YG Talks 'Still Brazy,' Police Brutality, Fatherhood & Wanting a Grammy Nomination
YG has been extremely paranoid the past two years. After getting shot during a recording session in Studio City by an unknown gunman last year, the Compton rapper has been moving differently since his esteemed 2014 debut My Krazy Life. He throws less parties at his house, doesn't give out his address (especially after having a daughter named Harmony earlier this year) and sometimes makes his homies feel a certain way when he repeatedly says out loud, "I don't trust nobody." (He even has it tatted on his body.)
Riding through his sophomore effort Still Brazy (the "B" signifies common slang from the Bloods gang), the L.A.-born Keenon Jackson doesn't mince words when he calls out the blue suits on tracks like "Police Get Away wit Murder" or his political stance on the explicit Nipsey Hussle collaboration "FDT (F--k Donald Trump)." Even the Secret Service reached out to Def Jam and perused the album's lyrics at one point. Still, YG's mission statement is to keep it real, delivering the type of truth about his 'hood and the unjust treatment of minorities by police that he hopes will earn him a Grammy.
So much has happened to you in the past two half years -- you were shot, had a daughter. Take me through the moment that made you say, "Alright, I'm letting everything out in the studio."
For me as an artist, as a rapper, I feel like that's what we're supposed to do - put our life on blast, you feel me? Just connect with the motherf--kers in the world and let 'em know like, "Shit, I'm out here. We going through some of the same things." My last album [2014's My Krazy Life] was based off moments from my life, me being in the business. Still Brazy's the last two years of my life.
How much of this album was inspired by the shooting?
All the music, I recorded after the shooting, I probably mention some shit about that shit on the album. Lemme see, the song "Still Brazy," "Who Shot Me?," the second verse on "Twist My Fingaz" so it's like a mix, probably three or four records.
What made you decide to tackle politics and police brutality on this album?
Oh, man, it was just how I feel. It was just me knowing what's going on in the culture and me being a human and really feeling some type of way. Being in the rap game and the rap community, that's where it started at. Motherf--kers rapping about what was going in the communities and culture. I feel like, "Damn, ain't nobody doing nothing, saying nothing big about none of this shit." The friggin' rap game is watered down so I decided to speak up on the album. Me and Nipsey is the same on "F--k Donald Trump." I been had "Police Get Away wit Murder" since last March. I could have been put it out to capitalize [on the moment] but it was really like me feeling some type of way about what's going on. I did the record, was like I'mma put it on my album and then shit kept happening. I'm like damn this shit really crazy.
Was there a specific incident in the news that hit close to home?
I think the Mike Brown situation first made me do that record ["Police Get Away wit Murder"]. It's Mike Brown and the dude that got choked out in New York, Eric Garner. Those two was the reason why I did the record. Then when I did the record, [police brutality] just kept going, seeing all type of shit like the shit that happened in Baltimore then in Chicago. It's just so many people who got murdered by the police. I went online and I Googled the people murdered by the police. Man, that shit happen every day... Every day. Motherf--kers don't even know it.
What was your reaction: anger, sadness?
The shit ain't right like the world's corrupted. This shit really fucked up. When [the news show a] segment of blacks doing some shit, they make us look bad. But everybody else is doing incredibly f--ked up shit all day long for no reason. Like most of this shit happens where we're from and it's survival, most of the time. All this other shit makes no sense. It's just happening because motherf--kers can do it, they getting away with it or they on some racist shit. F--k that shit right there. Growing up, they hide this shit from you and when you really pay attention and see this shit happening, it's like damn, this shit is wild.
What's the biggest misconception about Compton?
It's a beautiful place. Everybody think Bompton poor. Bompton ain't poor. Bompton already had a lot of money. Everybody think that the majority of people are bad people. It ain't really like that. You got a lot of talent coming from the city. We got Eazy E, Dre, Cube out there, Quik, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, Venus and Serena Williams, and many more. Those are some of the people that shape some of these cultures out here and it's a lot of other people out there like that doing different stuff. Like we got the mayor of Compton, Aja Brown. The mayor before her was doing all type of scandals, freaky shit behind the scenes using the money and all that. I got a non-profit foundation and my momma helps me run that, orchestrate everything and we doing all our events with the mayor of Compton. My momma really putting all her all into this shit. She always been the type to try to help out. She had a day care for years like she so she was always helping out with the kids and their families. She was doing all type of good shit, so she keeping that going through the foundation. So it's a lot more, it's a lot more man. They really trying to turn [Compton] into a different place.
They took the Compton Fashion Center and the Compton swap meet, and put a Walmart right there. They giving a lot of people jobs out there. I think they building a skating rink on Century. They just making it more like a real town and a real community that you can go and do shit 'cause it really ain't been like that. Motherf--kers don't come to Bompton to do nothing. It's not like you know how they got the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, and they putting a Rams stadium right here. You got Roscoe's Chicken on Pico Boulevard and Roscoe's of Hollywood, the Home Depot center. When they took the Compton Fashion Center down, I was hot, like everybody was hot but everything else is solid.
Were there any past protest records that resonated with you?
