Straight Outta Compton is a debut album by the Niggaz Wit Attitudes, an American hip hop group (N.W.A). The album was released on the Ruthless Records label in August 1988. The album’s production was overseen by Dr. Dre and DJ Yello. Arabian Prince was a co-producer on the album. This was the first of many albums produced by N.W.A, who is credited with pioneering gangster rap. Hardcore hip-hop influenced this style of rap, which emphasized the gangsta lifestyle. During the 1980s and 1990s, this subgenre of rap was discovered to be commercially appealing, with many hip hop artists associating themselves with street gangs in order to boost their artistic image. Straight Outta Compton inspired the rise of other artists from Compton, California and Los Angeles and further enhanced popularizing of artists lyrics. Despite the significance of the track to the black community, the album contained lyrics that promoted violence, sexual intimacy, and profanity directed towards the US government and the police department.
The track, F**k the Police created a lot of controversies among the US government’s departments. According to Forray, Forman & Neal Mark (285), other artists such as the Black Panthers set the stage for the NWA when they introduced phrases such as ‘Policing off the Police’ and shouting ‘Off the Pigs’. Unlike the NWA, the Panthers had a political plan. The NWA nevertheless attracted political attention as they demanded the consideration of their rights. In a nutshell, the song addressed issues of police brutality, oppression based on race, violence, unemployment, human rights, black-on-black crime (Forray, Forman & Neal Mark, 358). In one part of the lyrics that touch on police brutality is as:
F**k the Police coming straight from the underground
A young nigger got it bad ‘cause I’m brown
I’m not the other color
Some people think
They have the authority to kill the minority
F**k that s**t,’cause I ain’t the one
For a punk, mother**her with a badge and a gun
To be beaten on, and thrown in jail (358)
Police brutality among the men from the black community was a common occurrence. Walker & April (579) describes police brutality as the use of excessive force, verbal assault or emotional intimidation against the individuals by the police. Blacks are more likely to become victims of police brutality compared to the whites (Chaney, Cassandra & Robertson 3). Therefore, there is a high likelihood of the blacks being treated with brutality hence the production of the track F**ck the Police that highlighted these issues. This paper will mention the instances of police brutality in relation to the track by ANW.
In the 1980’s police brutality was an ongoing problem in the United States especially among individuals of African American descent. This abuse of human rights inspired the track F**ck the Police in which NWA used to criticized the methods that the police especially the LAPD used against the black men as they were considered unfair and brutal against human rights.
The Hypothesis of Minority Group Threat
This hypothesis is explored by Rembert, David, Watson Jerry & Hill Ricky (231) who describes it as the state where the dominant/majority groups use the state apparatus such as the law and other enforcement agencies to protect their own interests. The minority group is seen as a threat towards the political, social and economic interests. In such a scenario, the minority groups are likely to be exposed to harsher penalties, prejudice and discriminative practice by the law enforcement agencies because they are seen as a threat towards the dominant’s group social order. The law enforcement agencies may also be dedicated to ensuring that the dominant’s group’s segregation and social order are a priority hence may end up using excessive force towards the minority to ensure that this is achieved. This hypothesis can be used to explain police brutality against black men as they are seen as a threat towards the social order of the white supremacy rule.
History of Police Brutality against Black Men
The unwarranted violence by the law enforcement agencies in the US against black men is not an anomaly but rather has deep roots historically. Originally, the African Americans were not only considered to be inferior but also had a high tendency to participate in the crime. This theory was formulated by Jefferson who was considered as a slave master and the author declaration of independence. In Jefferson’s words, the blacks were less beautiful, had a disagreeable order and that was strong and more ardent than the whites. Further, the 1787 constitution of the US was centered on protecting the white man’s interests and was passed by 55 white men (232). To achieve its mandate, a black man was considered to be three-fifths of all other persons. This was emphasized by the supreme court where Justice Taney, mentioned that the decisions made by the black people were inferior and no white man was tied to it (229). Throughout history, these fallacies were propagated from one generation to another and it was largely believed that the black man was inferior to the whites.
Criminalizing of African Americans in the US has since existed as the white community has been conditioned to relate the blacks to criminal activities following the North and South slave supremacy. Throughout the 20th centuries, there have been various cases of police brutality against the black men reported. An instance is the murder of Emmet Till in 1955 and scores of other young boys of African American descent (Dean & Peter 30). A literary critic, Baker Houston (7) mentions that owing to the brutality towards black men, they develop an inborn anticipatory self-defense towards the men-in-blue. One of the self-defense mechanisms is in their music which they expected to express their views on the issue.
