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YG can’t miss. One album in, he’s found himself in the lineage of the elite rappers his hometown has produced since the genre’s beginnings. He wasn’t the first to call it “Bompton,” but the term is now synonymous with his vision of the city -- a place that sounds like a nonstop thrill ride, albeit a sometimes terrifying one. Where the sounds of the G-funk pioneers still reign supreme, with the exception of YG’s debut album, My Krazy Life, which gave the city its most authentic soundtrack in years. To outsiders, Compton’s storied history in hip-hop might make it seem like an attractive destination. After hearing YG’s new album, not so much.

“I put you in my shoes,” YG tells me of Still Brazy, which had been titled Still Krazy up until two weeks before the release. “You gon’ feel like you paranoid, like you got shot. You gon’ feel how I’m feelin’, and I’ma break shit down for real, straight to the point.”

My Krazy Life was met with universal acclaim, and it’s managed to age remarkably well since its release over two years ago. Providing a since-unmatched combination of bracing energy and an inspired storyline, it was the soundtrack to a day in YG’s (krazy) life. In many ways, he made it sound like the average day of a gang-affiliated young man in one of the country’s most gang-ridden areas. There was no shortage of turmoil, but most of the album was made for parties on the block -- YG’s being the 400 Block, home to the Tree Top Piru Bloods. Some of the album’s eye-opening realities were obscured by its anthemic, club-shaking production and YG’s natural sense of conveying a good time.

In conversation, YG was quick to distance himself from the term “rapper,” favoring “artist” instead. Several months after the album, he made a movie, co-writing and starring in “Blame It On the Streets,” meant to portray the scenes rapped about on the tracks “BPT” and “Meet the Flockers.”

“I just feel like my whole approach to the rap game is on some storytelling, movie shit,” he says confidently. “Cause when I rap, I’m a storyteller. So if I’m telling a story, and my visuals are in my album, I gotta make sure that shit goes all the way through. So it’s gon’ end up being a movie, you feel me?” Still Brazy happens to be narrated by YG himself. As one track segues into the next, he chimes in to provide simple but telling recaps of the story as it goes, similar to the voiceover narration of Caine in “Menace II Society,” one of YG’s favorite films.

“The first album was just scenes,” he says. “This [Still Brazy] is not driven by the scenes; it’s a narrator’s journey.”

Though he created a huge buzz in the months leading up to the release, no one was expecting My Krazy Life to be as good as it was. At least not too many outside of Bompton. We’d heard the singles, but not his gripping storytelling.

“We know why the album was such a classic," YG explains. "Because when you compare it to all the music that’s coming out today, there really ain’t too many classic projects. Especially from the streets? There ain’t too many of those. So the competition is not really there.”

"There really ain’t too many classic projects. Especially from the streets?
There ain’t too many of those."

Like most every one of his regionally beloved mixtapes, dating back to 2009, My Krazy Life was produced by DJ Mustard, one of YG’s best friends, with whom he founded Pu$haz Ink -- alongside the raunch-n-B crooner and adept producer Ty Dolla $ign. Each artist is currently a fixture in today’s game. The trio’s first hit came in 2010 with “Toot It and Boot It,” a track that doesn’t say much about any of their skills save for their collective radio appeal -- and Ty and YG’s penchant for charmingly crude ways of talking about sex. The song earned YG, the lead artist, a deal with Def Jam about six months later.

Starting in mid-2013, YG and Mustard released three consecutive hit singles, two of which went platinum. The first, “My N*gga,” featured Rich Homie Quan and Jeezy. The next was the booming strip club anthem “Left, Right,” and in early 2014 came the biggest of them all, and not accidentally -- considering its featured artist. “Who Do You Love?” had Mustard going hyphy and Drake repurposing lines from a classic hit by San Francisco vet Rappin’ 4-Tay (to whom he forked over $100K for the deed). They had already been a deadly duo out West, but with those three songs, they took their sound nationwide.

About a month before Still Brazy, YG got another Drizzy verse on a single that also asks a rhetorical question, “Why You Always Hatin?” The production is similar to that of “Who Do You Love?”, but less glossy with an analog-delivered grittiness. It comes from CT Beats, the go-to producer for 20-year-old female rapper Kamaiyah, who’s emerged this year as one of Oakland’s top young talents. “It’s hard to get The Bay,” says YG, “But I got The Bay. They fuck with me.”

YG had gone to Oakland to record the song, and it wasn’t until later that he thought to ask Drake for a verse and a premiere via OVO Sound Radio. Like “City Mad,” his December collab featuring Sacramento’s Mozzy and produced by HBK’s P-Lo (who reappears on Still Brazy), he intended “Why You Always Hatin?” to be a shout-out to The Bay. “Kamaiyah goin’ platinum, n*gga,” he promises toward the end of the song.

