YG // Still Brazy
by Julius Becton on June 28, 2016
Posted in: Album Review, Rap
When I listen to an album the first time through, sound and overall aesthetic are the initial factors that determine how much I like it. This is especially true in the realm of gangster rap, known for the ad-libs and violent onomatopoeia. I still remember getting goose bumps when the beat dropped on Chief Keef’s “Hallelujah” the first time I heard his debut album Finally Rich. That said, the lyrics did not beg for attention and consisted of Keef bragging about his social status and riches. In turn, repeated listens of the song diminished my appreciation for it. YG, however, is a gangster rapper of different breed. The first time I heard My Krazy Life, it was the words and stories in his songs that drew me in, allowing for the chance to connect with his music. The lyrics command attention, and the beats provided by DJ Mustard were the perfect backdrop for YG to provide taut, intelligent rhymes to the tune of club bangers.
Prior to the release of My Krazy Life, I thought YG was just another rapper who would peak in fame and then get swallowed back up and replaced by another rapper with a catchy song, similar to what happened to Trinidad James. After being impressed by his debut album, myself, and many other fans of rap, began to pay close attention to the Compton, correction, Bompton native. Oddly enough, YG’s personal life played out like a well-written episodic drama up until the release of his sophomore album, Still Brazy.
Last year, YG had a highly publicized falling out with producer DJ Mustard. The two exchanged disses on Instagram and Twitter, and gave aggressive statements about each other in interviews. Now, everyone was waiting to see if YG was any good without the producer behind his breakout debut, My Krazy Life. On top of that, shortly after his feud with Mustard, the rapper was shot outside of his studio in Los Angeles. Although many point fingers at Mustard, to this day YG claims that the identities of the assailants are still a mystery. (This brief description of the incident does not do the story justice. In order to hear the real, harrowing story of the shooting, I recommend watching a recent Vice episode where YG opens up about the attack to a therapist). Suffice it to say, the shooting took a toll on his mental state.
Luckily for YG and his fans, he was unharmed physically from the attack and less than a month later released what would become the lead single to Still Brazy, “Twist My Fingaz”. Ditching the clubby production laid out by DJ Mustard, the beat was produced by frequent Kendrick Lamar collaborator, Terrace Martin, and is much akin to the G-funk vibes of 90’s west coast rap. Once again, YG’s lyrics command your attention and he does not let the beat overshadow his powerful words. “I’m the only one to make it out the West without Dre, I’m the only one that’s about what he say, The only one that got hit and was walking the same day,” he boasts on his second verse. After following YG’s story, and hearing that not only is he healthy, but his rapping is as sharp as ever, it was hard not to feel excitement and admiration for the Bompton rapper.
YG continued to release songs prior to the release, including “I Wanna Benz” featuring 50 Cent and Nipsey Hussle, a personal favorite of mine. Another highlight was “Why You Always Hatin”, with Kamaiyah providing further evidence for her talent for creating excellent hooks, and Drake bragging in typical fashion after coming off the success of his latest release, “Views.” Although those singles were impressive, the album itself shows YG pivoting in a new direction both sonically and lyrically. He manages to humanize himself and admit to his paranoia along with the problems he continues to have with his growing success, while still maintaining his raw energy and confidence.
On the third track of the album titled “Who Shot Me?”, YG tries to piece together the who and why of the shooting that took place outside of his studio last June. After questioning whether or not it was his friends or even if someone sent the shooters after him, it is evident that YG’s psyche is no longer the same after the incident. His trust issues are growing, and on the bridge, a women’s voice sings “Cause I don’t know who did it but I know this, Bullets don’t just go where the wind blows.” Aside from the heavy lyrics, the beat courtesy of DJ Swish is ominous and laced with eerie strings and a pounding bass, giving the audience a vivid look into the fractured mental state of YG.
Along with rapping about acquaintances that mooch off his success (“Gimmie Got Shot) and other personal stresses throughout the album, YG also uses rapping as a platform to provide social commentary on issues that he feels are important. On tracks like “Blacks & Browns” he and Sad Boy reflect on the real systemic issues that minorities in this country face. Then on “Police Get Away with Murder” he takes on police brutality and shouts out the unarmed victims of recent shootings performed by police. The undoubted standout amongst these songs is “FDT”, a song released earlier on Soundcloud, that went to become a single for the album. The title is an acronym for “Fuck Donald Trump,” and as the name suggests, YG and Nipsey Hussle take aim at the polarizing GOP candidate. The song presents YG integrating his gangster rap style into the arena of politics. Instead of veiling his criticisms behind metaphors, YG goes for the throat and attacks Donald Trump viscously. “I’m bout to go black panther, Don’t let Donald Trump win, that nigga cancer” he sneers on his first verse. YG and Nipsey continue to trade bars over a wavy, catchy beat once again produced by DJ Swish. The song was so powerful and influential that during an impromptu video shoot, the police were forced to shut it down due to the mass amount of people taking over the street in support of YG and his movement to take down candidate Trump.
A lot has changed for YG since the days of his breakout hit “Toot it and Boot it”. The Bompton rapper has gone from being considered a one hit wonder to becoming an established name in the rap community. Although his success continues to grow along with his riches, YG’s new album is a reminder that his personality and life are, well, still brazy.
Best Tracks: “Who Shot Me?” , “Twist My Fingaz”, “Police Get Away with Murder”, “Still Brazy”, “I Got a Question”