mixture that makes us all less safe and less free.
So the problem with being the last one to do the writeups on these songs has been that some of them have very powerful but narrow messaging. What could I possibly add to the view of this song. We get it the police are an arbitrary authority acting like a gang in some capacities and an army in others. I think i'll focus on the army element. I can't say because I wasn't alive, but i hear there was a time when police were parts of the community and actually tried to help. I don't know if that truly was ever true but I doubt it. The most charitable thing I can say about them is they might exist as a revenue generating device...the alternative is that they exist solely as an occupying force. I don't support violence unless you are in a firsthand violent altercation but I think as much as we can we really need to help open up the eyes of those around us to exactly what police are, not what we want them to be.