DAVID MILLS: Was there any element of anticipation that N.W.A. would get a lot of publicity by being extra hard and extra profane and extra violent?
ICE CUBE: Nope, ’cause to us it ain’t extra. If you go onto any kind of playground – elementary – you’ll hear the same words we talk about in our songs. If you turn on any kind of cable TV, you’ll hear the same words.
We didn’t invent no words. We ain’t teaching nobody nothing new when it comes to that. They can’t blame us if their kids use profanity. They can’t blame us for no crime rate in no city, because there’s always been violence and there’s always been crime, wherever there’s people together. ...
Next album, we’re just going to do the record. No press, no nothing.
MILLS: Really? You’re tired of all the media attention?
CUBE: Yeah, to be honest. Ain’t nobody caused no riot and said, “Yo, N.W.A. made me do it.” At our concerts, a little thing happened in Detroit, which was the police’s fault.
MILLS: Tell me about that. Because I talked to your tour promoter here in D.C., and she said N.W.A. had agreed not to perform “Fuck tha Police” onstage because it could incite people. So y’all didn’t perform “Fuck tha Police” until you get to Detroit. Somebody starts singing “Fuck tha Police,” and the promoters stop the show, turn up the house lights and pull y’all off stage.
CUBE: That ain’t the way it happened. For one thing, we ain’t sign no agreement to not do “Fuck tha Police.” My signature, my manager’s signature, or Eazy’s signature ain’t on nothing. They can’t show you that shit.
MILLS: Did you agree verbally not to perform that song?
CUBE: We agreed verbally not to perform the song. [Some venues] didn’t want us to sing “Gangsta, Gangsta” or “Straight Outta Compton” [either]. We was like, “Fuck that.” The kids come to see this shit, you know?
So we go into Detroit, right? It’s our last show of the tour. Twenty thousand people there. Eazy done went platinum, we done went platinum. The show list is De La Soul, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, L.L. Cool J, Eazy-E and N.W.A.
MILLS: Hell of a show.
CUBE: Hell of a show. [But the concert organizers said] “Yo Eazy, man, y’all got to go on second.” We ain’t been in Detroit since the records came out. The last time we were in Detroit, all we had was 12-inches out.
So we’re like, “Second? Why the fuck we got to go second? We been burnin’ ass on this whole tour.” So we’re like, “Yo, man, they’re trying to fuck us, man, putting us on second.”
We usually don’t beef about going on second, but we see everybody else beefin’ and getting their way. Why can’t we beef and get our way, right? Like, “Fuck it, we ain’t going out if we gotta go on second.” ’Cause when we go on, we want everybody to be in there. We don’t want no half shit. Not being big-headed, because this is the first time we ever pulled some shit like this. We usually say, “First or last, we gonna tap that ass.” That’s the motto we got.
So we was like, “Fuck it, man, we should do ‘Fuck tha Police.’ It’s our last show. Let’s just go out with a bang.” Kids was coming to us in the hotel all day – “Yo, man, y’all singin’ ‘Fuck tha Police’?” We say, “Naw.” “Oh man, y’all shouldn’ta come if y’all wasn’t gonna do that!”
Our manager said, “Just go on second, man.” We’re like, “Cool. Straight. Fuck it.” It was an 8:30 show. We was going on at 9 o’clock, so we figured, you know, by 9 o’clock everybody’s in there that is in there.
So we’re backstage. It’s like, “Yo, man, should we do ‘Fuck tha Police’?” Nobody said yeah and nobody said no. Then we heard our cue so they ran up onstage, Ren and Dre and Yella. They go out first. To me, if nobody said yeah and nobody said no, we ain’t gonna do the song. That’s what I’m thinking. “I guess we’re going to do the regular show as planned.”
So it’s my turn to come up there, and I do “Gangsta, Gangsta.” Kids go crazy. After I finish “Gangsta, Gangsta,” after the lights go out and the music cut off, you hear the kids chanting: “Fuck the police! Fuck the police! Fuck the police!”
Then I go into “A Bitch Iz a Bitch.” After I finish that, I stop. “Fuck the police! Fuck the police! Fuck the police!” That’s all you hear the kids chanting.
