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Ice Cube’s Football Fantasy
The rapper and Raiders superfan explains why the fabled franchise was the ideal team for L.A.
T he Oakland Raiders may not always be the toughest team in football, but its fans are the most badass. That is due in large part to the run the squad had in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1995, when it was adopted by the most badass rap group of all time, N.W.A. Founded in South L.A. by Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube, N.W.A. wrote songs about the Raiders and wore the team’s pirate insignia on baseball caps and jerseys, inspiring the look of gangster rap. In 1995, the Raiders returned to Oakland, leaving Los Angeles without an NFL franchise for the past two decades. As talk continues to swirl around a new stadium (AEG’s downtown and Majestic Realty’s in the City of Industry are both stalled), Ice Cube, 45, makes the case for pro football.
My brother used to take me to the Coliseum to see the Raiders play. The year they won the Super Bowl, in 1984, we went and saw a few games. I remember drawing a picture of a Raider. The image was the guy on the side of the helmet—but he had dripping vampire teeth. “Raiders beat the Deadskins.” To me they were the bad boys of the NFL. It was personality as well as the way they played. Not trying to hold football players up to be choir boys but letting them stay football players—I liked that style. Running back Marcus Allen was my favorite player. He had style, but he didn’t have to put it in your face. The Raiders played by their own rules and won. Which is the perfect team for Los Angeles, because if you try to play by the rules here, you’ll never win.
N.W.A didn’t get free tickets or shit like that—it wasn’t like the NFL embraced us. As fans, we were already totally invested. The Raiders sold a lot of merchandise—I think it was attributed to our group. Everywhere we would go, Raiders gear would be sold out—not just in South-Central. Even if the city had another team. We’d go to places like Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and all the Raiders gear would be sold out. We couldn’t find new Raiders gear. The youngsters saw us in it and had to have it. I saw a documentary about the 1988 “Bad Boys” [the NBA’s Detroit Pistons], and you can see them in Raiders gear during their run. It was a true merger of sports and music, where you could see the lines blurred.
Once again L.A. doesn’t have a team, but it’s dangled like a carrot. L.A. has been used by the owners in the NFL. They threaten to take their team to Los Angeles if their city doesn’t build them a stadium. I think some of the old-school owners don’t want to see some new-school punk come in and get all that revenue. The whole city is a blessing and a curse. L.A. has some of the most intense and intelligent fans in the country. But we love winners, and losers are dismissed. It’s dependent on the team. Nobody saw L.A. as a basketball town. They probably see it as a baseball town. I think people are so hungry for football, they’ll support a team—at least for the first 20 years. The city is sexier with a football team. But I’m still a Raiders fan.