An anti-police brutality activist took the podium at Tuesday's tense Anaheim city council meeting and began rapping the intro to “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A. Little did he know that history was being channeled as the world's most dangerous rap group performed the very same song nearly 25 years ago to the day! The Celebrity Theatre, literally a stone's throw from City Hall, played host to the concert that almost didn't happen on March 24, 1989.
“Anaheim, can I talk to y'all for one minute,” MC Ren said to the crowd then. “They didn't want us to do this show because they said Eazy-E and N.W.A. promote gang violence and drugs. And I'll tell you who said it, it was the po-lice, right!” Before getting into the cut, he hyped the crowd. “Say fuck the police!” MC Ren commanded. Concert goers responded and Ice Cube took it away.
The Weekly wasn't around back in the day for “Last Night Reviews” but Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times recapped the show. A teenager from Tustin told him that his mother cautioned against going to the show because “there could be a riot.”
The concert did get rowdy with a fight breaking out. 40 young people later spilled out of the Celebrity Theatre as Anaheim police sent out a dozen patrol cars but as Hilburn recounts, no arrests were made.
Still hot off the heels of its August 1988 release of Straight Outta Compton N.W.A. pushed its debut record towards its destiny to become an all-time hip-hop classic. Ice Cube, just 19 years old then, told the Anaheim crowd that the Celebrity Theatre was the only place they could perform, as sports arenas and Long Beach weren't welcoming.
The rapper also gave a little background on “Fuck Tha Police” to The Times before the show. “There is a lot of resentment of police because if you're black, you get picked on a lot,” he said. “They see you in a car or with a beeper and they assume you are a dope dealer. The song is a way to get out aggression. We're not really urging anyone to go out and attack police.”
The Celebrity Theatre shuttered in 1994. Twenty-five years later, a church group owns the facility refashioning it “The Rock Forum.” Police brutality is still very much the talk of the town–only not at a rap concert, but inside Anaheim's council chambers. There wasn't a riot the night N.W.A. performed, but street clashes took place near the site of the classic concert on July 24, 2012 after controversial police killings sparked riots.
There's always an irony in history and rappers from OC's young juice movement who weren't even born yet don't have to take the Weekly's word for it. N.W.A.'s entire set from that infamous concert is online. Enjoy!
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!