West Coast hip-hop is cyclical. Since its inception, it has gone through different eras of dominance. From N.W.A. in the late '80s, to Tupac in the early '90s, to Snoop Dogg and The Game in the 2000s. Now Kendrick Lamar, the new crown-wearer of Cali’s rap throne, has chaperoned a change of styles but not sonics. The other constant is that every one of those eras and each of those artists was assisted by Dr. Dre. And while it wasn’t necessarily Dre who made any of those artists who they were, he was there during the creation of some of their best content and made sure everyone knew they were next up. It seems like every hot new artist on the West Coast, even soul newcomers like Anderson .Paak, aren’t able to escape a Dre cosign on their way to creating greatness. Everyone, that is, except YG.
Aside from K. Dot, YG has been the standard bearer of what modern-day West Coast rap sounds like, and if you’ve heard any of what he’s produced over the last three years, you’d think 1992 Dr. Dre was behind the boards on a select few tracks. He hasn’t been though – and it’s something YG lets everyone know off jump. “I really got something to say / I’m the only one who made it out the West without Dre,” he rapped on “Twist My Fingaz" almost a year ago.
YG never asked for a Dre cosign. He’s never really asked for any handouts at all (see: “Gimmie Got Shot”). He’s actually just happy to still be alive. In June 2015, YG was shot multiple times outside of a recording studio. This followed a 2012 shooting on the set of his video for “I’m A Thug.” Since releasing his critically acclaimed 2014 album My Krazy Life, YG’s life has lived up to the LP’s title. The birth of his daugher and the death of some of his closest family members had his emotions rapidly seesawing. He also fell out with his longtime producer DJ Mustard, who he’s since made up with. All of these experiences have led us to the 2016 version of YG and his new LP Still Brazy. Currently available for streaming on Apple Music, the album is a smorgasbord of trials and tribulations all wrapped in the funkiest West Coast vibes imaginable.
Toward the end of his latest work, YG does something he’s never done before: He got political. Aside from the previously released “FDT” (or “F**k Donald Trump”) the Bompton bopper decided to ban together with those who’ve been victimized by discrimination. It was a change in mentality he felt needed to be made. “I always feel like I’m going to speak up about certain sh*t that’s going on but I never did because of sh*t I had going on,” he explained. “I feel like now, it’s just like 'F**k that sh*t.' I’m going to sacrifice whatever or deal with the consequences.”
During an exclusive interview with BET.com, YG previews his sophomore album and details how it’s been the diary of one of the most difficult times of his life. He also expands on his hate for Donald Trump and explains what a Trump presidency would mean for America. Still Brazy is everything you’d hope for in a My Krazy Life follow-up, just hold the Mustard. And Dr. Dre.
BET: What’s been going on with YG recently outside of music, or has it all been work for you as of late?
YG: Man, I’ve been on my business, bro. On my music s**t, on my business s**t, on my family tip a little bit, actually a lot. Yeah that’s my life, man.
Still Brazy is officially dropping on Friday (June 17). What were you going for on this one when you were recording it?
[There are] some stories, bro. Some real stories. I put more of my life into this one. It’s real personal. It’s like the last two years – 2014, 2015 – and all the s**t I’ve been going through, and then on the end of the album I got some political records talking about what’s going on out here in the culture. Real s**t.
How similar would you say it is to My Krazy Life?
You going to get a similar feel, but it’s different though. The approach and the sound is different, the skits and interludes is different. This is a narrative album. I’m narrating throughout the skits and s**t. I go to a whole another place. It’s really not no club songs or nothing like that on the album.
You dropped “Twist My Fingaz” about 10 months ago and it had that really '90s West Coast feel. Even “I Wanna Benz” was like that too. Have you had more interest in going in that direction musically, not just on this but in general?
I been on my West Coast s**t. I’m going to continue. It’s just the producers I was working with, they were heavy West Coast sound producers, but yeah, it’s going to continue.
You also recently released “Why You Always Hatin” with Drake and Kamaiya. What did it mean to get Drake back on a song with you, because last time it was really successful with “Who Do You Love?”
Ah man, it’s regular. I [did] the record and I’m like, 'I gotta put somebody on it.' I told the homie I was going to send the record and he was like, 'Send it to me.' I sent it to him. He hit me back immediately like, 'I f**k with it, I’m on it. It’s an anthem.' That’s how it happened. It was organic. [It’s a] regular and organic relationship. OVO/4 Hunnid ya feel me?
