N.W.A’s classic 1988 anti-police-brutality anthem “Fuck tha Police” is just one of several protest songs — like Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” YG’s “FDT” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” — that have seen a resurgence in streams over the last week-plus as anti-police brutality protests continue to surge throughout the nation more than a week after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
As a mainstay at protests nationwide, “Fuck tha Police” saw a 272% percent increase in on-demand audio streams from May 27th through June 1st compared to the five days before Floyd’s death, according to Alpha Data, the data analytics provider that power the Rolling Stone charts. The song picked up particularly on Sunday and Monday, with 765,000 on-demand audio streams over those two days, which is nearly five times the streams the song was seeing on a Sunday and Monday before the protests. The song previously saw a surge in listening in August 2015 amid protests in Ferguson a year after the shooting of Michael Brown, but even then, its daily streams on Sunday and Monday were double the size they were in 2015.
“This Is America,” meanwhile, has been a viral soundtrack on TikTok for the past month, when teens began incorporating the song in TikToks about racial inequality when charges were filed in the case of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Gambino’s 2018 song witnessed a 149% jump in streams over the same time period as “Fuck tha Police.” Also surging were Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (+71%), Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” (+89%), D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “The Charade” (+122%), Killer Mike’s “Don’t Die” (+542%) and Beyoncé’s “Freedom” (+70%).
Decades-old songs have also received large spikes in streams, including James Brown’s “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” which has spiked 455%, and Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” which saw a 34% jump in streams.
Asked in 2016 how it felt to continue to see so many unarmed black men continually get killed by police officers almost 20 years after “Fuck tha Police,” N.W.A’s Ice Cube told Rolling Stone, “[It] makes me feel like a black man. That’s what it makes me feel like — same as always. As a black person, it’s always seemed like it’s a war on us. It’s just terrible.”