Police brutality and F**ck the Police
Before the release of the track, life for the African Americans was difficult. They were exposed to poverty and unemployment which forced them to join criminal gangs and other illegal activities such as selling drugs. In 1987, the Los Angeles chief of police, Daryl Gates ordered an operation named Hammer that was aimed at cracking down gang violence and drug use. These operations, however, appeared to specifically target the young black community which was discriminative. A few days before the release of the album, Straight Outta Compton, two houses in the LAPD neighborhood was raided by the LAPD using excessive force. Nevertheless, the notion of police brutality against the black community was not accepted until the publicity of the harassment of Rodney King.
The track F**k the Police exposed the depth of poverty and brutality that a young black man living in the Los Angeles projects, experienced. From the song, the NWA is trying to express the rage and frustrations of black men as they face police brutality and racism. This track aims to address the Los Angeles Police Department brutality which is widespread throughout the country and widely felt by every member of the African American community. The release of the song sparked concerns among the targeted department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations went as far as sending a letter of displeasure to the recording company citing that it was a representation of the police department. The action of the FBI is viewed as careless and lacks concern as it is their duty to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to ensure that fairness and justice are delivered to all citizens regardless of their color or ethnic background. This relates to the hypothesis of minority group threat whereby the law enforcers side with the majority to ensure that the minority groups do not infringe on their rights.
Impact of F**ck the Police
The release of the track caused uproar across the government agencies and the black community. Many people from the African American community could relate to the song as it addressed the deep issues that they faced as a society. The issue of police brutality was the continuation of the fallacies that supported that the whites were superior to the blacks. It also agreed with the hypothesis of the minority group threat which emphasizes on the need of oppressing the rights of the minority to advance the interest of the majority in the community. The release of the album was a retaliatory move by the African American community that signified their hatred towards the police for the unfair treatments that they passed them through.
Despite, the opposition of the album by the government, the album was adapted by other hip hop artists as it influenced the construction of the messages in their songs. The adoption of the message aided in the evolution of gang hip-hop that led to the liberation of the black community from police brutality in the 1980s. Several authors have however suggested that the NWA should not be excused for using foul language in their album. Their tracks instigated gang violence and drug abuse among the African American communities. Forman, Murray & Neal Mark (66) mentions that the lyrics used in the song was evidence that the young black men in the 1980s were exposed to the use of violence. It also celebrates the use of violence and drugs by the community. This explains the outcome of oppression and brutality from the police because their behavior is seen as a threat to the whites and other blacks. Hence, it would be advisable that the NWA is informed of the looming danger of praising violence as it not only exposes them to police brutality but also encourages black-on-black crime.Conclusion
Evidently, individuals of African American descent have encountered racism from time in memorial. It dates to the era of slavery where the blacks were considered inferior compared to whites. Since they were the minority, the hypothesis of the threat of minority played a role in further oppressing their rights. Police brutality is one of the factors associated with racism. In the 1980s, the Black men were exposed to unemployment that led to poverty. This led them to engage gang violence and drug sale. During this Hammer Operation to arrest the culprits, the black community appeared to be the main target as they faced police brutality. This inspired the rise of the NWA who released the Album, Straight Outta Compton that showed the extent of police brutality that the black community faced during that period. The track F**ck the police was one of the tracks that sparked a lot of controversies across the board. The track exposed the actions of the police towards the black community. The track also praised the use of violence and drug abuse within the community which showed the extent of moral decay that warranted the use visits from the LAPD. Nevertheless, the track raised awareness of the oppression endured by the black community during the police raids which were marked as unfair compared to how the whites were treated. The song achieved its mandate of vouching for the rights of Black males in the 1980s against the brutal treatment of the police.
Baker, Houston A. Turning south again: re-thinking modernism/re-reading Booker T. Duke University Press, 2001.
Chaney, Cassandra, and Ray V. Robertson. “Racism and police brutality in America.” Journal of African American Studies 17.4 2013: 480-505.
Dean, Peter R. “Book Review: In Remembrance of Emmett Till, Regional Stories and Media Responses to the Black Freedom Struggle.” The Southeastern Librarian 62.3 2014: 12.
Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That’s the joint! the hip-hop studies reader. Psychology Press, 2004.
Rembert, David A., Jerry Watson, and Rickey Hill. “A trilogy of trepidation: Diverse perspectives on police violence targeting African American males.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 26.2 2016: 227-235.
Walker, April. “Racial Profiling-Separate and Unequal Keeping the Minorities in Line-The Role of Law Enforcement in America.”. Thomas L. Rev. 23 2010: 576.