Max Bell is good.
Maybe you had to be in L.A. By the end of 2012, YG was a bonafide local celebrity. The same year that Kendrick garnered national critical acclaim for good kid, m.A.A.d city, YG released his third solo mixtape, 4 Hunnid Degreez. Kendrick had the charts, but YG had the car stereos of L.A.’s gangster rap cognoscenti.
Jerkin’ songs like YG’s “Pussy Killa” were old hat. The buzz from his Billboard-charting “Toot It and Boot It” had largely subsided. Yet music video view counts for songs such as “I’m a Thug” reached the millions with virtually no assist from the house Rick and Russell built. (DatPiff mixtape downloads totaled in the hundreds of thousands.) Instead, it was Mustard, the Dre to YG’s Snoop Dogg. The rubbery and minimal, bass-in-the-red beats siphoned from Baton Rouge and the Bay perfectly complemented his nonchalant, conversational rhymes. Together, the duo ushered in the fleeting ‘ratchet’ era and soundtracked functions from ‘Bompton’ to Beverly Hills.
With the release of Still Brazy last week, YG cemented his place as the gangster rapper of the 2010s. Sans Mustard, he delivered what is arguably the greatest L.A. rap album of the 2000s (all due respect to Game, who carried L.A. for several years) thus far. Few have modernized G-funk in a way that doesn’t feel derivative or cringingly nostalgic. Even fewer have included such overtly personal and political lines in every song. To say it’s his best work since My Krazy Life almost feels like an understatement. (For more on Still Brazy, you can peruse my LA Weekly feature or Zeus’ album review.)
To write off everything pre-My Krazy Life, however, is reductive. Though each of YG’s five (solo) mixtapes suffers under the weight of songs that should’ve never left the studio, each has songs that should be remembered. They may not be timeless, but they capture a time and a feeling better than most. Criticize the songs for lack of depth, or the rawness of the rapping, but you can’t deny the indelible joy a young(er) YG displays in rapping about his neighborhood, the benefits of an increasingly padded bank account, and, of course, sex. Mostly, it’s the joy of realizing your dreams as one of your best friends does the same.
Below, I’ve compiled what I believe are the best and ‘braziest’ YG songs from each of his mixtapes. These are songs I heard at parties and in cars, songs I played far too loudly and against the wishes of my neighbors. They are arranged chronologically, though not always in the order they appear on each mixtape. In doing so, I hope you hear the progression and the fun therein. I hope you realize that the critical and commercial success of My Krazy Life and Still Brazy, while definitely unpredictable, weren’t unfathomable. I hope you feel what it was like to be here.
- Pussy Killa
- She a Model
- Toot It & Boot It
- Up (featuring LoveRance & IamSu)
- I’m Good
- Bitches Ain’t Shit (featuring Tyga & Nipsey Hussle)
- Patty Cake
- I’ma Thug (featuring Meek Mill)
- I Like Head
- Do It With My Tongue
- Keenon Jackson (featuring TeeCee4800)
- Bitch Betta Have My Money (featuring Tyga & Kurupt)
- Westside 4 Fingaz (featuring Reem Rich & Riko)
- IDGAF (featuring Will Claye)
- You Broke (featuring Nispey Hussle)
- I’m a Real 1
- I’m 4rm Bompton