YG – Still Brazy – The STiXXclusive Review

I didn’t expect to come around at this time to be an avid listener of YG, even if it is just coming from his first album filled with Bompton pride, which was My Krazy Life. Speaking of ‘krazy,’ things certainly got that way when he got shot and thereafter had issues dealing with paranoia and knowing who to trust. Some people rather call it PTSD, which is an accurate representation of what he was going through. Now, being that his debut was strong (it had to grow on me for a while), how would he follow it up given the circumstances that arose? Many people don’t come back well when dealing with a traumatic event, but that’s probably just me underestimating YG’s ability. What gave me hope were when the loose tracks came out and that G-Funk sound was booming and had the spirit of something special about to occur. I was all for it then, and I’m all for it now. The final stamp would be the execution, and this is why I’m here.

First album, we got his mother cussing him out, and now Pops Hot Intro shows his father (or someone portraying his father) to chime in and continue the narrative that living in South Central Los Angeles wasn’t one of the best decisions for his adolescence. How that flowed right into Don’t Come To LA was dope and automatically you get the impression that this is more so of a continuation of the rough scenery that was presented in the first album. When people who have lived in the struggle are seeing that it’s glamourized and those on the outside take it too their advantage to look at it as something for a spectacle, there’s definitely no blaming the residents for feeling a way about it. YG deals out his frustration of the game being saturated and taken as a joke, like LA isn’t still home to gangbangers.

Cause ya’ll paying for the lifestyle that’s watered down
Bompton! That where I’m from, shit is not allowed
Y’all out of bounds, keep that out of town shit out of town
You wasn’t banging out of town, it’s too late to holla now
Woah! I’mma get the OGs on board
And press the issues on you suckers oh lord!
Whoa! Or hit you with a price you can’t afford
Then catch yo ass slipping at the BET Awards

I didn’t notice it until just writing this that there’s a connection here to Kendrick’s Institutionalized when he was talking about his homeboys being the ones who want to rob people at the BET Awards. It’s as though this is the verse from that song from YG’s perspective. Given that they’re both from Compton and have a similar upbringing, it was cool to hear that, even if I was the only one who noticed. The song itself welcomes in local representatives of the area who further emphasize that LA isn’t a joke. The real LA, that is.

“Hold on YG since you came out with BPT
These niggas think it’s cool to come down to the CPT
Remember back when rappers was scared to come into town
Now its Hollywood passes man that shit on water down”

Right off the bat, there’s a different feel and the opening track sets the tone for what the album will be like, and leaving no time wasted, Who Shot Me gets right into the frame of mind where he replays the event where he got shot. For some greater perspective and conversation about it, the Noisey special with him speaking with a Therapist is quality content, and it made me root for him more because he’s at least trying to get himself right by doing what most Black men don’t do, and that’s having an open conversation about the pain and mental weight we carry. Self-care is important, and something that needs to be put on display more. It’s a scary thought to believe that you were set up by the people you’re supposed to trust, and that was the case as he broke it down on the track.

“When the shots went off, I thought the spot was deserted
But nah everybody in the spot was just nervous
I don’t like that, nah I don’t like that, we can’t go right back
So many niggas ready to go, we can go war with Iraq
They knew the code to my gate, that was awkward”

The more he broke it down, the more I felt like it didn’t make any sense as to why anyone would think it was anything less than a set-up, because that doesn’t just happen and you’re the only person who gets shot. That’s a bad deal, and it’s understandable that YG would want to retaliate, but the fact that he doesn’t know who did it and the people who potentially set him up could be within his circle, that’s where it’s ‘krazy’ (all pun intended).

Word is Bond & Twist My Fingaz G-Funk at its finest, blood walks and throwing up sets all included. It should not be forgotten that while YG is still in his gangster ways and has a more personal approach in this album, he’s still from California, and it’s always summertime over there. There are certainly going to be songs that enhance the feel of a BBQ and give you a laid back feeling while you’re riding around with the top down. Dom Kennedy & Nipsey Hussle also contribute to that vibe, and it’s been a staple of the sound of LA since the days of young Snoop & Dr. Dre (also shout out to Warren G & RIP Nate Dogg). There’s a price to pay when you start getting money. They always say that it’s likely the people around you that change, and not you in particular. YG highlights this in the Good Times Interlude as he narrates when one of his homies wants to ask him for money because he knows he’s got it – fair assumption, but it’s still annoying. You know the ones where people only hit you up for a favour and you specifically dodge them because you know that’s all they want whenever they speak to you? Something like that.

That leads into Gimmie Got Shot, which is another funkified track, but talks about those wanting a hand out all the time. Another song that many people can relate to on a personal level (to a certain degree).

“Niggas be like “Give me a hand out”
YG be like “Why your grown ass hand out?”
‘Uhhh, fucked up my money, uhhh, shit got ugly ma
My baby mama was on me, damn man, we real homies?’”

