Who would have guessed that the guy who made “Toot It and Boot It” would become one of the primary faces of conscious rap in 2016? Forget that archetype of an intellectual, spiritual emcee preaching to the crowd in a kufi, though; this Bompton blood is strictly a street-level activist who’s more concerned with painting reality than finding remedies. In a time when Donald Trump is running for president, YG has emerged as the N.W.A. of his generation, a gang banger-turned-gangsta rapper with the eloquence of Eazy-E and essence of Ice Cube.
Politics hasn’t always been at the heart of YG‘s music, though. His 2014 breakthrough album, My Krazy Life, was a cinematic portrait of life in Bompton brimming with criminal episodes and DJ Mustard bangers—the Doughboy to good kid, m.A.A.d city’s Tre. As Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly shifted the scope to his current life, as well as wider issues plaguing his city, so too did YG’s sophomore album, Still Brazy. On songs like “FDT,” “Blacks & Browns” and “Police Get Away Wit Murder,” YG transformed from a blood to a Black Panther, calling out racial, criminal and economic injustices in Compton — and the country as a whole—while throwing up a heavily tatted middle finger to the powers that be.
“I always feel like I’m going to speak up about certain shit that’s going on but I never did because of shit I had going on. I feel like now, it’s just like ‘Fuck that shit.’ I’m going to sacrifice whatever or deal with the consequences,” he explained to BET about his newfound political approach. “We obligated to do that type of shit. We signed up for having that role. That’s why I feel that it’s off deck that motherfuckers is not pressing that line because it’s an obligation to come with it. It’s mandatory press right there.” He added, “there’s other rappers sucking dick, ‘You did that man. Man that was the greatest thing.’ Shut up, n*gga, you should’ve did it.”
As police brutality continues to plague black lives across America, so too does YG’s protest against racist cops. The West Coast rapper is currently on tour taking his unapologetically titled Fuck Donald Trump campaign across the country, but that hasn’t stopped him from speaking his mind in the studio. Last night, YG let loose this new track called “One Time Comin'.”
In contrast to the combative approach on “Police Get Away Wit Murder,” YG is all about safety first on “One Time Comin'.” “Gotta stay strapped, stay cautious,” he advises, before urging his people to “do the Forrest Gump, do the Forrest Gump / Get away young n*gga.” It’s Vince Staples’ “Norf Norf” hook extended into a two-minute, 51-second song. But if we’ve learned anything about YG, it’s that he never runs from a fight without getting in a few “fuck you”s, especially when it comes to cops: “You think you hard with your badge huh? / Pop you a n*gga, then you laugh, huh? / Think our life don’t matter? / You ain’t ‘bout to pop me, I’m like fuck that.”
YG hates police but only because they hate him and people who look like him. According to the song’s artwork, “One Time Comin'” was recorded “in loving memory of the victims of police brutality.” Small things like this often go unnoticed with YG. He does a lot of work beyond the spotlight to help his community, like his 4 Hundred Waze foundation, which provides support for young people in the foster care system who have suffered from abuse and violence. “We just appreciate everything you do for the city, and you really do it from the heart,” Compton Mayor Aja Brown told the rapper in a Power 106 interview earlier this year.
YG’s approach may be different from Kendrick Lamar’s, but his objective is the same: to protect and uplift the people of Compton. If that means cussing out cops or saying, “fuck Donald Trump,” then bool.