By Joseph Gray //
“They knew the code to my gate. That was awkward. Answer this: I got a million dollars. Who shot me?”
Before asking the million-dollar question, YG was wheeled onto the stage at The Wiltern in a stretcher covered by the haunting sounds of the real-life news reports from the night a bullet from an unknown assailant pierced his hip during a recording-studio shooting last year. The pitch-black building became illuminated with surgeons on an LED screen as we re-lived the “operation” on the Compton rapper. Nevertheless, YG assured the crowd this wouldn’t be a somber affair, rapping through paranoia toward the heavens with the brash resiliency and expanding maturation that’s led him to one of rap’s most improbable rises.
Did YG’s homies set him up? Was it the guy he knocked out during a past fight? Did a girl he was sleeping with tell her boyfriend about YG’s studio hideout due to fear? All of these still unanswered questions flow through the heart of the song “Who Shot Me?” This serves as the vivid crux of YG’s sophomore LP Still Brazy (released in June) and the opener for arguably the biggest name of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in LA series.
“Damn, I ain’t know it was gon’ happen like this … But I guess God has some other plans for me. ‘Cause that shit ain’t stop me,” recalls YG at the end of the song.
It was a thankful and brazen declaration extremely fitting for the 26-year-old who is still driving at top speed but maneuvering in directions many didn’t imagine. YG (born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson) wasn’t expected to be here, let alone serve as the driving force in the resurgence of gangsta rap. It’s not too often that a major debut album comes 4-5 years after a breakout single, but such was the case for YG after the playfully crass “Toot It and Boot It” came and went without much of a follow-up from Def Jam. However, YG leaned on the same things he used to charm a horde of anxious fans drenched in red attire to match their favorite Blood rapper: self-awareness, survival and a new-age, authentic look into LA’s culture, with equal celebrations for the lucky-to-get-by days and champagne-spilling nights making for something we can all relate and party to.
This concoction, tied to an undeniably formidable rapper-producer connection with LA native DJ Mustard, helped form YG’s 2014 debut My Krazy Life that was a half-decade/lifetime in the making. A first-class concept album that offered some perspective to those who were unable to avoid gang life’s abyss, YG picked up where Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar left off with his own views on the “Hub City,” which has become a global name in the process.
With his mind-bending suspicions briefly on hold, YG jumped back into the now-welcomed madness that proceeded it. He treated the crowd to the gigantic “BPT” before confessing — like all of us spectators — “I Just Wanna Party”, the standout track from My Krazy Life that features Top Dawg Entertainment’s ScHoolBoy Q and Jay Rock. While neither TDE member was in the house, that didn’t put a damper on the night’s energy or YG’s willingness to visit Bompton for as long as possible.
Playing to the Bloods’ longstanding vernacular — replacing C’s with B’s — that he has made mainstream, YG then went into “Bicken Back Being Bool”, showcasing how he can turn a robbery on an average day into something we can all boogie to. YG may never be mistaken for the world’s greatest lyricist, but he has a knack for sharp storytelling — something even the secret service had to take notice of during this past election season.
An ever-present voice and face of the streets, YG isn’t taking anything lightly. Police brutality and racial injustice are getting the same relentless attention that his escapades with women previously would, and that’s something the U.S. government can attest to.
This narrative was highlighted by “FDT”, the anti-Donald Trump anthem featuring LA rapper Nipsey Hussle that has grown even more relevant after this year’s U.S. presidential election. The secret service forced some slight edits to the record after some calls to Def Jam threatened its release, but that certainly hasn’t stopped YG’s momentum.
For evidence, look no further than his roaring hometown concertgoers at The Wiltern. This contingent included several who were randomly plucked from the audience — even the ones whom YG joked looked “like they work at Facebook” — to take turns beating a Donald Trump piñata before Bay Area rapper G-Eazy surprisingly appeared to rap his verse on the remix.
If extended album delays, a near-death experience and government censorship can’t stop YG, I don’t know what can. And neither does he.
Who Shot Me?
I Just Wanna Party
Word Is Bond (with Slim 400)
Twist My Fingaz
Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)
Toot it and Boot It
Don’t Tell ‘Em (Jeremih tease)
Why You Always Hatin’?
Who Do You Love?
FDT (with G-Eazy)