LOS ANGELES - In the early hours of Jan. 24, the rapper YG was at home with his family in Chatsworth when LA County sheriff's deputies banged on his door, guns out. The Compton-raised MC was scheduled to perform at the Grammys two days later for a tribute to his longtime friend, the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. The last thing he expected was deputies on his doorstep with a search warrant.
But a new dread set in once the sheriff's deputies arrested and booked the 30-year-old in downtown LA on robbery charges and questioned him about a 2019 incident in which an SUV he owned was involved in a fatal shootout.
"They came for some s--- that I don't have no idea about," YG, born Keenon Jackson, says on a recent day in the brand-new Burbank offices for his record label and fashion line. "But when they took me to Twin Towers, they had the homicide people come talk to me about some whole other situation. Right then, I'm not thinking about the Grammys. I'm thinking, 'You finished, you ain't going home.' They were trying to spook me, hoping to put me away for life."
Hours later, YG made bail and went on to perform a stirring verse at the Grammys alongside John Legend, Meek Mill, DJ Khaled and Roddy Ricch. LA County court records show Jackson pleaded not guilty in the 2019 case, which is pending. At the time, YG put out a tweet saying he was in a recording studio, not the SUV, when the incident occurred. A separate 2018 robbery charge in Las Vegas is still awaiting a court date. (YG's lawyer Joe Tacopina did not return requests for comment.)
Even more than concern for his own future, YG worries for his young daughters, who saw their dad dragged off in handcuffs at gunpoint.
You can hear his daughter Harmony's version of that day on an interlude on YG's forthcoming album, "My Life 4Hunnid," where in a heartbreakingly childish cadence she recalls the cops pulling weapons on her dad, just before his single "Out on Bail" begins.
He played Harmony's snippet for a reporter just a few weeks after the same Sheriff's Department shot and killed Dijon Kizzee after he was stopped for riding in the wrong direction on his bike, sparking widespread protests. YG knows his own arrest could have gone very wrong too.
"Kids get traumatized, waking up to guns in their faces," YG says. "But this really happens. I wanted to bring people back into that time."
In his music, YG speaks to the immediate, hour-to-hour rage and vulnerability of Black life as protests churn and police kill and terrorize with seeming impunity. It's fitting that "My Life 4Hunnid" is his darkest and most wounded album for Def Jam yet, one where the memories of his murdered friend Hussle and fears of rampaging police are stalked by worries that, on the eve of the 2020 election, the country might not have what it takes to fix it all.
After protests sparked by George Floyd's May 25 killing by Minneapolis police consumed the streets of cities around the world, YG in June quickly released a scathing new single, "FTP," a natural sequel to his track with Hussle "FDT." Both tracks hold President Trump and the police in witheringly low regard.