Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

May 12, 2010
Ice Cube's "Straight Outta L.A." a drive down memory lane

Night had fallen on Los Angeles on Dec. 18, 1988 and I had attended my first Raiders game on a media credential (old school-style, stringing for the Barstow Desert Dispatch). The Raiders had just dropped an uninspiring 43-37 game to the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum. A victory, and the Raiders would have won the AFC West at just 8-8 and returned to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

My dad came to the game with me and as we sat on Figueroa Street, in stereotypical bumper-to-bumper post-game traffic, we grew bored of dissecting the game. So I pulled out my newest cassette tape - NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" - and threw it in the deck (no, not an 8-track; not even an Alpine tape deck).

And as the title track bumped, my dad, his head bobbing, looked at me.

"Mijo," he said, "this music makes me want to fight. This is fightin' music."

He had barely finished talking when the two cars ahead of us started blaring their horns at each other. The guy in the forward car jumped out of his ride and walked to the rear. The guy in the back car got out, too, and they approached each other, yelling. One quick punch later, one dude went down like a sack of New Mexico green chiles. Out cold. On the street.

My dad made a quick U-turn and we were out. No need sticking around to see how things escalated, right? Besides, taquitos on Olvera Street beckoned.

So with that memory seared in my cortex, I anxiously awaited Ice Cube's ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Tuesday on the connection between the rise of gangsta rap in Los Angeles and the Raiders' Southland arrival in 1982. "Straight Outta L.A." did not disappoint, even if it felt like I was watching some sort of cross between VH1's "Behind the Music" and an NFL Films production. In fact, it made the show all the more enjoyable, though I certainly understand how it could turn off others.

Ice Cube.jpg

"The Autumn Wind" blending into "Express Yourself" to open the show? Ice Cube, who grew up a Raiders fan in South Central L.A., strolling into the Coliseum with Long Beach's Snoop Dogg, who was rocking a Bo Jackson jersey, talking about their childhood in the 'hood, while rooting for the Silver and Black? Talk about worlds and cultures colliding. Then again, that's what the ultra-inclusive Raider Nation is all about, right?

Ice Cube had interviews with such former players as Marcus Allen, Howie Long, Todd Christensen and Rod Martin. Conspicuous by their absence, though, were Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett.

At one point, Ice Cube even looked a bit intimidated by Al Davis in an interview Davis barely granted.

I Tweeted throughout - @paulhgutierrez - so a sampling, then, of some of the more telling and noteworthy quotes from the 60-minute show:

"If you look at an NFL stadium before the boom of hip-hop, and look at it afterwards, you see the difference." - Ice Cube, on how the Raiders, through their image, colors and history, appealed to a certain segment of society.

Al Davis.jpg

"The black kids needed something to hold their hat to. It brought fans. It brought people to love the Raiders. It was great." - Al Davis.

Al Davis admitted he did not like the L.A. Kings hockey team, upon the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988, switching their colors from purple and gold to silver and black: "They did have beautiful uniforms," Davis allowed. "It was classy."

"After Tom Flores retired, we brought in Mike Shanahan, who tried to just destroy the Raider organization." - former linebacker Rod Martin.

"We slipped tremendously and it's my fault. I'm the custodian. I'm the Raiders. At least the face of it." - Al Davis, on the team's fall in the late-1980's.

Ice Cube even delved into the Al Davis-Marcus Allen Feud and asked Davis if Allen was a "true Raider" in his mind. "At one time. Yeah, he was," Davis said. So Ice Cube pressed and asked what exactly happened. "I'm not going to tell you," Davis said, before cryptically adding, "it's a deeper story than you even dreamed that I was well aware of and I've just got a certain approach to life."

"I really believe that Pete (Rozelle) wanted the (Los Angeles) franchise for himself. Yeah. And he wasn't going to get it from me." - Al Davis, on his feud with the longtime NFL commissioner.

To his credit, Ice Cube did not run from his belittling lyric toward the Raiders and Al Davis, rapped on his second solo album, Death Certificate, in 1991: "I stopped giving juice to the Raiders, 'cause Al Davis, never paid us." I asked Ice Cube about that lyric on opening night this past season and he laughed it off then, saying it was "squashed."

"I think after that (Rodney King) Riot, Al just wanted to pack up and leave...I don't know if anybody in L.A. cared at the time. I know I didn't." - Ice Cube, on the Raiders' decline in popularity in the wake of the 1992 riots.

"As L.A. knows, if they can get a stadium (pregnant pause) they can knock on the door." - Al Davis, refusing to shut the door in a return to the Southland.

"I've been a Raider fan for most of my life and my career in music will always be linked...to the Raiders and their era...in Los Angeles." - Ice Cube

"You can get mad at Al Davis. You can curse the NFL. Or you could blame it on gangsta rap. But one thing I know for sure, the Silver and Black might call another place home, but the Raiders will always belong to L.A." - Ice Cube's closing soliloquy.

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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