“It’s just connecting the dots, man,” he says of presiding over L.A.-to-The-Bay. “Keeping this West Coast shit lit by any means necessary. I got plans for being in the game 20 years plus, bro. I gotta move like that starting now.”

The precedent for My Krazy Life was set with the three aforementioned Mustard-produced singles, and those expecting an album full of anthems got one. As a whole, though, it sounded decidedly West Coast in a way that wasn’t predicted by the singles alone. Mustard used a G-funk template for his earwormy synth lines, but more importantly, the album was situated within the confines of Bompton, with YG acting as a familiar but dangerous tour guide.

For the few moments when Mustard wasn’t present, YG enlisted varied talents like Terrace Martin, Metro Boomin, and Ty Dolla $ign for subtler productions -- and those few tracks ended up showing him as an artist who’s deeply intrigued by the intricacies of what goes into building an exciting narrative, especially in the tradition of the West Coast classics that still shape his outlook of what an album should be.

YG was a certified hitmaker, but it was the focus and depth of My Krazy Life that quickly eradicated the “ratchet” genre tag that had been often attached to his name. Rather suddenly, he was seen among the elites of gangsta rap, but at this point in his career, there was no YG without DJ Mustard.

Toward the end of 2014, as he was set to begin the recording of his sophomore album, YG and Mustard had a falling out. The initial dispute was seemingly and unsurprisingly over money. Whatever it was, it got bitter -- to the point that the pair had barely spoken until a couple of months ago, when they officially squashed the beef during the first weekend of Coachella, performing a set together and announcing the reunion via a joyous Instagram post.

Mustard doesn’t show up anywhere on Still Brazy. After a seven year partnership, they went their separate ways, and YG was without a go-to producer. He began searching the city for replacements, first reaching out to the aforementioned Terrace Martin, who had two co-production credits on My Krazy Life. Martin, a Crenshaw-bred multi-instrumentalist and learned student of jazz, had spent most of the past year working on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

“I called Terrace,” recalls YG, “Like, ‘Hey bro, I need you to come through. I ain’t really fuckin’ with the homie, like we ain’t really fuckin’ with each other, so I need you to come through so I can make my album and shit.’” Martin -- who recently told LAWeekly that YG’s “honesty, truth, and aggression is something that the Coast has been missing” -- seized upon the offer. “He had a moment to really have fun and do some different shit that he ain’t been doing in a long time,” says YG of Martin. “He’s from L.A., and he’s young, so the type of shit I’m doing, he’s still got that in him.”

The production cast of Still Brazy also includes the faithful Ty Dolla $ign. He and an exciting newcomer, DJ Swish -- whom YG calls “my young boy” -- team up on the title track for a bug-eyed composition of creeping bass, ghoulish synths, and prickly percussion. “Paranoia down in killer California,” YG raps frantically as the instrumental swells dizzyingly behind him. It’s the title track for a reason, setting the defining mood of the album. The state of mind he conveys most effectively on Still Brazy is the one that was just cited: paranoia -- and its disarming effects on the psyche.

There are a myriad of factors behind YG’s paranoia. On the title track, he addresses the primary agent right off the bat: “Been through it all, got bullet wounds twice,” he raps, “Still don’t know where it came from -- YIKES,” he continues, finishing the line with an unnervingly humorous exclamation amid an enraged confessional.

He refers to the shooting that occurred at his live/work loft in Studio City almost a year ago, when he suffered three bullet wounds to the hip. Clearly the target, YG was the only one hit, and a homie raced him to the ER, crashing into a parking lot island and then a parked car upon arrival. No one was harmed in the wreck, though there were still three bullet holes in YG’s upper-leg.

After just a night in the hospital, he was released the next day, as he proudly boasted on “Twist My Fingaz,” Still Brazy’s lead single, released last summer and produced by Terrace Martin. His line about getting hit and walking it off the same day was bolstered by the bold and mostly true declaration that came right before: “I’m the only one who made it out the West without Dre.”

Martin drops a blissfully sticky Funkadelic-sampling production on “Twist My Fingaz,” a slice of pure G-funk that easily became last year’s definitive West Coast anthem. Released less than a month after the shooting, YG couldn’t have seemed less affected by his recent brush with death. As he told Billboard a couple of weeks later, “I’m hard to kill.”

As a gangsta rapper who deems himself a storyteller first and foremost, it’s surprising that, for his sophomore effort, YG didn’t take the plotline back several years to when he was full-time in the streets. Surely there are enough tales from those days to fill at least a few more projects. But, Still Brazy is an account of the past two years, and it feels like the story unfolds in real-time. Though he moves differently now, the album’s title starts to make sense a couple of tracks in.