Earlier you mentioned you were going to be more political on this album. You released the “F**k Donald Trump” song in April. What made you want to be more socially conscious?
Where we at today man, it ain’t nobody doing any real s**t and making it feel like, 'Damn, OK they trippin'.' They think they can just talk slick and get away with s**t. The way the rap s**t started was talking about what was going on in the culture, inner city problems and issues. That’s the grassroots of this hip-hop s**t and that ain’t even going on.
I always feel like I’m going to speak up about certain s**t that’s going on but I never did because of s**t I had going on. I feel like now, it’s just like f**k that s**t. I’m going to sacrifice whatever or deal with the consequences. F**k it.
You mention on “FDT” that you’d be sick if Donald Trump became president. How devastating would he really be as Commander-in-Chief?
[I would be] very sick. I don’t know how it would change America. I think it would be World War III or something.
Do you think enough rappers speak out against injustice or even speak up about their own held beliefs?
There’s rappers that are speaking out but it ain’t the ones with the most power or [the ones] who are the most relevant in today’s time. They not pressed. They’ve probably said some slick s**t but n****s ain’t feeling it. It ain’t going nowhere. It ain’t moving nobody. I don’t want to say they scared, but I know Donald Trump heard this song and he seen how the people reacted and they see people showing up to the rallies protesting 'f**k Trump.' They see that s**t. They feeling that s**t man.
What made you want to change course a little? Did you feel obligated to speak out?
We obligated to do that type of sh*t. We signed up for having that role. That’s why I feel that it’s off deck that motherf**kers is not pressing that line because it’s an obligation to come with it. It’s mandatory press right there.
Has anyone ever told you that your message got them more involved in wanting to affect change?
Nah, because my music ain’t been having no message. My political s**t I’ve been on, nobody said I changed they life but they’ve been saying, 'Thank you, we needed that,' s**t like that and then there’s other rapper’s sucking d**k, 'You did that man. Man that was the greatest thing.' Shut up, n***a, you should’ve did it.
Aside from “FDT," what other political messages do you think you relay on Still Brazy?
There’s a record on there called “Blacks & Browns” and it’s a record called “Police Get Away With Murder.” On the “Blacks & Browns” record, it’s me and Sad Boy. He’s a Hispanic artist and we’re talking about what we got going on with our peoples. I’m a Black man. I’m talking about what we got going on in our community and our culture and how we need to do better as a whole, as Black people, as African-Americans. Sad Boy’s talking about what they got going on in they Hispanic culture and how they get treated in America. He’s saying some s**t about Donald Trump. That’s that record. That’s a big record because Blacks and Hispanics, we the minority. We go through similar s**t in similar ways – crossing cultures and all that type of stuff being from the West Coast. “Police Get Away With Murder” is talking about how f**ked up it is out here and how the police be doing what the title says.
You also mentioned that you’ll be getting everyone up to speed on what you’ve been going through personally on Still Brazy. You’ve become a father and survived multiple shootings. Expand a little more on how things have changed for you since your first album.
It was a little dark spot. It got dark for me. I had a dark cloud over me for a year-and-a-half. I fell out with Mustard and some little homies at the top of 2015, then I had my daughter three weeks after that. I got popped and then my daughter’s grandmother died three weeks after that. It was crazy. The music kept getting pushed back. I couldn’t work, started moving around from city to city and it’s like we don’t know who shot me, so it’s like n****s is paranoid. I’m paranoid. I’m paranoid like a motherf**ker. I don’t know where it came from. Was it the homies? Was it inner 'migos? Or was it random? What was it?
Do you feel that the type of music you make or your appeal warranted an attack
I mean like, on some street s**t, we done had a couple situations thats happened in the streets so it could’ve been some street sh*t, or it could’ve been somebody that’s just hating. I don’t know.
How long after you were shot did you record “Who Shot Me?”
Two or three days later.
You mention your daughter, how is fatherhood treating you?
It’s great. It’s wonderful. I love my daughter. I do this for her.
How much does she influence the decisions you make knowing you’re now responsible for her and yourself?
Her daddy still her daddy. He still do what he do.
What’s coming up next for you after the album drops?
We just going to keep this s**t going. Full 360 mode. We gonna keep smacking with these albums, these tours and just building and exploring other business ventures and all types of things. Different opportunities and different people around me are helping out. Passing the blessings man. I appreciate breathing and smelling and seeing.
Do you feel like you’re in a better situation now than you were the past two years?
Yeah man. I’m still living, so I feel like it’s good. I’m alive.
(Photo: Ro.Lexx, Def Jam Recordings)