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Still Brazy After All These Years: YG’s Still Brazy

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YG’s 2014 debut, My Krazy Life , was one of the best albums a bad rapper could make.

There was some great production courtesy of DJ Mustard, excellent features from the likes of Ty Dolla $ign and Black Hippy, and a simple but effective narrative pulling most of the song’s together. YG’s raps and delivery, conversely, were pretty underwhelming throughout. But that didn’t really matter; the record had a consistent aesthetic and (most importantly) it was fun . Like any good West Coast hip-hop album, it instantly transported you to Los Angeles on a sun-drenched summer afternoon, where some people are kicking back while others, in the immortal words of Nate Dogg, are seemingly “always up to no good.”

YG’s music almost always follows an obvious formula. Without fail, you’ll hear slightly uptempo beats anchored by funky synth basslines, simple and repetitive hooks, and tough lyrics that’d be right at home on any West Coast gangsta rap record from the 90s.

So as strange as it is to tell you that YG a not-so-great MC who sticks steadfastly to a set formula probably could’ve kept making entertaining records without evolving, it’s 100% true; his music (clearly inspired by the likes of DJ Quik and Snoop Dogg) is pure ear candy for any gangsta rap fan. His sophomore record, Still Brazy (bloods aren’t fond of the letter C), keeps the basic formula intact this is G shit from LA through and through but it sees the Compton (make that Bompton) rapper take some surprising steps forward as an artist. MCs who are incredibly consistent always risk becoming generic, and YG wisely makes his songs bigger and bolder than ever before.

As a result, Still Brazy ’s seventeen tracks are largely more clearly defined and memorable than his past efforts. For instance, the absurdly titled “Bool, Balm, and Bollective” not only has a stellar instrumental that suspends hazy Gfunk synths over a grimy bassline like smog floating above the streets of LA, but it also sees YG slip between double and triple time flows as effortlessly as Lil Wayne. Given that there was absolutely zero indication that he could even rap with that level of technical skill prior to this point, it’s a pretty stunning moment on an album full of highlights. The trio of tracks that close out Still Brazy are equally impressive displays of YG’s newfound ambition. Here, he gets political in classically West Coast fashion by spitting blunt, brutal lyrics and not giving a fuck what the consequences will be. The Nipsey Hussleassisted “FDT” (that’s “Fuck Donald Trump”) is infectiously incendiary. Over a spartan beat, both rappers come out swinging. YG kicks his verse off with “All the n****s in the hood wanna fight you / Surprised El Chapo ain’t tried to snipe you / Surprised the Nation of Islam ain’t tried to find you” while Nipsey Hussle lays down one of the best verses I’ve heard all year, with an unwavering rhyme scheme and bars of pure gold: “I’m from a place where you probably can’t go / Speaking for some people that you probably ain’t know” he raps, “And if you build walls, we gon’ probably dig holes.”

The end of the track calls for solidarity between black and Mexican communities, which segues perfectly into “Blacks & Browns,” where YG and Sadboy Loko expound on how police brutality has been affecting their respective communities. Yet again the end of the track gives way to a seamless transition into the closer, “Police Get Away wit Murder,” produced by former Southern phenomenon, HitBoy. Again, YG shows some nice versatility as he raps over a clamoring beat that recalls East Coast boombap more than it does gangsta rap. At the end of the track, he ditches bars entirely to speak frankly on the deaths of Tyler Woods, David Joseph, Kimani Gray, and Laquan McDonald at the hands of police. The way these last three tracks take issues of politics and successively magnify them until they become truly personal showing a throughline between the frame of mind of politicians like Trump and the murder of kids like Tyler Woods is powerful and disquieting in equal measure.

For as good as Still Brazy ’s more serious moments are, however, it’s a moment of levity that sticks with me most: the fantastic “Twist My Fingaz,” easily one of my favorite tracks of the year. Produced by jazz/hip-hop/ R&B mastermind Terrace Martin, the song encapsulates everything I love about West Coast Gfunk. YG’s lyrics and Martin’s thudding drum and bass parts hit hard, but the song still has an undeniable spirit of fun as bright keys and glorious talkbox synths envelop YG’s earworm hook: “I just do my dance and cuff my pants / Twist my fingers with my hands.” Everyone should find a scene of subgenre of music that will make them happy without fail critics and popular reaction be damned. For me, (strange though it may sound) that genre is Gfunk; I can’t ever hope to listen to highpitched, Dr. Drestyle synths or thumping, DJ Quik-inspired basslines and not have a smile on my face.

With hip-hop’s overall canon in mind, YG’s latest doesn’t feel very impactful, but if you’re as obsessed as I am with this specific style, then your summer is sure to be brazy.