“It’s just a lotta paranoia and dark shit,” he explains. “I was in a dark space. I fell out with a lot of my good friends, including Mustard. I had my daughter, which was a good thing -- a great thing, a blessing. Three weeks after I had my daughter, I got popped. I got shot right after that.” That blessing, his now one-year-old daughter, certainly increased the paranoia that was a result of his attempted murder at the hands of an unknown suspect.

Still Brazy begins with a short, heated intro from YG’s father, aptly titled “Pops Hot.” He addresses YG’s mother, who was responsible for the My Krazy Life intro, on which she warned her son not to hang in the streets and end up in jail like “your damn daddy.” This time, Pops flips the script and blames Momma for all of the trouble their son has gotten into, referring to her (in an unflattering L.A. accent) as “Ms. I Can’t Leave Los Angeles, California.” Like his mother, YG isn’t going anywhere.

Pops provides a fitting preface for the portrait of Los Angeles that YG proceeds to depict on Still Brazy. Compared to its predecessor, there’s less partying in this city, and more danger. More fear, panic, and temptation to act out in a reckless, career-jeopardizing manner. The opening song is menacingly titled “Don’t Come to LA,” and it features Chicano rapper Sad Boy, the self-proclaimed “first ese signed to 400 Records,” as well as AD and Bricc Baby, two Compton rappers who won’t be replacing the “C” in the name of their native city anytime soon. Each with different gang affiliations, the message is the same: their city isn’t a hip-hop tourist destination, and outsiders will not be welcomed.

The guests on Still Brazy are almost entirely locals with two big exceptions: Drake and Lil Wayne. The latter Young Money vet features on “I Got a Question,” which plays right before “Why You Always Hatin?” A cool electro-funk hypnosis is given by L.A.’s finest production ensemble in the 1500 or Nothin’ collective, and Wayne uses syrup and auto-tune to drown out life’s complexities.

For YG, “I Got a Question” serves as a crucial pause from the storyline and an opportunity for him to reflect on certain cycles he can’t break and obstacles he can’t see past. He’s soon plagued with unanswerable questions, and he combines three of those questions into the song’s seamless hook -- first griping over nagging female drama, then wondering if he’ll ever avoid the glare of racist cops, and lastly, looking upward to ask, “Will the truth set you free?” In the final question, he seeks a truth that’s universal and also one that’s more specific -- as, right now, the ultimate truth he covets lies in the question that’s been looming over the whole album: who tried to end him? Would the answer set him free? YG knows that, too, is a tricky question.

In March, YG teamed with his longtime Crenshaw Crip collaborator, Nipsey Hussle, to put out what now stands as the year’s most urgent political song. It’s been played during heated protests outside of Trump rallies in California, and it has earned YG a spot on the watchlists of police bureaus across America and even the Secret Service, who requested that his label send over all of Still Brazy’s lyrics shortly after the release of his anti-Trump single.

Sonically, with Swish’s easy-riding production, “Fuck Donald Trump” is a surefire hit record -- that should be getting airplay were it not for the explicit title and hook, and that, according to YG, it’s been blackballed from the radio. Of course, “FDT” is necessarily a protest song, and considering its target, it has projected YG into a political vortex that few rappers before him have dared to enter.

He sent out an open call on the day of the “FDT” video shoot, and a huge crowd of his L.A. faithful and those eager to yell “Fuck Donald Trump” in a rap video soon flocked to Melrose & Fairfax. They got just enough footage before it was shut down by shotgun-toting officers in riot gear who were unaware that the crowd -- made up of YG’s Bloods, Nipsey’s Crips, and hundreds of others, mostly black and Hispanic -- was gathered for a video shoot.

“That just put us on a whole ‘nother level, rap shit,” he says of his and Nipsey’s efforts on “FDT.” “On some respect shit, talk about me different -- put some respect on my name -- cause there’s a lot of corny-ass motherfuckers in the rap game, hip-hop culture that ain’t really doing shit. That ain’t following protocol.”

“FDT” was hardly a choice -- cooked up on the spot as YG and Nipsey were discussing the political climate and the increasing danger posed upon their hometown communities by a Trump presidency. The GOP nominee is a man who kicks peaceful black students out of his rallies -- a tearful speech from one of said students opens “FDT” -- and who wants to deport masses of Hispanics, a group that makes up a large portion of YG and Nipsey’s home turf and general fanbase, and keep them out with a 50-foot wall.

The “FDT” hook was easy but effective. And the song was a natural show of defense from two artists whose respective neighborhoods are tied to their identities. They knew what they were getting into with such an aggressively titled record, directed at the country’s most controversial political figure, but that didn’t make them hesitate for long. “So we really said, like, ‘Fuck it, bro. We ‘bout to do it,” he says of his and Nip’s moment of impetus. “We gonna deal with whatever consequences come with it, and I’m dealing with that shit right now.”

