Compton (or should we say Bompton) rapper YG is back with his sophomore album Still Brazy, but for a minute the record could’ve never seen the light of day. In June of last year YG (real name Keenon Jackson) got shot at a Los Angeles studio in the hip. A scary moment indeed, but luckily he survived and recovered rather quickly. “I’m still here, and I’m so lucky,” he told Billboard in an interview shortly after the incident. “I’m hard to kill.” It’s a good thing, because if he had indeed died, we not only would’ve lost one of the best West Coast rappers we have, but we also wouldn’t have been able to enjoy his latest LP, a wonderful throwback to the early 90’s G-Funk sound that made the golden coast music scene famous.
After a short interlude, the album kicks off with “Don’t Come to LA,” where we hear this throwback sound right away. We also hear a fierce YG on the mic, where he, along with Bricc Baby, AD and Sad Boy, detail the life they live in the streets of Los Angeles and how it’s not the glamorous place to live like it’s portrayed. “Y’all playing with the set, it’s really war round here/Sh*t I’m even having problems in the set/But I’m really from the set, y’all don’t come around here,” he spits. It seems even after getting popped he’s still taking on any challengers who questions his or his city’s authenticity. Speaking of authenticity, YG questions other’s street cred throughout the album, most notably on the infectious lead single “Twist my Fingaz.” “Why all these rap n*ggas wanna be bloods?’ he asks. He has a point, because claiming gang relations has become increasingly popular in the rap game as well as in modern society (note the replacing of C’s with B’s). YG, a noted Piru Blood member, wants people to know among other things on this record is that being “about that life” isn’t fun and games, which became clearly evident after his shooting incident.
Whereas YG’s debut album My Krazy Life was described as more of a ratchet-infused party album, no doubt because of the anthems his once go-to producer DJ Mustard churned out, this record is more of a toned down, chilled version of MKL sonically. Mustard isn’t found anywhere on this record, probably because of the beef the two had last year. YG instead turned to, among others, noted West Coast producers 1500 or Nothin ‘ and Terrace Martin to elicit a G-Funk-type vibe for the album, which is pulled off brilliantly. The former laid down the best beat on the project; the laid-back “She Wish She Was,” which would have fit perfectly on classic early 90’s West Coast albums like The Chronic and Doggystyle. Martin on the other hand lends his talent to a number of tracks, including the aforementioned “Twist My Fingaz,” and also the equally smooth “Gimme Got Shot.” If ever there was an album to cruise in your lowrider down the street with the windows down, it’s this one.
Lyrically we find YG on edge throughout the project; the most blatant example is seen on “Who Shot Me,” where he asks himself, frankly, who shot him that one June night in 2015. “I’m like, ‘Damn, did the homies set me up?” he inquires. “Cause we ain’t really been talking much/I know that sounds sick, my thoughts dark as f*ck.” It seems that getting shot has almost changed him mentally; he even sought therapy to cope with the incident. The fame that comes with being a well-known rapper doesn’t help either. “I, I gotta keep guns with me/Sh*t real, I ain’t tryna be pretty/Paranoia got this Henny in my kidney/Cause I don’t know if they’re with me or against me,” he raps on the menacingly bouncy title track. However, even with all these worries, YG keep the songs lively enough to dance to.
The last 3 tracks has YG addressing several political/societal issues. “Fdt (F*ck Donald Trump),” featuring fellow gang affiliator Nipsey Hussle is one of the most overt political statements we’ve seen in hip hop history. “Black & Browns” and “Police Get Away Wit Murder” are aimed towards the minority injustices that go around in America. “They give us years for guns and we can buy em off the shelf/But you’ll get life in the coffin if you don’t protect yourself,” YG attests on the latter. “How we supposed to chill when there’s no chill your honor?/N*ggas running in your crib your honor/Tell me what the f*ck you would have did your honor,” he pleads his case.
If My Krazy Life was the party, then Still Brazy is the ride home after the function got shut down. Albeit there are some club-worthy bangers (the Drake x Kamaiyah-assisted “Why You Always Hatin? for example), the majority of this record is a laid-back affair. While it doesn’t show much growth from previous efforts, that really isn’t the type of rapper YG is. He knows his lane, and he switched it up just a bit for people to notice, all the while staying true to the sound that made him who he is today. Here’s to staying bool, balm and bollected.