“We Just Brung Real Hip-Hop Back": YG Becomes Gangster Rap's New Political Activist

From music with a message to fights with police, YG's carrying on N.W.A.'s legacy of gangster rap as political protest.

“We just brung real hip hop back.” —YG

That's what YG tweeted after Donald Trump suddenly cancelled his upcoming campaign rally in California. Prior to Los Angeles, Trump's previous rallies had increasingly been making headlines for their chaotic, hateful, and violent atmosphere. Just like Obama did eight years ago, change is what Donald Trump is promising, but the hope he is selling sounds more like a nightmare than a dream.

This inspired YG and Nipsey to record and release “Fuck Donald Trump,” a passionate middle finger to the Republican candidate. Over a G-Funk tune that would make Nate Dogg beam with OG pride, the two rappers express their disdain; there’s no sugar coating their aggravation, it’s raw, unfiltered and defiant. YG and Nipsey, a Blood and a Crip, uniting to bring down a common enemy. The song sent a message and Donald’s decision was seen as a sign that he heard them loud and clear.

Billboard interviewed the two rappers after the song's release inquiring about their views on the election, politics, and the reason for their animosity toward Donald and everything his toupee represents. When asked if it’s important for artists in hip-hop to share their political views, YG said the following: 

"That shit is important because we got a lot of people with power that really ain't doing too much. I feel like these motherfuckers that got more power have to open their eyes and register to vote but motherfuckers really ain't doing nothing. Me and Nip always talk about that but we already deal with getting blackballed by the police, shows getting shut down, so we was always hesitant about going ham on shit. But fuck all that—this hip hop, this rap, we got a platform and we're going to use it for the right shit. I ain't hesitating no more." —YG & Nipsey Hussle Discuss Their Anti-Donald Trump Track

YG hasn’t been hesitating, quietly he’s been finding ways of raising awareness of what’s happening with LAPD and police brutality. Earlier this year, a video surfaced online with the caption, “YG arrested earlier today.” It’s shot on a cell phone camera, all you see is a struggling YG being put into handcuffs by an aggressive white officer. There’s a man holding a camera inches from his face. Without context, it appears that the man is filming the arrest. It’s becoming very eerie how often we watch black men struggle with police officers from this point-of-view. Luckily, the scene was for a promotional video for his 400 Hunnid clothing brand. The official video was released with photos from the collection.

Not only is police brutality replicated in the video, but the pictures also show off the clothes with officers imitating an actual pick-up. There's one picture where the officers are carrying a limp body with the caption, "This Is Regular." Rap’s crossing into fashion is nothing new but I can’t name any other rapper who has used their clothing brand to send such a message.

I have a theory about the music industry. Everything worth seeing is never shown. The best comments are given off the record, the best moments happen when the cameras stop rolling, what is kept a secret is way more interesting than common knowledge. The “Fuck Donald Trump” video is a great example. The visual is pretty good, the message that plays at the beginning is a nice added touch to represent their views. I love how it's shot in black-and-white with only the red and blues highlighted to represent YG’s and Nipsey’s gang affiliation.  

What isn’t shown in the video but was captured on Instagram is how the LAPD shut down the music video shoot. There were over 100 people with them, music was loud, and it’s not a surprise that someone called the police. The problem is how in the few seconds of the clip you can see below, the officers approach them with tasers drawn. They're aggressive, eerily similar to how the actor handled YG for his commercial except this was real. A caption said that the officers arrived in riot gear and that more than tasers were drawn. No one was harmed, no one was arrested, but this was the police's first instinct when it came to handling a loud street party? 

Donald Trump, a political candidate who is running for President, has rallies that result in far more crimes committed than what was occurring when the officers arrived. Life has a funny way of imitating art, and vice versa. Or maybe when your art is your life the two colliding is inevitable, and so we can expect YG's music to only get more political.

This is hip-hop as a political movement, this is the legacy of N.W.A.'s "Fuck the Police" alive and in front of us. YG's not hesitating anymore. 

By Yoh, aka The Final Instant Messenger, aka @Yoh31.