This week, YG released Still Brazy, a 17-track opus that feels like a sequel to the sweeping cinema that was 2014’s My Krazy Life. Over a hydraulic soundscape that sounds like Los Angeles feels, we find our protagonist a couple of years older, newly a father, and a lifetime more introspective. But in between his gun-toting, police-dodging hijinks and struggles with paranoia and anxiety, he’s still the same fun-loving party-starter he’s always been — cuffing his pants, doing his dance.
Earlier this spring, fresh off a redeye from L.A., YG stopped by The FADER’s offices to talk about Still Brazy, the circumstances in which it was created it, and his pressing need to say what he feels. When we paused our conversation for a second to let the screeches of a passing police car fade away, he interjected with an apt observation: “Ay, no, it’s perfect. The police sirens in the back? This shit is real, dawg. It’s real life shit.”
Tell me about the new album.
It’s different from My Krazy Life, but it feels like a follow-up. The album basically represents the dark side of a success story. It’s about the last year-and-a-half, two years of my life. I’ve been going through a lot of shit, ups and downs, I fell out with the homies. Like DJ Mustard and all the other homies — it’s why I ain’t got no Mustard beats on my album. I had a daughter, and that’s a good thing. But a couple weeks after I had my daughter, I got shot. I got popped, and I thought the homies had something to do with it because we weren’t fucking with each other. It’s changed the way I move.
But I’m talking about a lot of stuff on the album: business, the shooting, fake ass rap niggas. But I’m really on some political shit, too, on this motherfucker. I got “Fuck Donald Trump” on there — at first they didn’t want to clear it because of some lines in the song, so we blanked out some lines. The shit when I say I’m surprised El Chapo ain’t try to snipe you and when Nipsey says If yo’ ass do win, you gon’ prolly get smoked. It’s considered like death threats type of shit. They was really taking that seriously, like the Secret Service was really calling Universal like, “Hold on, what’s up? We heard YG’s lyrics was wild and we need to see this.”
Are you still concerned that your friends were involved?
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Nah.
I mean, we fell back in place. We really put two and two together it’s like, Nah, that wouldn’t come from up over there, that’d come from somewhere else. You feel me? Me and Mustard talked recently, like in January. We thought that it got back to them dudes [that I suspected that they were involved]. They heard that and motherfuckers was calling my mama like, “Nah mama, we wouldn’t do that.” Then we eventually talked about it all. It ain't come from the homies.
You were at a video shoot recently and there was a shooting.
That wasn’t my video and I wasn’t involved.
Right, but you were there. Does that make you feel like you need to put yourself somewhere safer?
Certain shit come with hood shit, you feel me? We knew before we shot the video in Compton that it was possible for [something like] that to happen. Period. That’s regular if you’re hanging out with us. That’s a possibility right there. When I do shit in the ghetto, we run a program a certain way. We just do shit a certain way that helps prevent shit like that from happening. Everybody’s straight, though. Ain't nobody get shot.
“People look at me like YG the turnt-up dude, hit singles and all that. And, yeah, that’s me, but I’m for my people, too.”
There’s a perception that when a lot of artists get to your level, they stop going back to where they’re from.
Shit, I don’t. Meek Mill don’t.
Is that part of what you mean when you talk about fake rappers? People who switch up?
Nah, not even. The fake rap thing I’m always talking about is these motherfucking rappers coming to L.A. and they getting turnt and they think they’re gang famous, they’re gang members. Motherfuckers be banging some shit, claiming some shit. Then real L.A. motherfuckers — somebody who’s really from where they claim they’re banging — gives them a pass. But it’s just, like, motherfuckers really out here getting killed, going to jail for life, shooting, getting shot at over this shit.
I’m not tripping on that type of shit. That's not what I’m in the game for. It’s why we had to do “Fuck Donald Trump” because we can’t take it no more. We gotta say something. It was like, I keep thinking about it and I feel some type of way, but then I ain’t saying some shit so it’s fucking with my conscience so I gotta say something. Gotta say something.
