YG is faded. Yet being drunk on the job is acceptable when your boss (Young Jeezy) is supplying the booze (Tequila Avión). We’re seated beside a long, polished wood table in Def Jam’s Manhattan HQs, while DJ Mustard, Jeezy and some entourage members chatter off to the side. The 24-year-old rapper is slurring how he really feels about his breakout single, 2008’s “Toot It And Boot It.”
“I hate that record,” admits the rapper born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson, of the Ty Dolla $ign-featured party song. He quickly autocorrects. “I don’t hate the record but I hate my parts. The homies told me they had this record for me. When I heard it I was like, ‘I don’t fuck with this shit’ but I did it ’cause [they] the homies. But then it blew up and took me around the world. A nigga appreciate the record—the concept is A1—but how I came at the record, like, ‘OK, I’m just gonna rap some shit,’ I don’t fuck with that.”
While the goofy/gangsta one-night stand anthem, which features 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg on the remix, pin-dropped YG onto the hip-hop map, he was already a hood star on his native Compton blocks, gaining momentum on the Internet long before Justin Timberlake replaced Tom as Myspace’s most important face.
YG has traversed a seemingly endless journey since those juvenile delinquent days. His intoxicating 2013 single about solidarity, “My Nigga,” has moved a million copies—and that’s before Lil Wayne, Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj hopped on the remix. Yet the former house burglar’s long-gestating debut album My Krazy Life (out March 18) proves he’s more than just a radio artist. Powered by Mustard’s bouncy 808s and familiar-yet-fresh Cali funk, the narrative-driven album is the most vivid, moviesque portrayal of life in gang-ruled Los Angeles since Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. That feat alone is worth a drink or six.
Slouched back in a swivel chair with a gold pistol pendant dangling from his choker chain, YG discusses how his autobiographical first album came to life. —John Kennedy
VIBE: First off, congrats on your debut album. My Krazy Life is a special record.
YG: Shit, I’m still trying to figure out if its special. Everybody around me keeping saying it’s special, but its my first album. I’m wondering if the people gon’ fuck with it.
I’m sure they will. To me, sonically it has the richness of 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and a concept reminiscent to Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is my shit! I grew up on Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and was listening to that when I was doing my album. And I was listening to Kendrick—Kendrick was in the studio with me this week. [TDE engineer] Ali mixed my whole shit. He heard me listening to 50 and said Kendrick was listening to that same [album] when he was [recording] his. So niggas was in the same mindset doing their albums. I was listening to Doggystyle, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Chronic 2001 and Ready to Die. That Biggie shit hard as fuck!
Fittingly, you could sum up this album as “party and bullshit.” But the final song, “Sorry Momma” is an emotional peak.
I was going back to every time I fucked up and did some fucked-up shit. The album starts off with the interlude where she tells me to get inside and don’t hang with the gangbangers. And then I rob, steal and fuck on bitches, rob some more shit with the homies, have a shoot out, and go to jail that same night for a burglary. That was a real story, man. So at the end of the day it was like, Damn, my momma told me this was gonna happen. My momma went through a lot because of me. Bailing me out of jail—she lost her job going to my court dates. And she’s half blind.
Wow. How did she react to the song?
She knows I have a song about her but she ain’t heard it yet. She gon’ cry. My grandmama and pops heard it; they were like, “She gon cry when she hears that.”
I believe it. The day after My Krazy Life drops is the five-year anniversary of your six-month stint in prison. Did that experience chance you at all?
No, I was still in the streets. I’m still in the streets hanging out lowkey doing some shit I aint supposed to be doing but I ain’t doing the same shit I used to do like robbing. I ain’t give a fuck about nothing. I didn’t care. Now it’s different. A nigga older. I’m taking care of my peoples. I’m putting homies in situations, you feel me? I’m in the music industry now. I got all types of other shit going on. So it’s different.Everything’s different and I’m taking everything in different. I’m grown. I’m looking at shit different. So that’s got a lot to do with me as an artist and how I’m coming at these records.
How did you and Drake link up for “Who Do You Love”?
Drake told me he was gonna hop on some shit years [ago] so I knew he was gonna do a record for me. DJ Mustard was laying the beat for “Who Do You Love” in the studio. I was like, I don’t know—I couldn’t really catch a flow to it off top. But Jeezy and everybody was like, “Yeah, this is the one.” So I did a hook and verse and sent the beat to Drake, told him the concept. He called me like, “This shit crazy!” Did his verse and that’s how that shit came, real simple. It was just based off the relationship. Drake been fucking with me, my whole movement. It was just the right time.
You’ve got some backup from your own city on “I Just Wanna Party” with ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock.
That’s my shit. I was in the studio in Atlanta writing, but I’m like, this gotta be L.A. I’m going back to The Chronic—Dre and Snoop used to put niggas on their records to make it bigger then them. ScHoolboy Q was in the studio listening to my shit, like, “This shit hard!” I’m like, “Fuck that, hop on my shit!” It just happened like that. I started the song off on some party shit then Q went hard on some gangbanging shit, as he should. I’m like, I gotta put somebody else on it. Either Nipsey Hussle or Jay Rock. I told Jay Rock a long time ago I got some shit for him. He came through. All my shit is real nigga shit. I’m bringing what Snoop and Dre was bringing to the game. Not trying to put us in the same category but I feel like they brought some realness to the game.
My Krazy Life definitely fits in the canon of great West Coast rap albums.
A lot of older motherfuckers from New York and The South say my shit reminds them of Snoop and Dre in the ‘90s. N.W.A. The new version. Everybody tells me that. Me and Mustard, we got a lot to do with West Coast being what it is today. The sound of the music, the content, visuals. I’m coming out the gate with an album and a platinum single. I’m about to turn up.
Check out YG's set at VIBE's SXSW showcase on March 15, 2014 in Austin, TX. Full details below: VIBE x Vans 2014 SXSW Showcase Feat. Slaughterhouse, YG, Ty Dolla $ign, Mobb Deep, Nipsey Hussle And More
Stop by the Esurance Glove Box at the Austin Convention Center or their Fuel Lounge at 6th and Trinity to pick up an Esurance Access Pass. Then follow @esurance on Twitter to find out when and where you can hop the lines!