YG faces new dangers on ‘Stay Dangerous’

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Def Jam Recordings /Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

Stay Dangerous is a subdued third studio effort from “Bomptown’s Finest.” His last album, 2016’s Still Brazy, offered an update to Los Angeles gangsta rap sounds while addressing pressing political issues. On Stay Dangerous, YG speaks more on the personal than the political. With supporting narration by Albert Thompson, YG explores different ways to stay dangerous, to mixed results.

For example, gang activities are dangerous. YG is among the most reliable boasters in hip-hop today, and that pridefulness shows especially when he represents his set. On songs such as “Suu Whoop” and “Too Brazy,” he unabashedly showcases his loyalty to the Bloods.

Some of YG’s funniest punchlines come about when he is talking about his gang. When asked “how (he feels) about the hundreds bein’ blue?” on “Suu Whoop,” YG asserts that he “ain’t mad.” Elsewhere on the song, he expresses annoyance at others falsely claiming affiliations with the Bloods. “I ain’t with the pink-haired Blood shit,” he raps, presumably dissing New York rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, who also claims ties to the Bloods.

YG is always to the point, never one for heady extended metaphors. In these moments on the album, that straightforwardness is an undeniable strength.

It’s that bluntness that YG uses to rap about sex, which, as it turns out, can also be dangerous. On Stay Dangerous, there’s a lot of it. Racy lyrics about refusing to “eat the butt” and fornicating “like some ranch” proliferate. The latter is backed by fellow Angeleno DJ Mustard’s signature bouncy bass beats. Mustard produced YG’s debut album, My Krazy Life, but the two parted ways for Still Brazy. Whatever friction existed between them is imperceptible on Stay Dangerous. On songs such as “Too Cocky” and “Power,” Mustard supplies earworm beats that complement YG’s raunchy rhymes.

Sometimes, money is dangerous, too! YG approaches it without any semblance of subtlety on one of the lead singles: “Big Bank.” Supported by frequent collaborators 2 Chainz and Nicki Minaj, as well as industry punchline Big Sean, the track is a punchy anthem to financial success. The beat is classic DJ Mustard with its rhythmic, bassy focus, and the guest artists shine brightly.

2 Chainz’s opening line is among his best, and the rest of his verse drips confidence and swagger. Minaj redeems her recent career mishaps with tongue-in-cheek punchlines and a show-stopping flow. Big Sean, to his credit, is less corny than usual, and he makes cogent points on health care reform and class mobility. It’s about as overtly political as the album gets, but feels out of place on what was clearly meant as a party track.

On the song, YG brags both about making money and spending it prudently. The subtext is clear — as he does throughout the rest of the album, YG here grapples with the sacrifices he has to make for his daughter. On “Deeper than Rap,” he starts verse three with a gut-wrenching couplet: “I got a daughter now / I’m, barely around.” Heartwarming moments such as these show YG transitioning from cold-blooded lone wolf to brooding father figure, and they mirror YG’s commendable contributions to his community in the real world.

The second half of the album finds the rapper reflecting on the opportunities fame afforded him. As the one in his community who “made it,” as he phrases it on the closing track “Bomptown Finest,” YG feels a responsibility to those with whom he came up. YG weighs how he can pursue new avenues to success while staying true to himself. It’s an honest struggle that cements “Bomptown Finest” as one of the best outro tracks in recent hip-hop.

Overall, Stay Dangerous isn’t as consistent as YG’s previous projects. But that’s understandable, as YG faces what seems to be a new chapter in his musical and personal life. Even at his most lackluster, YG shines with enthusiastic charisma, and the West Coast is lucky to have such a star.

Contact Seiji Sakiyama at [email protected].