YG’s dedication to “FTD” on wax and IRL

N.W.A released the song “Fuck tha Police” in 1988. The next year, the lyrics of the song became subject of an FBI investigation. Similarly, Southern California rapper YG released the song “FDT” (“Fuck Donald Trump”) in March 2016. It, too, was part of an investigation when the Secret Service called Def Jam to inquire about the song’s lyrical content—and that of his entire album, Still Brazy. As a result, a couple of lines on “FDT” have been censored.

But that Secret Service phone call did little to dissuade the rapper from any further politically minded provocations—even when, in April, the video shoot for “FDT” was shut down temporarily by police due to calls concerned over large crowds that had gathered. That same month in an interview with Billboard, YG explained that all he wished to do with his song was incite young people to vote or else “it could be all bad for us.” YG’s vocal distaste for the reality show candidate led him to announce his Fuck Donald Trump Tour back in September.

Fast forward to November: On Election Day, YG commissioned the Yeastie Boys bagel truck to pass out free red bagels to hungry early morning voters in his native city of Compton; the bagels were named after YG’s protest song. Most likely intended as a morale boosting breakfast of sorts and a final farewell middle-finger to the orange oligarch, “FTD” is now enjoying a longer lifespan than anyone, even YG, had imagined or hoped for.

“FTD” continues in the rich tradition of hip-hop as an American art form embedded in the history of American protest against police brutality, institutional racism, the drug war and rampant income inequality, to list only some of the disenfranchisement that hip-hop speaks of. Hip-hop, like many art forms, has to be kept in its social and historical context to be appreciated at times; unfortunately, that social context has not changed much. Bluntly, hip-hop would not exist if black lives mattered; neither would the blues, jazz, soul or funk. Since the ’70s, groups such as the Last Poets to Dead Prez and artists like KRS-One to Kendrick Lamar have added to this tradition of speaking to issues found in marginalized communities, ones that may feel voiceless otherwise.

YG’s song began as a protest to a possibility, but now it’s a nationwide rallying call to those that dissent against our political reality.

On Saturday, YG performed two sold-out shows at Ace of Spades. During the second set, a predominantly young crowd packed the space. Before, and in between performances, I noticed the occasional attendee twirling in circles, like a displaced music-box ballerina, while taking a video of him or herself. Very short sets by Sad Boy, RJ, Kamaiyah were punctuated with reminders that “This is the Fuck Donald Trump Tour,” with intermittent chants of “Fuck Donald Trump” from the crowd and emcees.

Eventually, YG was rolled onstage on a gurney while a screen that stretched the length of the stage played footage of surgeons seen from a patient’s point of view and of the peaks and valleys of a medical monitor; YG, still on the prop medical cot, rapped the first few bars of “Who Shot Me?,” a song he wrote and recorded the same day in June of 2015 after he was shot three times by an unidentified shooter.

Throughout the rest of his set, YG commanded the stage and brought an energy and charisma that the other acts didn’t match as he breezed through hits like “Left, Right,” rapping portions of songs a capella, before transitioning into his more politically charged material, like “Blacks & Browns.”

At one point, YG requested that some of those who would be discriminated against by Trump’s most prejudiced promises volunteer to come to the stage for some post-election therapy: beating a Trump pinata. As the president-elect’s papier-mâché limbs flew into the crowd, YG claimed that Sacramento did the best job of destroying the Cheetos-esque demagogue’s doppelganger of the entire tour. As YG’s set ended, it was clear the emcee is utilizing his platform to motivate people to become more aware of minority issues, police brutality and to engage in the necessary process to not allow Trump to spew his racist, sexist, anti-Muslim, xenophobic hate-politics upon the country and the backs of those that built it. And that’s what hip-hop culture is all about.