Why did you make “Fuck Donald Trump”?
Because fuck Trump. We felt like it was something that was needed. We speaking for a lot of people that ain’t got the platform to speak for themselves or for their people. So we did that for ‘em. We really went in on him. Trump out here moving how he move, he talking how he talk. He supposed to represent the United States of America but we ain’t feeling him ‘cause he not representing us. We know what’s going on, we researched some more shit just in case we didn’t know everything — we did our homework and everything we said was facts. Other artists, rappers, other people ain’t doing it. You could thank me and Nip. This rap shit watered down.
What do you mean when you say “rap is watered down”?
Hip-hop was started off of shit like this. Rapping about what’s going on in the community, rapping about the culture. There’s been a lot of stuff that I wanted to speak on and Nip wanted to speak on. But me and Nip, we get blackballed a lot already, just based on being who we are and representing what we represent. Shows get cancelled, police always tripping on us, we losing a lot of money type shit.
But every time something happens, me and Nip always be like, “Ay bro, we gotta do something, bro.” We always talk about it but when it’s time to really do something, we be like, “Damn, but if we do this, they really gonna shut us down.” So at first we were a little hesitant about stepping forward but with this Donald Trump shit, we were like, “Fuck all that. We gon’ do this and we’re gonna take whatever consequences come with it.” It was a challenge for me because that’s not my norm. People look at me like YG the turnt-up dude, hit singles and all that. And, yeah, that’s me, but I’m for my people, too.
You had to consider the possible consequences, but what do you think would be the best possible outcome?
Everybody gotta vote. I can’t go tell you who you should vote for because I don’t know what you got going on or what you tryna get. Me and my homies got a lot of homies that are in jail for real shit but the time they got — they shouldn’t have got all that time. Some homies got life sentences, you feel me? Hillary, she's with that life sentence shit. Death penalty, all that shit. So it’s like, “Damn. We got a lotta homies up in there, so that ain’t solid.” Each candidate is pushing certain shit and has their own shit so you gotta do your homework before you vote. Sometimes I think it’s all fixed, anyway. We’ll never know ‘cause we’re all the way down here, so we just gotta play it safe.
One thing you’ve been talking about that’s unique to L.A. — and that’s super relevant in light of Trump’s policies — is the relationship between African-Americans and people of Mexican descent.
First things first, a lot of my fans are Hispanic. They’re supporters buying the albums, fucking with the clothing line, buying tickets to all the shows. They’re a large percentage of my fanbase, for sure. Then on top of that, like you said, being from where I’m from, we grew up with Hispanic people as our neighbors. And on the side of that, blacks and Mexicans in L.A. and on the west coast where gangs are at, we got a love-hate relationship. There’s gangbanging politics. It’s a lot of Hispanic hoods and gangs that have beef with black gangs, so there’s a lot of shootings and a lot of killings and a lot of beef going on. But at the same time, you go home and your nextdoor neighbor might be Hispanic.
That’s why we were like, “Fuck this, we’re gonna say something. We know what it is. We grew up with ‘em, we out here with ‘em. They supporting us on some rap shit.” I’m like, “Oh, ain’t nobody doing no real shit about this for y’all? Nobody speaking up like that for y’all? Alright, say no more, don’t trip, I got you.” And they love it, too. I walk down the street and it’s everybody going, “YG! Fuck Trump! Good lookin’, foo’.” It’s real love out there.
It seems like you feel a responsibility to represent.
Yeah, because I’m concerned about the culture. I got a platform and a game. I got, like, people who look up to me, who listen to me. That type of shit comes with being a hip-hop artist period. It depends on your outlook on the game. I ain't telling people to go do no motherfucking crazy shit, or to make shit not safe. It's just, like, respect the game, though. Respect the situation, respect the culture, respect the lifestyle, respect the struggle.