Above: YG readied Stay Dangerous as well as a new 4hunnid collection for August.
When YG began drawing up a blueprint for Stay Dangerous, his third studio album and one of the summer’s standout hip-hop releases, one thing was nonnegotiable: DJ Mustard, his old friend and co-architect of raunchy West Coast rap, had to be behind the boards. It was a welcome reunion for the duo, who mined magic collaborating on YG’s 2014 debut, My Krazy Life, which bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. But success also bred acrimony, and not a single Mustard beat made it onto YG’s 2016 follow-up, Still Brazy.
“We was on our ‘fuck you’ shit; we ain’t work for two years straight,” says the 28-year-old Compton, Calif., native (born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson), reclining on a snow-white sofa in the living room of his home outside Los Angeles. “Me and Mustard had to get our shit back. And we did that [on Stay Dangerous] -- big records, radio records.”
With early mixtape tracks like “Pussy Killer” and “I Like Head,” YG has always embraced his “party and bullshit” persona, perhaps never so successfully as on My Krazy Life, which chronicles a day in the life of a gangbanger. On Stay Dangerous, out Aug. 3, he switches up his technique and, inspired by Atlanta sessions with Migos and 21 Savage, ditches his writing pad and instead freestyles a few hooks. Yet the LP still finds YG reckoning with the thrills (“Big Bank”) and ills (“Handgun”) of a thriving rapper with one foot still in the streets.
On this steamy July day, he’s gearing up for the project’s release while dealing with a recent arrest for felony robbery after snatching a man’s chain in Las Vegas. (He says he can’t discuss the case.) If he’s stressed by his schedule -- which today includes meetings for his clothing label, 4hunnid; a video shoot for a collaboration with rapper Mozzy; a studio session for last-minute album tweaks; and daddy duty with 3-year-old daughter Harmony -- he doesn’t show it. These days, his primary concern is staying true to his roots. “I can’t throw shit out,” he says. “I’m a dude from the streets, and it’s 110 million n----as on the same shit I’m living on. I got to make my shit special.”