World Events

YG and Nipsey Hussle ‘FDT’: Celebrations’ anthem for Biden win

On the second floor of an apartment building overlooking 5th Street and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, YG and Nipsey Hussle’s 2016 single “FDT (F— Donald Trump)” was on a loop all Saturday afternoon once news broke that Joe Biden won the presidency.

“I’m ‘bout to turn Black Panther / Don’t let Donald Trump win, that n— cancer,” YG rapped over the speakers, which were turned to face the street as hundreds danced and sang along below. From inside the building, a young Black man in the apartment raised his fist in solidarity with the jubilant crowd below. He unfurled a banner and hung it from his window: “Bye Donald, kiss this hairy ass.”

If you went out in the streets of L.A. to celebrate on Saturday, wherever there were revelers, there was “FDT.” The track from YG and the late Hussle, born and raised in Compton and Crenshaw respectively, blared from a teenage girl’s phone as she walked with her grandma to a spontaneous celebration outside City Hall. It spilled from seemingly a half-dozen car windows at once along the streetwear district of Fairfax. It bumped in Echo Park as a boisterous crowd poured onto Sunset Boulevard to dance with newfound hope.

On election night four years earlier, “FDT” was a primal scream, a shot back from the young, the Black, from those newly heartbroken and those bitterly re-affirmed about America in the wake of Trump’s election.

“The situation is [screwed] up, but I feel good for speaking up,” YG told The Times in 2016, just after Trump’s election. “We spoke up because no one else was speaking up. That’s what rap is made for. Too many rappers keep saying [stuff] with no substance. I told Nip that if we do this together, we gotta speak on Trump and go right to the streets.”

YG.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

But now, as the country changes course after four disorienting years, it felt ebullient.

“I feel like I can breathe again,” said Nateeyah Kahsai, a 29-year-old from Santa Barbara fresh off an election-night shift as a poll observer in Clark County, Nevada, one of the key states that helped lock down the election for Biden.

She’d volunteered with a small crew of fellow Black women, and she echoed the imagery of the George Floyd protests in recounting what this moment meant to her. (And sure enough, as she did so, a passing car played “FDT” near her outside Grand Central Market.)

“We’ve had this knee on our necks for years,” she said. “This is long, long overdue.”

YG, who became one of the faces of this summer’s protest movement alongside activists like Patrisse Cullors, wasn’t immediately available for an interview Saturday.

For many fans who played “FDT” in defiance four years ago, his 2016 song became the go-to expression of joy and progress on election day, once the presidential race was finally called.

CNN accidentally broadcasted a full-profanity version while panning over ecstatic revelers in the streets of Atlanta; some Washington, D.C., partygoers played it so loud in front of the White House that Trump could probably hear it.

On Saturday, the song shot to the top of the iTunes charts in the U.S. and boosted its streams by an order of magnitude from Tuesday onward. The song grew from 60,000 streams on Spotify on Monday to more than 250,000 on election day, and on Friday quadrupled its plays on Amazon Alexa, from 6,000 on Thursday to around 21,000 as of Friday mid-afternoon.

A fan-led campaign to send it to the top of the Billboard charts earned YG’s approval (“F— Donald since 2016” he wrote in response to one). There’s probably nowhere the rapper would rather be than in thousands of car stereos in the city, as they celebrated the end of the Trump presidency.

“I just felt like I was doing something that I was supposed to do,” YG told The Times in September. “The streets is talking, it’s things going on, it’s people you’ve killed. I represent the streets. So I’ve got to be a part of it, you know?”

For many, Saturday did feel like a joyful mirror on all the days of protest and grief that shook America through the summer. “FDT” is now a little mournful too, as Hussle’s 2019 murder took away one of YG’s closest friends and collaborators. But he struck a celebratory tone on social media as the tide of the election washed over L.A.

“I know @nipseyhussle goin crip krazy right now!” he wrote on Twitter.

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