Every excuse in the world for people to hit you up and ask for some money, they will come with it. And as for being paid back? El oh el, that’s practically a myth. It’s not even a borrow thing, it’s a loan-and-don’t-receive-anything-back thing. Jealousy & envy are dangerous attributes to someone who has nothing when you appear to have everything. When you hold out on someone who asks for things, they’ll be the first people to try and set you up, which probably alludes to his theory of getting shot by someone within his circle. It’s scary to think about, but you really have to check the ones around you to make sure that they’re actually around for the right reasons, and not to be another one of your personal expenses.

“See Gimmie all along was a cold nigga
Didn’t give him what he wanted so Gimmie stole from niggas
And that’s when I pulled out my Glock
Now everybody know how Gimmie got shot”
 

Don’t be a ‘Gimmie.’ Do yourself a favour and get things for yourself instead of relying on other people. Folks work hard to make something for themselves, while others want the free ride – that’s not how this works; that’s not how any of this works.

I’ll call this the Young Money section of the album, since you have features by Lil Wayne on I Got A Question and Drake on Why You Always Hatin (featuring Oakland’s up-and-coming star, Kamaiyah). I’ll say right now that I feel like Wayne felt more at place on this album than Drake did, because I know he has The Motto and whatnot, but that hyphy sound just…isn’t quite right. I mean, it’s hard enough trying to take him serious on his own album with his makeshift Dancehall, but you can read about that (here). The theme of trust and paranoia run really deep in this album when you have song titles that are asking damn near everything in the book or questioning those in your circle.

“Gotta pay out all commissions, gotta get it, obtain the vision
Homies switching, shit getting different
I’m making executive decisions
To a broke boy I never listen, fuck your permission”

“Bomp-town that’s an automatic hold down
What’s that? Ask no questions, just hold it down
Why you hatin’ on the progress?
I’m a humble nigga, I don’t even pop shit
What I do?
I just drive the Maybach through the projects”

What I’ve come to appreciate about YG’s music is that he doesn’t refrain from being himself (or 400 as he likes to say), and the difference between him and Game (Blood representative from Compton as well), it’s that Game can come and has come off as a fake; someone who has mentioned a lot throughout his career that he’s a Blood (trust me, Jayceon, we know), whereas through the mannerisms and the way he really lives the Blood life, he doesn’t have to continually flaunt it and say “Hey guys, look at me, I’m a blood too,” because it isn’t necessary. It’s just his lifestyle, which is why so many people (like myself) gravitate to his music. You can tell there’s a Kendrick influence because of the way he’s introspective, and it’s also an attribute that I vibe with when it comes to rappers. Those who can dig deep and really try to withhold the understanding of what makes them, them, and trying to get an understanding of the world outside of the confines of their enclosed boxes.

And segue into Bool, Balm & Bollective, which you could argue is one of the standouts of the album, and showcase more of his storytelling, which is one part insight, and another part entertaining. It’s easy to get caught up in situations that you don’t need to be in, based on your initial reactions. When you keep being tried & tried over and over, you could snap. But when you have so much that you could lose (your life, for one), then you have to approach with a different outlook, which is why one must keep cool, calm, and collected (the actual non-Piru term).

“Cause see me I usually lose it
When nigga act stupid, like he ain’t know my record ruthless
Actin’ like he with the business but he ain’t worth me doin’ detention
Sittin’ in prison waiting’ for my niggas, asking for money from these bitches
When niggas start trippin’ I be wanna start tripping’
But I’m just bicken and act like the bigger nigga”

It’s an entertaining story of the day-in-the-life of YG, but shows the maturity that he has, because the drama doesn’t have a great hold in his life like it used to, so he reacts different. It’s that realization that you need to stop acting like you’re from the hood (in some cases), because the little shit just isn’t worth the time or headaches.

She Wish She Was is one of my favourite songs, because it’s one of the most hilarious that I’ve heard. It’s like an ode to Kurupt & Tha Dogg Pound, because of the way women are portrayed in this light (and the features as well add to the humour of it). Let’s just be real, I’m all for women’s rights and them having the ability to be equal – this song essentially highlights certain women who wish they could do what men do (specifically Black men) in the way where how most of us look at us in a negative light, it’s flipped the other way around. If there’s one thing that men never want to admit to, it’s that when we’re treated the same way most of us treat women (like shit), it doesn’t feel good at all, but like my homie Jamz has said, “Niggas is hoes too,” and I’ve certainly seen examples of that in my youth and current adulthood. The bounce of the beat in this song is fantastic. Can I just get a ’64 and hit the switches all day listening to this album already? Please? It’s necessary.

As we’ve come to the last (on the Standard version) and title track, Still Brazy, although throughout his best efforts of combating the fuckery in his life, shit’s still going to pop off and test his composure & survival, as there will constantly be threats to end his rising fame & success.

