Interview: YG

January 22, 2013

Yesterday, Compton-hailing rapper YG released Just Re'd Up 2, the fourth mixtape he's dropped since signing with Def Jam in 2009. In the beginning, YG fell in to rapping, responding to a diss from a street rival in a song posted to MySpace, but along with longtime partner DJ Mustard, he's developed and popularized what's referred to as the "ratchet" sound, a spare style where open space is dotted with kicks, claps and spastic synths. Mustard—who we profiled in the last issue—produced the bulk of the songs on Just Re'd Up 2, which could hold its own as a major label album and features a parade of LA friends (Nipsey Hussle, Ty$, Dom Kennedy), high-watt stars (Juicy J, Young Jeezy, Wiz Khalifa), funny skits and a surprising Brandy cover. YG hopped on the phone for a quick chat about what ratchet means and what it's like to make West Coast rap for an East Coast label.

Download: YG, Just Re'd Up 2

How’d you become so close with DJ Mustard? Before Mustard was even making beats he was my DJ. He was doing all my shows with me, before I was even cracking, back in like ‘08, ‘09. Mustard had been doing all the cracking clubs in LA, and then this dude who was doing my street management, he knew Mustard from when Mustard was like a little boy, so he linked me with him on my first mixtape. From that day, we started hanging out. He moved in my house with me, we was living in the house with each other and shit, making beats. Regular homie shit. I have a house in Hollywood with a studio in it. Mustard has a room here still, but he’s got his own place with his son and his baby mama, too. Mustard is goofy, but in the studio, if he don’t like some shit, he’s gonna tell you it’s weak. There’s no yes men around here. I don’t like the homies telling me some shit weak, so I’m gonna go ham every time.

I thought you'd moved to the suburbs? Why did you come back to metro LA? Hollywood is where everyone's at, it's in the mix. I used to have a house in Granada Hills, I had my family living there. We moved them over there then one day, I'm leaving the house, driving with my shirt off and I got lots of tattoos and shit, and police saw me and took me to jail, said I looked like somebody who was robbing houses over there. So I had to get out of Granada Hills. I moved my family again and I moved to Hollywood. My house now is the turn-up house, the house we record and do everything at. I have to have homies around me at all times. That's why my music is all turned-up shit, cause we're always turned up. We might be up in the kitchen cooking hamburgers, breakfast, pancakes and grits. Most of the time we're just in the studio, drinking alcohol, smoking weed, playing Madden 2k. The clubs in Hollywood hate on us, cause we're the youngest guys out in the clubs.

People have taken to calling you and Mustard’s sound “ratchet.” What does “ratchet” mean to you? I fuck with the word ratchet, but that ain’t no brand new shit. Lil Boosie, he was using ratchet a long time ago. How people making it now, saying like, YG’s music is ratchet, I feel them, but I wasn't making music to make some ratchet music. We didn’t start off using the ratchet word in the studio. My music is just me, something people are gonna turn up to, the girls are gonna dance. The word ratchet could mean all type of things, though: The girl is ratchet, which means she’s a ho. Or, the party is ratchet, it’s turned up and everybody’s dancing and having fun. She’s dressed like a ratchet, got on some little shorts with her ass hanging out. All types of ways you can use it.

How do you feel about Mustard placing so many beats with rappers who typically rap over a different production style? Are there any beats of his that you wish you'd saved for yourself? I’m proud of Mustard for all that shit! But “RIP," the song Jeezy did with Mustard off his last mixtape, Jeezy made that song for me. He made the hook then said, "YG take this song for your single." I did verses for it and everything, but I was like, “You really think this could be my single? I don’t fuck with this shit.” So he took the song for himself, and that motherfucker blew up. I'm hot about that! Like, damn, that was supposed to be my song! But I cant be mad at nobody but myself.

You've been signed to Def Jam for a couple years, but haven't released an album with them yet. Do you prefer making tapes? I’ve been building my fan base. I'm not trying to be an artist that comes out and does low sales in the first week. I’m signed to an east coast label and I’m on the west coast; the things I’ve been doing the lsat years, I know [Def Jam] really wasn't able to see the way people out here were seeing. But now they get it. They see that Mustard is making hit records, the influence is cracking, so I think after this mixtape, I’ll probably be leading into my album. I was 20 when I first came out, now I'm fixing to turn 23. I'm more business-minded now, selling merch, setting up my own tours. I feel like all my fans and supporters want me to go mainstream. People are rooting for me, ’cause they've seen me come from MySpace to here. My music is for the streets. I shoot all my videos in the old hood, you can still see me out here, riding a Porsche down Rosencrantz. I enjoy not having to worry about street life, but we still live out here. Hollywood is not that far from the hood, it's right down the street. There's never gonna be a time where I won't be worried about the streets. I'll always be involved in that shit.

Interview: YG