Last week saw the release of YG’s debut album. It has taken five years since the West Coast rapper initially signed to Def Jam for the record to be released, and in the world of major label rap this is something that happens all too often. However, the delay has done him some favours: for example DJ Mustard, who he came up with, is now one of the most sought after producers in the rap game, and thanks to their connections he produces 9 of the 14 cuts on the album.
In all honesty, prior to listening to this release, YG had never caught my ear as a particularly exciting rapper. He’s got enough charisma on the mic to ride a track well, and chooses some great beats, but I’d never found his content particularly groundbreaking. Upon pressing play I was treated to 4 songs of Mustard produced radio-friendly club fare. None of the songs are bad, and furthermore they’re actually all quite decent, but they did little to dispel my prejudice.
Then on ‘Meet the Flockers’, surprisingly the first non-Mustard cut, the album takes an upward turn. The album is about pulling burglaries, and while it’s not the most commendable subject matter, it showcases a keen talent for storytelling that I had not previously associated with the West Coast man. It’s followed by the previously released ‘My Nigga’, which has been a certified banger for the last 6 months, and ‘Do It To Ya’, which features a great guest turn from Teefli. His portfolio carries on widening as the album continues. ‘Me and My Bitch’ is the record’s slow jam and, despite the title, it manages to avoid the misogyny which plagues many rappers efforts at appealing to the fairer sex. The Metro Boomin produced‘1AM’ is another burglary track, and the Atlanta man’s beat makes it’s even more sinister than the first. Closer ‘Sorry Momma’ sees YG in a reflective mood, apologising to his mother for his gangster lifestyle, and he sounds truly heartfelt.
While YG really impressed me as a rapper over the course of the record, the star turn of the show has to be Mustard’s production skills. In the post-Lex Luger age of bombastic trap beats, Mustard’s minimalistic style is a breath of fresh air. Thundering bass notes are juxtaposed with ‘hey’ samples, clicks and claps, and the stripped back approach leaves acres of room on each beat for YG and his guests to stamp their personality on the tracks. Another strong point is how, despite having a truly recognisable style, there are enough sonic quirks on each beat to keep the listener captivated. The piano on ‘Do It To Ya’ is seriously uplifting, and the sleazy G-Funk-esque bass notes throughout the album keep the project firmly rooted in the West Coast tradition.
One criticism would be of the album, that it does play it quite safe, and with only 3 songs over 4 minutes long, YG clearly had radio play in mind. However, with Mustard on the boards and his own strong charismatic flow, you can hardly blame him for gunning for the success this record deserves.
Release date: 18/03/14