There was a good reason for me not covering Still Brazy back when it came out in June. I did not care too much about YG. It has been so long since I listened to any of My Krazy Life and the fact that DJ Mustard produced the majority of that record made me not excited to revisit it. Over the months since this album came out I had heard so much praise for this record that I needed to check it out myself.
The production on this thing was the first thing I heard that stood out as a drastic improvement. The classic G-funk sound that was popularized by producers like Dr. Dre are a clear influence and make several songs on here catchy and upbeat, even when the subject matter is not always the same. The beat on a song like “Who Shot Me?” sounds like something Eminem would have rapped over on one of his earlier albums.
Then comes YG who has made improvements with his technical abilities and writing. Before, YG rarely stood out to me whenever I would hear him. On Still Brazy there is a clear drive from YG to become a bigger presence on his own album. The lyrics are also incredibly personal on here. The themes of gang violence are all over this album and YG raps from a perspective that establishes how well he knows the lifestyle.
On “Who Shot Me?,” YG raps about his experience getting shot outside of a studio in 2015. The song captures the pain of being a victim of such violence, something few rappers have the life experiences to discuss. “Gimmie Got Shot” sees YG telling all the people who want things from him following his fame, showing a sense of distrust that YG has developed.
In terms of hits with mainstream appeal, YG has several songs on here I would have loved to have seen do better. The main one being “Twist My Fingaz,” which has one of the most fun and funky beats and sees YG going in with his verses. I really love this track in particular and it really deserved to be a bigger hit. “Why You Always Hatin?” might be a little basic with its lyrics, and YG feels out of his element, but the song is still fun and Drake does surprisingly well on here.
It is the final three songs on here that I think solidify this record as being great. This is where the political themes, while never subtle, are substantial. “Blacks & Browns” details the realities of racial discrimination minorities face on a daily basis. YG’s verse is personal and details complications in the black community. Following this, Sad Boy delivers a thoughtful verse about Hispanic discrimination, making smart points in a fair way.
“Police Get Away wit Murder” is exactly what it sounds like it is about. It is a topic that has been brought up several times this year, but none feel as personal as this. YG feels like he is genuinely being impacted by police brutality on a daily basis and states he does not mind committing crimes because he feels police are after him anyway. It is an interesting sentiment that I never heard from any other artist all year.
And how could I not mention the best anti-Trump song from this year, “FDT.” In case you did not know, that stands for “Fuck Donald Trump.” Again, YG is blunt about his opinions but not in a way that feels like it is talking down to the audience. The arguments against Trump are made clear and even though this song did not make an impact in the long run, this is the kind of music protestors will need the next four years. I have been playing this song a lot since November and it has continued to grow on me.
The record has problems, Lil Wayne’s verse on “I Got a Question” nearly ruins the song, “Still Brazy” is not amazing and “She Wish She Was” is just openly misogynistic. There are plenty of people who will be alienated by something like this, given the blunt political themes and the subject matter on gangs, but for those who love West Coast hip-hop from the 90s will want to check this out. This is such an improvement from YG’s previous work and it makes me excited to see if he can continue to ride this sound and keep up this great work.
Best Tracks: Don’t Come To LA, Who Shot Me?, Twist My Fingaz, Gimmie Got Shot, FDT, Blacks and Browns, Police Get Away wit Murder
Worst Track: She Wish She Was