“Paranoia got this Henny in my kidney
Cause I don’t know if they’re with me or against me
They always said this was how it’s gon’ be
But me… I ain’t wanna believe
They don’t wanna see a nigga with the green
The reason for the 40 cal with the beam”

The relative themes of trust & paranoia resurface and take their place front & centre to be addressed, and certainly it’s a snap back to reality with the real life that YG still has to life with, outside of the music. The fact that he has to constantly be on surveillance and wear a vest everywhere he goes, and even needs a gun to answer the door, that’s not exactly something that you want to live with from day to day. It weighs a lot on his brain, and really it all ties back to the therapy session, and while music can also be served as therapeutic, we’re just peeking into the extension of the thoughts swirling in YG’s mind. It really is ‘brazy.’

Now, the standard version was great, but the tracks on the Deluxe version are equally great as most that made the cut. The heavily controversial FDT (Fuck Donald Trump), featuring Nipsey Hussle, is one that caught a lot of flack, but was the necessary song to address the asinine reality of what’s going on in American politics. I honestly thought that this whole ‘Donald Trump is running for President’ thing was a joke, and that the real politicians would step up and but an end to his run in about January. Turns out I was very wrong, and it’s crazy that in 2016 this hothead businessman, who has a reputation that many have already compared to some of the worst leaders in world history, can run for the position of President of the United States of America – it’s mind-blowing, but it’s threatening. I can’t imagine my Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shaking hands with the man who wants to deport Mexicans and build a wall to separate Canada. The fact that people really want him to be president is equally mind-boggling, so I’m glad that this song exists. Now, when it comes to voting, I hope my American neighbours go out and do that, because listen, no one needs Trump problems for the next 4 years. I don’t even want 4 hours of it. As for the song itself, this was what Ab-Soul was talking about in Terrorist Threats when the gangs in the world unifying. I mean, it’s only a small sample of a Blood & Crip coming together for a common political message, but it’s a start. The youth are fed up, and we’re in a time now where Hip Hop is our greatest influencer. Only time will tell if that influence will be significant, or will it strictly be for show. I’m hoping it’ll be more so the former than the latter.

Blacks & Browns and Police Get Away wit Murder highlight more societal issues that not only reflect Blacks, but also Latino people who live in the hood with them (if we’re looking at in with a strictly Californian perspective).

“We need to come together, fuck they system
Tired of being a victim, tired of racism
So I’mma spit this ism ’til this shit stop
Cause this that “nigga, we all we got!”
We need to stop hating on what the next black got
Give him his props to figure out how he ran shop”

Respectability politics is an issue that people are clearly divided on, because both arguments are valid in a way where we look at Black people to hold ourselves accountable for our actions to ourselves, and then you have the other side where because of the societal make up of various inner cities, and lack of resources with so much access to negativity, it’s like “okay, how are we supposed to avoid this?” It’s a double-edged sword regardless of how you look at it, but really the only way to combat the system is to create your own, and that’s the hardest part – that requires a great deal of wealth that a lot of people don’t have, or don’t even have the knowledge of even thinking of. There’s a lot going on, but the reality is that it’s real life that people are being held back from making something for themselves, and it is because of how the system was built. Only so many are fortunate to make it out and do something significant. Progress is still moving – slowly – but at least it’s moving.

Another one of those factors that effects the reason why Black people feel hopeless in their aspirations to achieve greatness is because of the trigger-happy police officers that kill minorities daily. There are so many examples of innocent, and unarmed Black & Brown bodies that have been gunned down, choked, or beaten to death, and little-to-no justice has been handed down to the people we’re supposed to trust with our lives when shit hits the fan. What type of way of life is that? It’s not – it’s detrimental to society and when the people can’t trust the police, obviously unrest will follow and we have this continuous cycle of oppressed people protesting in the streets and violent crimes spurting everywhere without hopes of resolutions. Many artists (particularly rappers) have come out and spoken up more about police brutality, but it’s always been a common topic since NWA, and that was damn near 30 years ago. Is no one tired of it yet? Clearly not if it keeps happening. So it will always be brought up until something significant occurs when change is evident and not just something that a Police Chief or politician says to get some votes of confidence by the people they actually protect instead of all people that are worthy of the same rights as human beings.

To wrap up, Still Brazy is a strong sophomore effort following My Krazy Life, and it’s important to grow and get better as an artist in whatever aspect that is, whether it’s a new rhyme scheme or flow, or enhancing the subject material. From a personal vantage point to looking at the world through a telescope, this album covers ground where we see where YG is at after a traumatic event and how it has changed him for the better. As a father and a man who wants to represent his community in a positive light, coming from a negative background, he certainly made his claim to being just that – a man for his people. While dealing with the change of people close to him and his life remaining true to the term “mo money mo problems,” he’s at least finding ways to deal with them that is in a non-combative way so that he can be blessed to see another day. It has a very old school feel in its style and the content, and I believe it’s already surpassed his debut as being his best work to date. A great listen throughout and it really does open up space for a lot of dialogue in terms of self-help, politics, and the structure of society and what people can do to aim for a change. Great album from a bool nigga. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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