“I’m still paying for it,” he continues. “They saying I can’t do shows in certain cities -- I’m tryna book a tour right now. I ain’t did nothing, bro,” he says with indignation, bemoaning the injustice even though he expected it.

When N.W.A. released their seminal debut album, Straight Outta Compton, one song in particular earned the ire of the F.B.I., LAPD, and a host of other government associations. Twenty-seven years after “Fuck the Police,” YG is dealing with similar authorities, and he’s enraged by their failure to understand why an artist whose art documents life on the streets might need to make a song called “Fuck Donald Trump.”

“I don’t understand how motherfuckers is stopping me, trying to block me from getting my money,” he says in defense of his craft. “I make the records, but bro, that’s my story, you feel me? I ain’t got nothing else to really talk about. I could be talking about some shit that really don’t matter, but that’s not my approach to the game.”

The final two Still Brazy songs are overtly political, as YG finds that his story of suffocating paranoia and racial profiling is easily endemic to black communities across America. If he was trapped in his own thoughts and delusions for much of the album, he’s entirely lucid for the final two tracks (three counting “FDT”), pleading with his listeners to wake up with him. “I’m a n*gga, I can’t go outside,” he raps in a stunning moment of clarity to start “Blacks and Browns,” on which he calls for his people to “come together and fuck they system.” Certain politicians are an obvious target, and indeed, Sad Boy returns to roast Trump on behalf of the Brown community, soon realizing that he and his 400 boss share much common ground.

“Blacks and Browns” ends with a man yelling “hands up, don’t shoot” to an officer, before he’s quickly cut off by three loud blasts of gunfire. Thus begins the final track, “Police Get Away Wit Murder,” a pain-drenched call-to-arms that has YG rapping about police murders like he intends to avenge each and every one of them. As with “FDT,” he turns a simple phrase into an unforgettable hook, this time repeatedly howling “we don’t give a fuck.”

As the album nears its end, YG begins to accost the real enemy in blue by rattling off the names of innocent black boys who’ve been murdered by police in the past few years -- Tyler Woods, David Joseph, Kimani Gray, and Laquan McDonald -- all under the age of 20. “And the list goes on,” he says after remembering that McDonald’s killing had been caught on tape. Memorializing their names at the end of the album feels like a natural result of “Police Get Away with Murder.” In the final moments, the voiceover narrator returns to fuse the case study of YG over the past two years with that of so many black men: “And they wonder why I live my life looking over my shoulder.”

 
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YG can’t miss. One album in, he’s found himself in the lineage of the elite rappers his hometown has produced since the genre’s beginnings. He wasn’t the first to call it “Bompton,” but the term is now synonymous with his vision of the city -- a place that sounds like a nonstop thrill ride, albeit a sometimes terrifying one. Where the sounds of the G-funk pioneers still reign supreme, with the exception of YG’s debut album, My Krazy Life, which gave the city its most authentic soundtrack in years. To outsiders, Compton’s storied history in hip-hop might make it seem like an attractive destination. After hearing YG’s new album, not so much.

“I put you in my shoes,” YG tells me of Still Brazy, which had been titled Still Krazy up until two weeks before the release. “You gon’ feel like you paranoid, like you got shot. You gon’ feel how I’m feelin’, and I’ma break shit down for real, straight to the point.”

My Krazy Life was met with universal acclaim, and it’s managed to age remarkably well since its release over two years ago. Providing a since-unmatched combination of bracing energy and an inspired storyline, it was the soundtrack to a day in YG’s (krazy) life. In many ways, he made it sound like the average day of a gang-affiliated young man in one of the country’s most gang-ridden areas. There was no shortage of turmoil, but most of the album was made for parties on the block -- YG’s being the 400 Block, home to the Tree Top Piru Bloods. Some of the album’s eye-opening realities were obscured by its anthemic, club-shaking production and YG’s natural sense of conveying a good time.

In conversation, YG was quick to distance himself from the term “rapper,” favoring “artist” instead. Several months after the album, he made a movie, co-writing and starring in “Blame It On the Streets,” meant to portray the scenes rapped about on the tracks “BPT” and “Meet the Flockers.”

“I just feel like my whole approach to the rap game is on some storytelling, movie shit,” he says confidently. “Cause when I rap, I’m a storyteller. So if I’m telling a story, and my visuals are in my album, I gotta make sure that shit goes all the way through. So it’s gon’ end up being a movie, you feel me?” Still Brazy happens to be narrated by YG himself. As one track segues into the next, he chimes in to provide simple but telling recaps of the story as it goes, similar to the voiceover narration of Caine in “Menace II Society,” one of YG’s favorite films.

“The first album was just scenes,” he says. “This [Still Brazy] is not driven by the scenes; it’s a narrator’s journey.”

