We get candid with the California rapper who’s leading the charge against the toxic bigot and working to improve his Compton community.
Earlier this year, MTV unearthed a prescient 1992 interview with Tupac Shakur in which the late rap icon speaks passionately about some of the biggest issues America is still facing today. Among them: wealth inequality, systematic institutionalized racism, and the critical lack of empathy for people most profoundly affected by these injustices. He even, prophetically, name checks Donald Trump nearly 25 years before the orange oligarch's rise to political power. Though Pac was born to New York-based Black Panther Party members, his legacy is steeped in both the sonic and sociopolitical traditions of West Coast gangsta rap. The genre's modern torchbearer, YG, has made it his mission to pick up where that interview left off. He's leading a new generation's charge against Trump.
Last month, YG released his sophomore album Still Brazy. Its biggest banger is titled simply "Fuck Donald Trump" — a rallying cry for Americans of all walks of life. Its music video shoot was shut down by LAPD, and the song ignited a Secret Service investigation into every lyric on Still Brazy (a few of which were actually censored). None of that stopped YG from releasing the anthem's follow up — "FDT Part 2" — during last week's Republican National Convention. And in an unexpected twist, he recruited G-Eazy and Macklemore to share their political perspectives on the sequel as well.
YG is engaging with these issues outside the studio, too. On Twitter, he's inspiring conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and boosting local politicians like Compton Mayor Aja Brown and State Senator Isaac Galvan. He's also established a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Compton's disadvantaged youth. We sat down to tackle all things Trump.
No Republican presidential candidate has won California since 1988; a lot of them don't even try to anymore. You're someone who speaks powerfully to the issues impacting your community, so I think it's great that you're committed to rallying people against him regardless of California's like-minded population. Why is important for you to keep having these conversations?
Because it's serious. It's so much bigger than California. I was working on music when we first started talking about all of this shit. We were having convos, I know the next motherfuckers were having convos, hop on Twitter and everyone's talking about this shit. So I was like, "I'm gonna say something and use my platform for something real." That was my first time making a meaningful record; I usually do the turn ups. But that shit had a real impact.
It really did. I think we're really starting to see more people in the game engage with these issues.
Yeah, it's like, wake up, America. Motherfuckers are talking about drugs and parties and guns and shit. But they gotta know there's more shit going on. We gotta say something, cause if not, it's like we're out here standing for nothing, like we ain't got no morals. That ain't what it is. That ain't me. So I decided to speak up.
Why did you want to get G-Eazy and Macklemore on "FDT Part 2"?
They're the two biggest white rappers in the game! I'm like, if I get two of the biggest white rap dudes in the game on this "Fuck Donald Trump" record, that shit is gonna mean something. Before Macklemore was on "Part 2" he said like, "Good shit bro, that shit was needed," about the first song. So I was like, "Bro, you support Trump?" and he was like "Fuck no!" I'm like, "Well look, I'm doing this remix and I want you to hop on it. It's actually with G-Eazy." And he was like, "I got you, send that shit." That's just the rap community. Everybody know that's where this rap shit started from: talking about problems and what's going on in inner city communities.
There's five more months until the election. Should we expect "Part 3"?
Man, I labeled it "Part 2" because a "Part 3" or "Part 4" could happen. I just gotta get off this tour and start putting some shit together!
I heard that you had made some Trump t-shirts, so I went on the 4Hunnid Instagram to have a look. I saw that a girl with a hijab is modeling them, and people in the comments section have been stoked. I think that's so important. A lot of fashion brands aren't at that place yet; diverse representation is a huge issue in our industry.
Other designers pull from the street all the time; they pull from the culture and put it into their shit. So I know the 4Hunnid brand is going to be successful because we ain't going by none of these fashion rules. We're doing what we do and speaking to where we come from.
Let's talk about your 4Hundred Waze non-profit and the projects you're working on.
We just do a lot of events to help give back to the kids and keep them off the streets — events around Christmas. We're doing a lot of small stuff right now because we're building it up, but we've got plans to put kids through colleges and help with cancer diagnoses.
What's been the most rewarding part of it so far?
Just seeing the smile on these people's faces. It really ain't nobody going back to Bompton like that. But my mama quarterbacked it all; she's from Bompton and that's the type of person she is. She had a daycare for probably ten years; that's always been a part of her life, helping parents and kids.
What can young people do to take action against Trump or the injustice in their own communities?
Man, it's hard. We for sure have to come together, but we have got to find the real people that's going to make a difference. A lot of certain people that just run this shit — it's a crazy system behind the scenes. As people, we can come together and we can protest, but honestly, that shit probably ain't going to change. We've gotta figure out who's behind the scenes, who will lead the people, and how we're going to get to them. Black people are painted as beefing with each other and killing each other, and that's why I think [police and politicians] think they can get away with so much shit — cause we do fucked up shit to our own kind. So when we come together in protest, that really means something. It's powerful. But, is that really going to make a difference with what's going on? I don't know, and that's the truth. But it's a start.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Eric Chakeen