After that, we went into “Straight Outta Compton.” After we finished that, the same thing: “Fuck the police! Fuck the police!” I went into “I Ain’t the One.” While I was doing “I Ain’t the One,” Ren and Dre was at the turntable talking. So after I finish “I Ain’t the One,” I announce everybody, right?
Now I’m about to go into “Dopeman,” as far as I know. But Ren said, “Wait a minute.” He goes to the front of the stage. He says, “Everybody say, ‘Fuck the police!’ ” They say “Fuck the police!” to the loudest they can.
I looked at Dre; Dre said, “Come in on two.” So I went into the song – “Fuck the police, comin’ straight from the underground...” The place went stupid.
Then we see about 20 motherfuckers from the back trying to bum-rush the front.
MILLS: Just fans or who?
CUBE: Undercover police. They’re in the back of the arena, but they’re throwing chairs out the way to get to the front of the arena. Nobody knows they’re police, not even me.
Then I’m thinking, “Damn, we done started some shit in here.” I didn’t know what was going on. I’m still singing the song but I’m still looking at ’em, because they leave the lights on in Detroit.
So they’re trying to climb over the barricade. As soon as one tried to climb, I saw his badge. I’m like, “Damn, that’s the police!” But I’m still rappin’. And security is fighting the police because they don’t know they’re police. They just think they’re motherfuckers acting a fool.
While this is going on, we hear two pops. Pop! Pop! So I’m thinking, “Oh shit! The police shootin’ at us!” That’s my first thought. So me and Ren just run off the side of the stage, we run to the back, I change my shirt, and I’m looking for an exit.
By this time, backstage is going crazy. The police is fighting L.L.’s security, police is fighting the building security, just trying to get to us. Our road manger pushes us in a van. “Go to the hotel, pack your shit. The police goin’ crazy. We’re leaving. We’re going to Canada.” So I’m like, “Bet. Let’s go.”
So we get to the hotel and we start packing our shit. We’re ready to break. While we’re taking our shit down to the bus, the lobby is full of police. Full of ’em – “Y’all goin’ to jail.” That’s what the police said.
So... they took us into this little room. All they did was talk to us. They told us they wanted to arrest us onstage to front us off in front of everybody to show that you can’t say “Fuck the police” in Detroit.
MILLS: That’s what they said to you?
CUBE: Yeah. So that was it. They took down our numbers and addresses and said we’d be getting a letter, and if they wanted to prosecute we’d have to send some money back or some old weak bullshit.
So I’m like, “Man, y’all did all this shit...” They did all that just to talk to us and say they didn’t like the record. ...
If we wouldn’t have heard those pops – which sounded like gunshots, but they said some kids were popping firecrackers – if we wouldn’t have heard that shit, we wouldn’t have ran. Yo, when I hear shots, I’m gone. Because you can’t miss a target with a spotlight. (laughs)
MILLS: The police tried to rush the stage just to make a point in front of all the fans that you couldn’t say that in Detroit?
CUBE: Yeah. So they started the fuckin’ riot. They started the trouble. We only had one more verse to go and that song would have been over. Kids didn’t go kill police.
I’m like, “Y’all gonna make the motherfuckers fight because they didn’t get to see Eazy. That’s what y’all gonna do.” So that was the shit that happened, man.
MILLS: But doesn’t that just go to show you? You must have realized something if you had agreed verbally not to do that song in any of the other cities.
CUBE: Some people, they were saying, “If you do the song, y’all never be able to come back to this building again.” So you can’t burn your bridges. But it was a spur-of-the-moment thing. You know, you just do shit spur-of-the-moment. You’ve got to take it how it comes.
MILLS: Does that mean you will never play Detroit again?
CUBE: I don’t know. From what I know, if we can’t play Detroit, the kids’ll come to Saginaw to see us. The hip-hop audience is a loyal audience. I know that for a fact. ...
MILLS: Is there a lesson – What’s the lesson you learned from that whole incident?
CUBE: Have a faster getaway. That’s the only shit I learned. Have a faster getaway. I don’t respect the Detroit police no more than I respect the L.A. police or anybody. Police, they’re just people, just like I’m people.
I told the Detroit police, “Yo, y’all want to do a song called ‘Fuck N.W.A.’? We’ll produce it. We don’t give a fuck.” Nobody wanted to do it, so I’m like, “Well, y’all had your chance.”
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