Though he created a huge buzz in the months leading up to the release, no one was expecting My Krazy Life to be as good as it was. At least not too many outside of Bompton. We’d heard the singles, but not his gripping storytelling.

“We know why the album was such a classic," YG explains. "Because when you compare it to all the music that’s coming out today, there really ain’t too many classic projects. Especially from the streets? There ain’t too many of those. So the competition is not really there.”

"There really ain’t too many classic projects. Especially from the streets?
There ain’t too many of those."

Like most every one of his regionally beloved mixtapes, dating back to 2009, My Krazy Life was produced by DJ Mustard, one of YG’s best friends, with whom he founded Pu$haz Ink -- alongside the raunch-n-B crooner and adept producer Ty Dolla $ign. Each artist is currently a fixture in today’s game. The trio’s first hit came in 2010 with “Toot It and Boot It,” a track that doesn’t say much about any of their skills save for their collective radio appeal -- and Ty and YG’s penchant for charmingly crude ways of talking about sex. The song earned YG, the lead artist, a deal with Def Jam about six months later.

Starting in mid-2013, YG and Mustard released three consecutive hit singles, two of which went platinum. The first, “My N*gga,” featured Rich Homie Quan and Jeezy. The next was the booming strip club anthem “Left, Right,” and in early 2014 came the biggest of them all, and not accidentally -- considering its featured artist. “Who Do You Love?” had Mustard going hyphy and Drake repurposing lines from a classic hit by San Francisco vet Rappin’ 4-Tay (to whom he forked over $100K for the deed). They had already been a deadly duo out West, but with those three songs, they took their sound nationwide.

About a month before Still Brazy, YG got another Drizzy verse on a single that also asks a rhetorical question, “Why You Always Hatin?” The production is similar to that of “Who Do You Love?”, but less glossy with an analog-delivered grittiness. It comes from CT Beats, the go-to producer for 20-year-old female rapper Kamaiyah, who’s emerged this year as one of Oakland’s top young talents. “It’s hard to get The Bay,” says YG, “But I got The Bay. They fuck with me.”

YG had gone to Oakland to record the song, and it wasn’t until later that he thought to ask Drake for a verse and a premiere via OVO Sound Radio. Like “City Mad,” his December collab featuring Sacramento’s Mozzy and produced by HBK’s P-Lo (who reappears on Still Brazy), he intended “Why You Always Hatin?” to be a shout-out to The Bay. “Kamaiyah goin’ platinum, n*gga,” he promises toward the end of the song.

“It’s just connecting the dots, man,” he says of presiding over L.A.-to-The-Bay. “Keeping this West Coast shit lit by any means necessary. I got plans for being in the game 20 years plus, bro. I gotta move like that starting now.”

The precedent for My Krazy Life was set with the three aforementioned Mustard-produced singles, and those expecting an album full of anthems got one. As a whole, though, it sounded decidedly West Coast in a way that wasn’t predicted by the singles alone. Mustard used a G-funk template for his earwormy synth lines, but more importantly, the album was situated within the confines of Bompton, with YG acting as a familiar but dangerous tour guide.

For the few moments when Mustard wasn’t present, YG enlisted varied talents like Terrace Martin, Metro Boomin, and Ty Dolla $ign for subtler productions -- and those few tracks ended up showing him as an artist who’s deeply intrigued by the intricacies of what goes into building an exciting narrative, especially in the tradition of the West Coast classics that still shape his outlook of what an album should be.

YG was a certified hitmaker, but it was the focus and depth of My Krazy Life that quickly eradicated the “ratchet” genre tag that had been often attached to his name. Rather suddenly, he was seen among the elites of gangsta rap, but at this point in his career, there was no YG without DJ Mustard.

Toward the end of 2014, as he was set to begin the recording of his sophomore album, YG and Mustard had a falling out. The initial dispute was seemingly and unsurprisingly over money. Whatever it was, it got bitter -- to the point that the pair had barely spoken until a couple of months ago, when they officially squashed the beef during the first weekend of Coachella, performing a set together and announcing the reunion via a joyous Instagram post.

Mustard doesn’t show up anywhere on Still Brazy. After a seven year partnership, they went their separate ways, and YG was without a go-to producer. He began searching the city for replacements, first reaching out to the aforementioned Terrace Martin, who had two co-production credits on My Krazy Life. Martin, a Crenshaw-bred multi-instrumentalist and learned student of jazz, had spent most of the past year working on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly.

“I called Terrace,” recalls YG, “Like, ‘Hey bro, I need you to come through. I ain’t really fuckin’ with the homie, like we ain’t really fuckin’ with each other, so I need you to come through so I can make my album and shit.’” Martin -- who recently told LAWeekly that YG’s “honesty, truth, and aggression is something that the Coast has been missing” -- seized upon the offer. “He had a moment to really have fun and do some different shit that he ain’t been doing in a long time,” says YG of Martin. “He’s from L.A., and he’s young, so the type of shit I’m doing, he’s still got that in him.”

