Art by Kevin Cortopassi
Ethan Davenport is all about the Chargers.
Monitoring famous people’s online activity is maybe the only purpose of social media. Following celebrities on Snapchat is, so far, the most successful way to: 1. Escape reality and 2. Become a professional stan. Anyway, I follow YG on Snapchat and since Still Brazy dropped, he is living greater than you.
A couple weeks back, YG sat field-side at the LA Coliseum for a Rams game. In some invite-only VIP section behind the end zone, an LA gangsta rapper watched a football game in LA and rooted for an NFL team based in LA. This oddly enough isn’t a statement about ’90s rap. YG is cut from a similar cloth as g-funk rappers of the ’90s, but his success as a rapper has never relied on commercial sales. The most unbothered man west of the Rockies might be the one who wears red Toms with a bulletproof vest.
In the last week, he’s gotten together with LA cousins, TeeCee4800 and Ty Dolla $ign, for “How Many Liccs” and “Ex.” Neither track is outside the expected range of all three guys, but they’re two versions of YG that are easily indulged. It’s never been outside his comfort zone to put out tracks with TeeCee or Ty Dolla, then again YG has never seemed outside his comfort zone in any endeavor.
On “Ex,” Ty Dolla sings about the woman he chooses to spend time with instead of his girlfriend. It isn’t a foreign concept for Ty Dolla to mention infidelity and Bombay, it’s the YG verse that continues the song’s message. “Hundred times I told her I was gon’ stop/But it’s kinda hard when every night the bottles pop,” admits YG. Both men know they have a problem, but have no interest in changing. I wouldn’t want them to.
Rap’s status quo is necessary and when we hear a track we’d expect, like a Little Caesar’s Hot N Ready, it brings nothing but predictable bliss. TeeCee4800’s “How Many Liccs” fits the mold and is still fully indulgent. Him and YG make music that plays well through the speakers of a Cutlass Supreme filled with the squad. Both rappers are so comfortable with each other, we hear their best on tracks like this.
TeeCee, flashing back to the days before rap, asks how many licks he has to hit before he can call himself rich. YG’s verse is in the same vein, a documentary of everything that’s lead him from gangsta to gangsta rapper. Nothing sounds better than real life, and TeeCee and YG have never lied to me.
“Ex” and “How Many Liccs” are examples of such consistency that’s seen with (dare I say it?) all-timers in rap. YG tosses his Bompton flat-brim in the ring, and I’ve yet to see evidence to say he’s excluded from such a list. His last four years have featured: two albums with deep cuts just as exciting as the singles, two mixtapes full of quotable lyrics and experimented sounds, a short film soundtracked by himself, the 4hunnid brand, and industry love all around. Everything YG does, from music to clothing to public appearances, is genuine.
Some of the most candid YG moments come to us from his most recent throwaway singles: “Fuck It Up” and “YNS.” Much like last week’s feature verses, each song features a different but candid YG.
On “Fuck It Up,” he raps about taking a woman home from the club, but in a way that women aren’t typically spoken about in sexual rap songs. “Fifty-inch weave, but you bought it so it’s yours,” and “Got your own top, you don’t need no n***a,” could be translated to cheering on more independent women. This is the equivalent of pro-sex feminism, word to your women’s gender studies professor. This style of “twerk song with depth” isn’t new for YG, (“Left, Right,” “Pop It, Shake It”) but it’s always welcome.
“YNS” with YFN Lucci and Blac Youngsta is another that showcases the range of Compton’s most popular gangsta rapper. Braggadocios lines about wealth from rap and the trap, guns, and sex. The three of them could form the streets’ first Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. YG certainly shines in his verse, but the complementary flows from Atlanta’s YFN Lucci and Memphis’ Blac Youngsta give the track some geographical and sonic divergence. “YNS” is YG’s latest solo track to prove his all-time status.
YG is on a tear, but four month runs don’t mean shit in the grand scheme of a career. These last four months shouldn’t stand out for YG, this is just par. A YG verse is more dependable than 99-cent Brisk. Momentum in music is one thing, but it shouldn’t be confused with consistency.
It seems that YG gets stronger with every one of Donald Trump’s failures; by the beginning of 2018 the hottest music video in the world will feature YG driving a lowrider on the front lawn of the White House as it is (actually) burning to the ground.