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YG's 'Still Brazy': First Thoughts

Balm, brooding and beautiful.

'Still Brazy' // Def Jam

The unscripted life of Keenon Daquan Ray Jackson is still crazy brazy. More specifically, things for the young lad out of the BPT remain "unbomfortable." Reasons for which include paranoia drawn from a 2015 shooting that left him with three bullet holes, trust issues with women and so-called peers, false claimers chucking up gang signs, money-grubbers, police brutality, and, yes, Donald John Trump.

Ultimately, what all of these aforenamed elements do for YG is serve up the mood board that Still Brazy, his solid follow-up to 2014's My Krazy Life, is rooted and booted from. Where the critically-lauded My Krazy Life played like a motion picture to the L.A. lifestyle and the culture he was raised in, Brazy, more structured and fine-tuned than its predecessor, is driven off of emotion and a purpose. More conscious in his platform as a rapper on the mic, YG emerges here as a voice. When he isn't doing a double take on those so-called peers around him ("Who Shot Me") or going through the post traumatic stress from getting shot ("Still Brazy"), the rapper is levitating his platform as a voicebox. Exuding the studies learned from rap deities like Tupac Shakur and Left Coast gangsta rap torchbearers like Ice T, Ice Cube, and N.W.A., YG conveys a more socially and politically conscious approach that fuels his material more than ever.

On "I Got A Question," he tackles police brutality with food for thought, "You know they like to blast on blacks and act like they badge was given from God." The same attention is offered on "Blacks & Browns," however on this song the rapper uses his voice along with Sad Boy, who is hispanic, to speak on the perspectives from both sides of the minority table. "Gotta get the green card for me and my child... they dog our people / Why we gotta look for work at Home Depot?" raps the latter with the star-making verse, while YG proves knowledge is power on his opening line: "We made it hard for us with all this black on black crime / In the same state we gotta pay our tax, if we get locked up it's double rate." It's moments like these that showcase YG's maturation as an emcee and public figure. His lyricism has progressed since days he was slinging mixtapes at a Gucci Mane-like rate and the technicality behind his words have accelerated into much more noteworthy levels.

If the goal for YG on this album was to be taken much more seriously as an artist, he sold himself short. Not only does he succeed in that department, but on Still Brazy, YG also emerges as a leader and a new mouthpiece for his city and his people. But to tuck this LP in the politically-charged folder would also be missing the full scope. Brazy, even with the prevalent societal consciousness, is still just as fun as the last. DJ Mustard and his signature bounce is nonexistent on this record, however the cast that YG rounds up to craft this LP create a fantastic soundscape that modernizes the G-Funk sound pioneered by Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre and reinvent the nostalgic West Coast glow that provides the bounce for a lowrider fueled by gin and juice.

It's balm, brooding, and more importantly, beautiful. All in all, YG's emotion-driven opus and its springing sonic zeal make Still Brazy not only a sonic composite of Thug Life meets "Higher Learning," but also a fitting chapter in the ongoing maturation of Keenon Daquan Ray Jackson.

"I've really got a story, this ain't a spoof..."

Here are three standouts and the moments that set the tone for the LP.

"Still Brazy"

Released as a single, "Still Brazy" serves as a fitting title track. Over creeping production (handled by Ty Dolla $ign), YG recounts his experience within this "unbomfortable," brazy life of his. "Look at my life, been through it all, got bullet wounds twice / Still don't know where it came from, yikes," he observes through rhyme. One of the strong records on the project, the rapper is introspective throughout and takes his technical skills as an emcee hits overdrive.

"Who Shot Me?"

Brooding is the best way to describe track number two, which finds YG pondering on the event that eerily took place almost a year ago: June 12, 2015. The rapper was suffered multiple gunshot wounds sustained in a shooting near a Studio City recording studio. This unfortunate incident serves as the muse for YG's storytelling as he showers in paranoia and post-traumatic stress. "Having nightmares of me coming for dude / Having a hard time putting together two and two," he ponders. But even through the experience, the rapper reveals a shining light that came via his grandma. "My granny's prayers work," he raps. "Cause it could've been worse." Word is bond.

"Blacks & Browns"

As mentioned earlier, one of the best collaborations on the entire album takes place on this duet that pairs YG with Chicano emcee Sad Boy. Breaking down the walls of racism that comes with being being a minority in America, these two go hand in hand and fist in the air to fight back against the stereotypes and societal happenings within their respective communities. "My flag is green, white, red, and in the center's an eagle," raps Sad Boy. "Brown pride, fist tight, this is for my illegals." Touching and built with a message, this is an essential listen that can very well go down as one of the best rap collaborations this year.

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