Ice Cube, of N.W.A. fame, refuses to be pressured into not performing the seminal rap crew’s (in)famous hit Fuck Tha Police even in the wake of multiple shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
The success of the 2015 Ice Cube biopic Straight Outta Compton has generated a flurry of new interest in N.W.A., and MC Ren and DJ Yella both joined Cube on stage during his Coachella gig earlier in the year to perform the aforementioned song along with other N.W.A. hits. Their influential song is still extremely powerful today, and just as controversial. Just last year a DJ was fined $50 for playing the track as police scattered party-goers. Fuck Tha Police could be seen as inciting violence against police officers, and is potentially even more volatile given the massive spike of racially charged tension the last few weeks have brought.
While many members of the musical community have been offering heartfelt tributes and calling for change and reform, Ice Cube is not feeling any heat. In an extremely brief interview with TMZ at an airport baggage collect, the rapper expressed surprise at the idea of pulling the track from his sets, stating “I ain’t gonna change nothing I do, cause I ain’t doing nothing wrong.” Which could sound a little like a cop-out.
Now I’m certainly not saying that rap music or “rap culture” is inciting violence, or that Ice Cube is responsible for the actions of a crazed gunman, but the statement that “I ain’t doing nothing wrong” offers one of two scenarios: 1) Ice Cube is ignoring the wider social and human consequences of music, or 2) He’s choosing to keep the song because the message is too vital to cut.
Let’s look at 1, briefly. Like it or not, cultural statements such as Fuck Tha Police have a wider influence in society. Hell, N.W.A.’s entire shtick was (aside from being great) politically charged rap. It’s one of the reasons we love Kendrick Lamar so much; because he manages to meld musical brilliance with phenomenal social commentary. So if it is 1), it seems a little irresponsible.
It’s Ice Cube’s choice though. If he is choosing to keep the track because he feels the message of frustration at racial targeting by law enforcement is too important to cut, I respect that. One of the hardest things to do as an activist is to stay on message, even when the alleged consequences of that become painfully real. And honestly, it is a little hard to imagine that a major member of one of the most political rap groups in history is ignoring the social factors of music.
Indeed, Cube isn’t doing anything wrong, seeing as the two attacks on police came in the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement. I guess it’s hard to have an in-depth and philosophical conversation about the ethics of such a decision at an airport baggage claim with a TMZ reporter when all you want to do is get to your hotel. But there is a dialogue to be had.
Image: Mass Appeal