Watching YG’s steady move into political rap has been one of more subtly astounding trends in hip hop over the past few years. I’ll grant on the front end that the G-Funk revivalist isn’t out with dead prez or Immortal Technique-type screeds but the man born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson is responsible for the most potent protest song of the Trump-era (“FDT”) and crafted My Krazy Life which solders the personal with the political as well as Kendrick Lamar’s own day-in-the-life album good kid, m.A.A.d. city.
YG’s new track “YNS,” which he dropped along with “Fuck It Up,” isn’t an explicitly political track in any way, shape or form. It’s an irresistible minor-key banger all about having zero effs to give and doing what you wanna do not what someone tells you to do. It’s got a great line about YG not wanting to give someone dap because he doesn’t get down like that (or just isn’t in the mood). If is was condensed into a single expression it would be a middle finger the size of the Eiffel Tower.
The stark black-and-white video for “YNS” is a little less disconnected from the world it inhabits. It starts in medias res with the aftermath of the sort of police shooting that’s become far too familiar in America in 2017 and doesn’t get much better from that point. Someone else is seized upon in a manner similar to Walter Scott and the block party YG and company have going on is in constant danger of being shut down by the black and whites rolling up. Framed in that wearying and marginalized way the wanton expressions of not giving a good damn become innervated with far more meaning. All of this is an expression of resistance as much as anything else.