LA’s most charismatic young rapper returns over bombastic West Coast beats on his impressive sophomore album.
It would’ve been hard to believe three years ago that the same rapper behind 2013 chart-topper ‘My Nigga‘ would go on to have his music censored by the Secret Service and participate in recorded therapy sessions to discuss the events of his life since that record – but YG’s life has changed a lot since his debut album, and those events are understandably traumatic. In 2015, he was shot three times at a friend’s LA studio, an event that has left it’s mark on the rapper through a hardened demeanour and a newfound skepticism and lack of trust towards the people around him.
YG’s trust issues are one of many prevalent themes he grapples with on Still Brazy, wether he’s questioning the loyalty of his friends on standouts like ‘Who Shot Me?’ and ‘Gimmie Got Shot’, or establishing his distrust of women, authority, the justice system, and even politicians. Ultimately, we get a rapper who seems sharpened by his experiences and time in the spotlight since his last album. It is the most refined and focused YG has ever sounded on wax, as he seems to not only tip toe along the line separating the gang banger from the celebrity, but eliminate it completely and embrace every side of himself, including the family man and the charity worker. With lines like: “life still krazy, new born baby, niggas I don’t know still hate me“, YG acknowledges the various aspects of who he is behind closed doors, on the streets, and on the stage. It’s an admirable approach to a chaotic life that sounds as erratic as a drug-fueled party becoming a near-death shootout at a moments notice.
Never before has YG rapped with such clarity and bravado, brashly floating over bouncy kicks and ratcheting hi-hats with a notable hunger and confidence in his voice that wasn’t present on his debut. Where on his last effort YG tended to occasionally serve as an accessory to DJ Mustard’s club-ready production, here his presence is just as prominent as the instrumentals, without sacrificing any of the pop appeal that may have been lost by Mustard’s surprising absence on the album.
YG’s production has strayed from the trend-setting beats of 2014’s My Krazy Life in favour of tastefully revitalising trends from his favourite era of gangsta-rap. Gooey basslines and twinkling keys amiss squealing g-funk synths and spacious pads serve as the wet cement for the album’s stomping drums to leave a footprint in, and like a solidified footprint, the sound stays more-or-less the same throughout the album’s length – though this isn’t a bad thing. YG sounds right at home over the throwback West Coast production, doing justice to beats that would make even Dr. Dre proud. From the moment the first keys flourish into the mix over a sticky bassline on album opener ‘Don’t Come to LA’, the tone and energy for the next 50 minutes is set. However, while this consistency in sound makes for an enjoyable and cohesive listen, some may find the album laborious due to its lack of variety if they aren’t fans of the sounds that inspired it.
Still Brazy is an important step in YG’s career as he finds his voice as an artist and progresses towards a sound that is truly his own, and an album that will certainly be recognised as one of the year’s best rap releases.
Still Brazy immerses you in the life of somebody else in a way few other releases in 2016 have, and it’s a welcome improvement from its predecessor that establishes YG as both the present and the future of West Coast rap.