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On "FDT Part 2" and the Awkward Allyship of White Rappers

On August 23, 2016

by Michael Penn II

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 11.31.45 AM

On this very site, I’ve called the original “FDT” a classic: a moment in modern-day gangsta rap symbolizing the power of its pundits, YG and Nipsey Hussle, as political actors utilizing their platform as a tool to amplify the marginalized communities that serve as their origin points. A Blood and a Crip realizing the ills of a political nightmare, and electing to fight with whatever they have, seizing hold of their own narratives to combat a normalized dismissal of the thug and accepting the responsibility that comes when standing on the soapbox in a moment when clearly no one else will do it, or do it effectively.

The record proved so effective, it ended up censored on YG’s Still Brazy album.

YG is about to embark on the FDT tour in support of that album, but spent the last few months alongside Yo Gotti on the Endless Summer Tour, with G-Eazy (a white male) and Logic (a biracial male) as the headliners. It appears this spawned the “FDT Part 2” update, featuring G-Eazy in a pissed-off pivot stance and a focused Macklemore with his gold rings and an American flag wrapped semi-ironically around his collar. While the former visual focused on a centering of Black and brown bodies in concert, siphoning their anger into a search for their freedom, this video is a collage of protest footage culminating in scenes from a concert on the aforementioned tour, showcasing the trio with thousands of white fans cursing Donald Trump’s name in unison.

The remix yields shockingly positive results - given the cast YG selected to boost the piece’s clout - but is it enough for the white MCs to merely talk the talk? From Jon Caramanica’s “White Rappers, Clear of a Black Planet” in the New York Times:
But now we have arrived in the post-accountability era of white rap, when white artists are flourishing almost wholly outside the established hip-hop industry, evading black gatekeepers and going directly to overwhelmingly white consumers, resulting in what can feel like a parallel world, aware of hip-hop’s center but studiously avoiding it.”

“FDT Part 2” embraces the historical principles Caramanica mentions in NYT while reinforcing the reverse as well: where G-Eazy and Macklemore earn their clout from aligning themselves with one of the most prominent MCs of G-funk’s resurgence, YG opening for Eazy on such a tour serves to propel him further into a white pop-crossover fanbase he’s yet to reach. It feels unnecessary, considering the singles from YG’s debut My Krazy Life that made slight crossover into the pop-rap canon: the platinum-selling, Drake-featured “Who Do You Love?” and the double-platinum “My Nigga” were radio smashes. But those were nearly three years ago; they’re no longer reaching the way a triple-platinum “Me, Myself & I” has for G-Eazy on pop radio this year alone. Despite Still Brazy’s critical acclaim, it hasn’t performed anywhere near the way the newly-platinum When It’s Dark Out has.

G-Eazy’s pop success is easily attributed to his whiteness: his character moves like a new James Dean, basking in the spoils of success while making time to confront the haunts of his closet. Though the Oakland he comes from isn’t the hood, his fans may envision from hearing his accent that he can recycle and approximate similar tropes to a YG or Yo Gotti without the pressure or penalty. G-Eazy avidly cosigns Oakland native Nef the Pharaoh, regularly collaborates with mainstream Black artists, but his biggest smash is with Bebe Rexha, a white woman pop singer. That’s what makes his contribution to “FDT Part 2” one of the most intriguing moments of his career thus far: Young Gerald breaks the fourth wall just enough to introduce overtly political themes into his music while scraping alongside the assumed edginess of YG’s subject matter. It’s a step for G-Eazy to break the pop box while slightly acknowledging the “center” that Caramanica speaks of, the Black center whose oppression served for invention of the very genre Eazy has built his life from:

“A Trump rally sounds like Hitler in Berlin / Or KKK shit, now I’m goin’ in…”
“This man’s not peaceful! Racism’s evil! This man hates Muslims, that’s a billion fuckin’ people!”

Macklemore holds a long-standing track record of messy encounters with his attempts at allyship, but his accountability is refreshing given the influx of white rappers cashing in on the artistic illusion of a post-racial mess. When he does wrong, he responds rather than reacting: the commercial and critical swandive of his last album What an Unruly Mess I’ve Made stands as a major bargaining chip for his viability as a white MC who’s committed to featuring Black artists and knowing when to play his role in the liberation of others. It’s the same attitude motivating him to take his own licks on “FDT pt. 2,” where he playfully says “bool” while chastising himself in an adlib track - under YG’s watchful eye, of course - and attacks the double standard of terrorism via role reversal:
What if we ban all the white dudes? / Because a couple have run up in trenchcoats and rifles / And killed in the name of Jesus Christ at the high school?

...I got an eagle on my arm, I’m a patriot / I’ma stay right here, I ain’t livin’ in fear / With my people who are Muslims, Mexican, and queer / And we ain’t gonna let you fuck up four years!

YG’s traditional chaperoning of two pop-rap white MCs provides for an overall satisfying, if not somewhat goofy installment in this damn-good period of his music’s heightened self-awareness. The task is more grandiose than meets the eye: “FDT pt. 2” is executed at the risk of devaluing the measured balance of its predecessor’s playful/serious tone, but to witness YG gleefully toying with the implications of G-Eazy and Macklemore - their fanbases included - as white bodies to accessorize a pro-POC, anti-Republican message is a sight for the sorest:
Thought I was making songs just to ride to / But come to find out your own kind don’t even like you… / The rest weenies, they scared to say it, but they don’t like you!

Just left Texas, hit the stage for a couple thousand / And had your same color people hollerin’... / Fuck Donald Trump!

The danger in a record like this - an attempt to subvert the prevalence of whiteness in hip-hop, and its physical and cultural erasure of Blackness - lies in the crucial follow-through of the white MCs who lend themselves as accomplices. As Donald Trump’s been the punching bag for liberals and rightists alike this election season, there’s a lingering fear of his foolishness serving as low-hanging fruit, just one of many easy opportunities for white artists in Black-rooted artistic spaces to stake their claim as allies without pushing any farther ahead in subverting their own power and privilege to aid in such struggles against the toxic culture behind the figureheads. A hashtag is simple when it isn’t a name like yours; a singular picture in support doesn’t move far past the warmth of its gesture.

Thankfully, we may not need to reach as far as once perceived. Justin Bieber wanted to place Black Lives Matter banners at a potential Ohio gig smack dab during RNC fever (he declined after pushback,) even Justin Timberlake caught the drag after Jesse Williams’ speech at the 2016 BET Awards. As capitalism chokes the pop stars of all races, the limitations remain: speaking the truth doesn’t keep an endorsement, or coddle the people who pay to hear about sex, drugs, and nightlife. Hearing G-Eazy say “Racism’s evil!” with YG by his side may read as a revolutionary statement to the white fans in his seats, but it’s a mere baby step and the eternal no-brainer of every Kendrick, Beyoncé, and Black human being alive. Is that enough when the Weeknd gives a quarter-million dollars to BLM, when Jay-Z bails out protestors on the hush, when Beyoncé calls for action after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile? Such a disconnect will only prove more toxic in the years to come, when the white rappers of the world continue to amass white followings without capitalizing on such opportunities to pay their dues forward to the Black bodies that let them be.

The question remains: what are the white kids willing to sacrifice when they no longer need to acknowledge the source?


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