The production cast of Still Brazy also includes the faithful Ty Dolla $ign. He and an exciting newcomer, DJ Swish -- whom YG calls “my young boy” -- team up on the title track for a bug-eyed composition of creeping bass, ghoulish synths, and prickly percussion. “Paranoia down in killer California,” YG raps frantically as the instrumental swells dizzyingly behind him. It’s the title track for a reason, setting the defining mood of the album. The state of mind he conveys most effectively on Still Brazy is the one that was just cited: paranoia -- and its disarming effects on the psyche.

There are a myriad of factors behind YG’s paranoia. On the title track, he addresses the primary agent right off the bat: “Been through it all, got bullet wounds twice,” he raps, “Still don’t know where it came from -- YIKES,” he continues, finishing the line with an unnervingly humorous exclamation amid an enraged confessional.

He refers to the shooting that occurred at his live/work loft in Studio City almost a year ago, when he suffered three bullet wounds to the hip. Clearly the target, YG was the only one hit, and a homie raced him to the ER, crashing into a parking lot island and then a parked car upon arrival. No one was harmed in the wreck, though there were still three bullet holes in YG’s upper-leg.

After just a night in the hospital, he was released the next day, as he proudly boasted on “Twist My Fingaz,” Still Brazy’s lead single, released last summer and produced by Terrace Martin. His line about getting hit and walking it off the same day was bolstered by the bold and mostly true declaration that came right before: “I’m the only one who made it out the West without Dre.”

Martin drops a blissfully sticky Funkadelic-sampling production on “Twist My Fingaz,” a slice of pure G-funk that easily became last year’s definitive West Coast anthem. Released less than a month after the shooting, YG couldn’t have seemed less affected by his recent brush with death. As he told Billboard a couple of weeks later, “I’m hard to kill.”

As a gangsta rapper who deems himself a storyteller first and foremost, it’s surprising that, for his sophomore effort, YG didn’t take the plotline back several years to when he was full-time in the streets. Surely there are enough tales from those days to fill at least a few more projects. But, Still Brazy is an account of the past two years, and it feels like the story unfolds in real-time. Though he moves differently now, the album’s title starts to make sense a couple of tracks in.

“It’s just a lotta paranoia and dark shit,” he explains. “I was in a dark space. I fell out with a lot of my good friends, including Mustard. I had my daughter, which was a good thing -- a great thing, a blessing. Three weeks after I had my daughter, I got popped. I got shot right after that.” That blessing, his now one-year-old daughter, certainly increased the paranoia that was a result of his attempted murder at the hands of an unknown suspect.

Still Brazy begins with a short, heated intro from YG’s father, aptly titled “Pops Hot.” He addresses YG’s mother, who was responsible for the My Krazy Life intro, on which she warned her son not to hang in the streets and end up in jail like “your damn daddy.” This time, Pops flips the script and blames Momma for all of the trouble their son has gotten into, referring to her (in an unflattering L.A. accent) as “Ms. I Can’t Leave Los Angeles, California.” Like his mother, YG isn’t going anywhere.

Pops provides a fitting preface for the portrait of Los Angeles that YG proceeds to depict on Still Brazy. Compared to its predecessor, there’s less partying in this city, and more danger. More fear, panic, and temptation to act out in a reckless, career-jeopardizing manner. The opening song is menacingly titled “Don’t Come to LA,” and it features Chicano rapper Sad Boy, the self-proclaimed “first ese signed to 400 Records,” as well as AD and Bricc Baby, two Compton rappers who won’t be replacing the “C” in the name of their native city anytime soon. Each with different gang affiliations, the message is the same: their city isn’t a hip-hop tourist destination, and outsiders will not be welcomed.

The guests on Still Brazy are almost entirely locals with two big exceptions: Drake and Lil Wayne. The latter Young Money vet features on “I Got a Question,” which plays right before “Why You Always Hatin?” A cool electro-funk hypnosis is given by L.A.’s finest production ensemble in the 1500 or Nothin’ collective, and Wayne uses syrup and auto-tune to drown out life’s complexities.

For YG, “I Got a Question” serves as a crucial pause from the storyline and an opportunity for him to reflect on certain cycles he can’t break and obstacles he can’t see past. He’s soon plagued with unanswerable questions, and he combines three of those questions into the song’s seamless hook -- first griping over nagging female drama, then wondering if he’ll ever avoid the glare of racist cops, and lastly, looking upward to ask, “Will the truth set you free?” In the final question, he seeks a truth that’s universal and also one that’s more specific -- as, right now, the ultimate truth he covets lies in the question that’s been looming over the whole album: who tried to end him? Would the answer set him free? YG knows that, too, is a tricky question.