[N.W.A's] "Fuck Tha Police" I was three years old [when the song came out] so I don't really remember what the f--k was going on when that song came out, it really didn't affect me. When I heard it when I got older, I'm like damn. Yeah, f--k police, cause I had experienced my bullshit with the police. I heard the song and I'm like, yeah, they doing the same shit [then that they do now]. ["F--k Tha Police"] was definitely like in my head when I did "F--k Donald Trump" and "Police Get Away wit Murder." I was inspired by it.
You also did the song "Blacks & Browns." Can you recall the first time you were aware of the color of your skin?
First time I was aware of the color of my skin? Shit. Probably when I was in middle school or something. I think I've been aware of my skin for a long time but it's not even that. When you notice your skin color, [you notice] a difference in how somebody treats you. That's when it's like damn. [You might be] in 8th, 9th grade and it was probably happening before that but you ain't really thinking about it. Like when you in middle school, high school, you around all these different kids -- Asians, Mexicans, white and you just see how other motherf--kers be treating you. It starts affecting school and shit, grades, behaving in school and they really make us and Hispanics feel worse than what we is, you feel me. It's off some racist shit and that really affect kids and just young motherf--kers at the time like the white boy was doing the same shit I was doing and he ain't get in no trouble or he ain't getting talked about or looked at in a weird type of way or getting kicked out. When you find that shit out, shit make you mad 'cause when you older and you look back, it's like if you would have known when you was younger, you wouldn't have accepted it and went about it another type of way.
What's a lesson that you wish your younger self knew?
Graduating from school because I know if I was more educated, my business in the music industry would probably be better. Where I'm at right now, though, I'm in a good space, my businesses is right and getting better. I came into the game with f--ked up deals and that was just my situation at the time. It was f--ked up how it happened, me not knowing nothing about the music business. All I know is labels trying to sign me. I don't think my education got nothing to do with that, but my business and where it's at today, I probably would've been here a little faster.
Going back to the album, the sound is really cohesive. Who were some of the producers you worked with to make sure that West Coast sound was intact?
I started off with Terrace Martin for "Twist My Fingaz" song so when I took them records to other motherf--kers, I was like yeah, I need some YG shit, next level, step up from My Krazy Life shit and then it need to fit with these songs right here. I was doing that type of shit with all the producers I worked with. I go play my shit for 'em before we start playing with the music. But sometimes I just walk in the studio and they start playing beats and I know how to connect the dots with the music, make it cohesive 'cause if you really listen to some of the beats, they not the same type of beats, like the "Word Is Bond" beat. P-Lo produced that and he a Bay producer so he not on some West Coast, gangsta rap, L.A. shit, like Terrace Martin and my young boy DJ Swish did the records "Don't Come to LA," "Who Shot Me," "Gimmie Got Shot" and "F--k Donald Trump" but it was really me taking my time, being pickier than a motherf--ker.
Who taught you to be selective?
That's just me. That's the type of person I am. I'm just selective, period. Like when I go to the restaurant and pick out my food, Ima tell you exactly how I want my shit. I want my steak butterfly, well-done, super well-done, black, with A-1 sauce on the side. If you don't make my shit like that, you gotta take the shit back.
Describe your chemistry with Drake and Lil Wayne.
I think it's the type of music they making. I f--k with Wayne's camp, they f--k with me. I was Lil Wayne's fan when I hit like 15, 16 and up. I was all like Lil Wayne'd up, you feel me? I told Wayne that shit too when I met him the first time in like 2009. I hit Wayne up 'cause I grew up on some Wayne shit, so I'm like, "I gotta get Wayne on my shit." Drake -- same thing. Motherf--kers respect what I do, how I did it, what I represent, how I represent it. They be hearing about who got the city on lock like the streets and all that, and my name for sure come up every time.
What do you think you represent?
I represent the L.A. lifestyle, for sure, and you know motherf--kers wanna follow like California and New York is the places everybody follow in the world. I represent the West Coast culture. It's even bigger. It's some worldwide shit. Like if I was from the middle of America representing that lifestyle, that shit probably wouldn't matter. Everybody fascinated with the L.A. lifestyle, like with the gang-banger culture, the Hollywood shit, the females, they wanna know about it. They wanna come see and be a part of it. It's just not me on some lifestyle, having fun shit, it's just me being a young motherf--ker that came up from the streets and now I'm in the game. Now I'm about to turn this shit into what it supposed to be. I'm about to be the motherf--ker from the streets turning into a motherf--king businessman running the game. That's what I'm about to show these people.
How do you feel about being a father? Did your mom's work with kids help ease you into fatherhood?
It's great. I love it. I feel like it's just who I am as a person. Me having my moms and pops in my life and knowing and seeing what they went through for us, it's why I'm a good father. I know my mom and pops went hard for us. They got caught up in some federal shit and we lost it all. My pops went to jail for three years, my momma lost all her shit. She had a case but she didn't get no jail time but I seen all that shit happen. I seen how life was and how shit went after that. That's why I'm a good father.
What's your mission statement with this album?
My mission statement on some music shit, I think it's time for me to get that stamp. I need a Grammy or a nomination. Just give me my nomination. I feel like motherf--kers always be questioning me and my rap shit. They always like, "He don't be rapping about nothing" or "He's a singles dude. He just live for singles" or "He ain't gonna be able to make another My Krazy Life, another classic." They always saying shit like that when it comes to YG. I want this album to shut their ass up.
YG's Still Brazy drops Friday, June 17 and is currently available for streaming on Apple Music.