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Album Review: YG’s Still Brazy

The lead up to the release of YG’s second studio album, appropriately named Still Brazy, has been shrouded in controversy. From parting ways with critically acclaimed producer and longtime friend DJ Mustard to being shot at his Compton studio, the past two years have been nothing short of tumultuous for the West-Coast gangster rap aficionado.

In June of 2015 the rapper was shot 3 times in the hip while recording Still Brazy. He allegedly left the hospital the same day of the shooting to get back to recording. Most recently, in May, while filming a music video for the song “Thug,” featuring AD, a series of gunshots erupted on set. In what was later called “gang-affiliated violence” by LAPD.

YG proved that it would take a lot more than being struck by three bullets to slow down the momentum he had gained from his 2014 debut album My Krazy Life. Still Brazy, while similar to My Krazy Life sonically, differs greatly in terms of content and showcases a more mature, collected side YG.

The album doesn’t flow track to track as well as My Krazy Life, in part because there are multiple producers, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Each track holds it own and contributes to the bigger picture. “Why You Always Hatin?” which features Drake and Kamaiyah has radio hit potential and is easier for a broader audience base to digest than some of the songs toward the end of the project. “Bool, Balm and Bollective” and “Still Brazy” are also a little more lighthearted than the paranoia driven “Who Shot Me?” and the foreboding “Don’t Come to LA.”

Instead of party tracks, “I Just Wanna Party,” or songs glorifying crime, “Meet The Flockers,” that littered the My Krazy Life track list, the listener finds YG transitioning flawlessly into the role of political and social activist. The album closes with his three most serious songs to date. First up is the brash and aggressive protest track “FDT (F*ck Donald Trump).” The song is more or less an open letter to Trump that gets straight to the point in rejecting his divisive and controversial campaign. On “Blacks & Browns” he and Chicano rapper Sad Boy delve into the issue of race relations in the United States, Reaganomics, violence within their communities and police brutality. Similar issues are brought up again on “Police Get Away Wit Murder,” the albums final song.

For production, YG recruits the best the West has to offer, minus Dr. Dre. The small group of producers spans several genres and generations. DJ Swish, HBK Gang co-founder P-Lo, 1500 or Nothin’ and jazz-rap legend Terrace Martin fill in for DJ Mustard. The album is jam-packed with a rejuvenated G-Funk sound that holds its own in a contemporary hip-hop landscape dominated by production similar to DJ Esco or Metro Boomin’.

Throughout the tape YG makes references to the studio shooting. On “Twist My Fingaz” he raps, “only one that made it out the West without Dre. Only one that’s ‘bout what he say. Only one that got hit and was walking the same day.” While some lines lean towards flaunting the fact that he’s “hard to kill,” it is evident that the shooting took a toll on his mental state. Not surprisingly, given the lifespan and “shot and killed” cause of death of many rappers, paranoia and fear cloud his judgment and make him question the loyalty of those surrounding him. In the grand scheme of Compton his success doesn’t matter and despite how far he’s come from his days as a petty thief any day could be his last and he knows it.

On a coast where Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar seem to be forever in the spotlight YG has risen up as an equal. Surpassing the status of regional rapper to being a nationwide celebrity he has become the lone voice for West Coast gangster rap. Still Brazy had the ability to make or break YG’s career and the album undoubtedly cements his place as one of hip-hop’s finest.

FDT (F*CK Donal Trump)

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