In March, YG teamed with his longtime Crenshaw Crip collaborator, Nipsey Hussle, to put out what now stands as the year’s most urgent political song. It’s been played during heated protests outside of Trump rallies in California, and it has earned YG a spot on the watchlists of police bureaus across America and even the Secret Service, who requested that his label send over all of Still Brazy’s lyrics shortly after the release of his anti-Trump single.

Sonically, with Swish’s easy-riding production, “Fuck Donald Trump” is a surefire hit record -- that should be getting airplay were it not for the explicit title and hook, and that, according to YG, it’s been blackballed from the radio. Of course, “FDT” is necessarily a protest song, and considering its target, it has projected YG into a political vortex that few rappers before him have dared to enter.

He sent out an open call on the day of the “FDT” video shoot, and a huge crowd of his L.A. faithful and those eager to yell “Fuck Donald Trump” in a rap video soon flocked to Melrose & Fairfax. They got just enough footage before it was shut down by shotgun-toting officers in riot gear who were unaware that the crowd -- made up of YG’s Bloods, Nipsey’s Crips, and hundreds of others, mostly black and Hispanic -- was gathered for a video shoot.

“That just put us on a whole ‘nother level, rap shit,” he says of his and Nipsey’s efforts on “FDT.” “On some respect shit, talk about me different -- put some respect on my name -- cause there’s a lot of corny-ass motherfuckers in the rap game, hip-hop culture that ain’t really doing shit. That ain’t following protocol.”

“FDT” was hardly a choice -- cooked up on the spot as YG and Nipsey were discussing the political climate and the increasing danger posed upon their hometown communities by a Trump presidency. The GOP nominee is a man who kicks peaceful black students out of his rallies -- a tearful speech from one of said students opens “FDT” -- and who wants to deport masses of Hispanics, a group that makes up a large portion of YG and Nipsey’s home turf and general fanbase, and keep them out with a 50-foot wall.

The “FDT” hook was easy but effective. And the song was a natural show of defense from two artists whose respective neighborhoods are tied to their identities. They knew what they were getting into with such an aggressively titled record, directed at the country’s most controversial political figure, but that didn’t make them hesitate for long. “So we really said, like, ‘Fuck it, bro. We ‘bout to do it,” he says of his and Nip’s moment of impetus. “We gonna deal with whatever consequences come with it, and I’m dealing with that shit right now.”

“I’m still paying for it,” he continues. “They saying I can’t do shows in certain cities -- I’m tryna book a tour right now. I ain’t did nothing, bro,” he says with indignation, bemoaning the injustice even though he expected it.

When N.W.A. released their seminal debut album, Straight Outta Compton, one song in particular earned the ire of the F.B.I., LAPD, and a host of other government associations. Twenty-seven years after “Fuck the Police,” YG is dealing with similar authorities, and he’s enraged by their failure to understand why an artist whose art documents life on the streets might need to make a song called “Fuck Donald Trump.”

“I don’t understand how motherfuckers is stopping me, trying to block me from getting my money,” he says in defense of his craft. “I make the records, but bro, that’s my story, you feel me? I ain’t got nothing else to really talk about. I could be talking about some shit that really don’t matter, but that’s not my approach to the game.”

The final two Still Brazy songs are overtly political, as YG finds that his story of suffocating paranoia and racial profiling is easily endemic to black communities across America. If he was trapped in his own thoughts and delusions for much of the album, he’s entirely lucid for the final two tracks (three counting “FDT”), pleading with his listeners to wake up with him. “I’m a n*gga, I can’t go outside,” he raps in a stunning moment of clarity to start “Blacks and Browns,” on which he calls for his people to “come together and fuck they system.” Certain politicians are an obvious target, and indeed, Sad Boy returns to roast Trump on behalf of the Brown community, soon realizing that he and his 400 boss share much common ground.

“Blacks and Browns” ends with a man yelling “hands up, don’t shoot” to an officer, before he’s quickly cut off by three loud blasts of gunfire. Thus begins the final track, “Police Get Away Wit Murder,” a pain-drenched call-to-arms that has YG rapping about police murders like he intends to avenge each and every one of them. As with “FDT,” he turns a simple phrase into an unforgettable hook, this time repeatedly howling “we don’t give a fuck.”

As the album nears its end, YG begins to accost the real enemy in blue by rattling off the names of innocent black boys who’ve been murdered by police in the past few years -- Tyler Woods, David Joseph, Kimani Gray, and Laquan McDonald -- all under the age of 20. “And the list goes on,” he says after remembering that McDonald’s killing had been caught on tape. Memorializing their names at the end of the album feels like a natural result of “Police Get Away with Murder.” In the final moments, the voiceover narrator returns to fuse the case study of YG over the past two years with that of so many black men: “And they wonder why I live my life looking over my shoulder.”

