YG's 2014 major-label debut, My Krazy Life, felt like an instant West Coast classic — a vivid, cinematic feat of storytelling that brought the Compton hometown hero a sizable national audience. But fame came with complications. In late 2014, YG got into a public spat with longtime friend and producer DJ Mustard, who worked on My Krazy Life. In June 2015, YG was shot three times outside of an L.A. recording studio during the recording of his follow-up album, thought he didn't sustain any serious injuries. But this year, things are looking up: He squashed the beef with Mustard early this year and captured the sentiments of millions in his song with Nipsey Hussle, "FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)." This month YG finally released his follow-up, Still Brazy.
MTV News met with YG to talk about how he's carrying the torch for West Coast G-funk, why he was one of the first rappers to speak out against Donald Trump's racism, and more.
My Krazy Life had a timeless L.A. sound instead of just the hot sound of 2014. What did you do differently this time?
YG: That starts from the production side of it. I ain’t have no Mustard on this, because we fell out. So I had to go figure out how I was gonna get this L.A. shit off still, and it took us a minute to figure all that out. My Krazy Life, the shit I was rapping about I was pulling from all different parts of my life, when I was young, when I was a teenager, and recent shit. This album was the last year and a half of my life.
Are you and Mustard cool again now?
YG: We finally got to talking, and we back cool. It was just two young motherfuckers dealing with success and the people around us. We always got the homies around us because we came up with a gang of niggas, period. When motherfuckers got successful, he was having his side of homies, I had my side of homies, motherfuckers was trying to get in the mix and make shit messy. I felt like what happened needed to happen, because it gave myself and Mustard a chance to figure out our roles without being, like, "YG and Mustard." At the end of the day, I felt like it was a blessing in disguise.
Right, it forced you to expand and to prove that your success wasn’t reliant on him to begin with. What was it like working with Terrace Martin (Herbie Hancock, Kendrick Lamar) after that?
YG: He’s a musical genius. A lot of producers ain’t producers, they beatmakers. Terrace Martin is a producer. You can talk about music with him, and that really helps somebody like me getting into the musical shit. When I first started, I wasn’t really about musical shit, I was just rapping. T, he from L.A., so he already know what’s up.
It’s funny you say that. When My Krazy Life first came out, I was surprised — I had listened to all your mixtapes, which had dope songs but definitely not the same widescreen vision. What made you want to attempt something like that?
YG: Just where I was in life and where I was trying to go, feel me? I’m trying to be around for 20 years, heavy in the music and in the business side. So I told [my A&R executive Sickamore], "I’m ready." I had done [2011's] Just Re’d Up, and labels were telling me to do an album. I was like, fuck an album, I don’t know nothing about no album, I don’t have time for no album! Then after [2013's] Just Re’d Up 2, I was like, I’m ready for an album.
Still Brazy has such an old-school G-funk flavor — what drew you to those sounds?
YG: I was just trying to step this shit up from my last album, take my sound to the next level. And like I said, I was dealing with different producers, so I wasn’t about to go to these dudes and tell them to make it sound just like Mustard, you know? Terrace Martin, he used to make Dogg Pound [and] Snoop shit back in the day. Then I got these two dudes from the Bay who produced on my album, their shit really don’t sound like old West Coast shit to me, but it fit: "Why You Always Hatin?," produced by CT, and "Word Is Bond," produced by P-Lo. And then the "Blacks & Browns" joint is produced by P-Lo too. That one sound like some West Coast shit.
You're one of the most prominent rappers to speak out against Donald Trump's racist policies. What's the response been like?
YG: Shit, the "Fuck Donald Trump" shit blowing up! Shit heavy. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
Do you get crazy Republicans in your mentions?
YG: If they is in my mentions, I ain’t really seeing it. I don’t really take that shit seriously. The goal [of that song] was to wake motherfuckers up and get the youth involved in what’s going on out here. Be proactive and not reactive. Make the youth get involved, make people wise up, step up and speak for the culture, and use our platform. Ain’t nobody doing something like that in the rap game today. That shit weak. Ain’t no way I should have been the first one to say something about the Trump shit.
You’re one of the few people who can share a message like this and not come off like you’re preaching.
YG: Yeah, because I’m not a nigga to be on some political shit year round. That ain’t me. I’m not gonna be a political rap nigga, but when this going on? Like, for real? I don’t fuck with that. I’ma say something.