 
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👾LORD PIŁŁS THE MIGHTY👾
top comment

Straight CREATIVE! Salute to Rose and the HNHH team and putting this together. Dope asf. Yall should really start actually putting out magazines yall got a good followingg

 
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aaronthomasofficial

This is amazing, I fuck with YG on a whole different level. He's one of the last real ones this game has. Thank you to HNHH for sharing this with us.

youngcmar209
youngcmar209
Jun 18, 2016

word is bond was dope song but my fav on the album was Black & Browns

 
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P1roman
P1roman
Jun 18, 2016

we need more!

 
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Young Thug > Lil Wayne

Damn for once HNHH commentors being nice, legit tho dope article and as AirHurdle said only thing a bit off was the lag in the scroll. As much as people give HNHH shit theres a reason why they have one of the biggest hiphop following on the net

 
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Without A Doubt
Without A Doubt
Jun 18, 2016

this the best editing and pronouncation of words and article hnhh has put out in years...

 
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Mr. Clean
Mr. Clean
Jun 17, 2016

Literally felt like I was slistening to the same song over and over again but ok hnhh, fuck a popular opinion

 
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Inmen Muwwakkil

Dude u literally song like a hater if you cant see the growth and the skills from toot n boot it to now kys....

 
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Playboy X
Playboy X
Jun 17, 2016

nice article

 
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⚡️Yung Goku⚡️

Nice job HNHH! Really nice!

 
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JUNIOR
JUNIOR
Jun 17, 2016

dope....

 
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THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO WIN

Anybody else pree dat YG looks like a black cholo. #NOHATE

 
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👑king fresh 💯

This is fire asf, read some of it. The layout and typography yall used is amazing. a g herbo or bibby digital cover would be great in the future, keep this up tho fr

 
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IG: @cduececeo
IG: @cduececeo
Jun 17, 2016

Dope digital cover. Very creative and out of the box! Can't to see more!

 
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Codeinecup
Codeinecup
Jun 17, 2016

4huuunid!!

 
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kidfromusa
kidfromusa
Jun 17, 2016

digital cover is dope. been using since site since 2009 and there has been a lot of growth lol. I remember the crusty old layouts but it was still sweet at the time haha. Keep doing digital covers IMO

 
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kidfromusa
kidfromusa
Jun 17, 2016

been using this site since* lol

 
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kidfromusa
kidfromusa
Jun 17, 2016

digital cover is dope. been using since site since 2009 and there has been a lot of growth lol. I remember the crusty old layouts but it was still sweet at the time haha. Keep doing digital covers IMO

 
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Riyad Mahrez
Riyad Mahrez
Jun 17, 2016

Nice

 
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👾LORD PIŁŁS THE MIGHTY👾

Straight CREATIVE! Salute to Rose and the HNHH team and putting this together. Dope asf. Yall should really start actually putting out magazines yall got a good followingg

 
Reply Share
Rose Lilah

thanks dude shout out angus and emilio

 
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Ban Lord Pills/Deathstroke

@Rose Lilah wow so you thank the guy who has been slandering you editors and others on this site... smh

 
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theJD4

Creative? Lol you must never been on complex cuz they use the same damn scheme it just flows a little better. Don't get me wrong I love HNHH but give credit where it's due homie

 
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👾LORD PIŁŁS THE MIGHTY👾

@Ban Lord Pills/Deathstroke Nigga I never slander the editors lmao its yall niggas. I only mention how late they are to articles but other than that, its yall niggas lmao

 
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Pedro Vinhas
Pedro Vinhas
Jun 17, 2016

awesome article as usual

 
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eat_the_booty
eat_the_booty
Jun 17, 2016

Those gifs are just embarrassing smh, take this L.

 
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Ban Lord Pills/Deathstroke

shut up fatboy

 
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Rose Lilah
ADMIN
Rose Lilah
Jun 17, 2016

new digital cover thoughts??!!! or suggestions. holla.

 
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Hip-hop L Delivery guy

Y'all went all out for this 1. Nice job

 
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AirHurdle

The scroll taking so long to kick in(I guess for added effect) was actually a little annoying, I thought my mouse was broken for a second. The full screen effect was awesome though, something you don't really see.

 
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👾LORD PIŁŁS THE MIGHTY👾

Love this Rose. Dope cover. Will y'all do this every month cuz you guys do it like once every couple months

 
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RayJ
RayJ
Jun 17, 2016

yeah great article, definitely enjoy these. I also found the scroll effect lagged for way too long and it felt like my mouse wasn't working

 
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GangstaCharles

Do one for school boy Q next!

 
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