YG’s greatest attribute as a pure artist is his innate ability to be forthright with his listeners without ever coming off trite. He makes supercharged political proclamations that are honestly organic, all while maintaining a classic west coast flow that at times sounds like a less hoarse Jeezy.
Thanks to the famous “jerk” scene from the late-2000s and early-2010s, YG’s branch of classic California swagger emanated all the way to Def Jam on the east coast, thus sparking a country-wide movement that widened the Compton native’s fan base. Songs like “She A Model” and “I’m Good” easily made YG one of the most popular “traditional” rappers from that area (he once rapped, “I’m only one to make it out of the west without Dre”). His longtime relationship with DJ Mustard garnered unbreakable respect from everyone in the state, which eventually lead to national prominence and easy access to some of the hottest rappers and producers in the game.
The Compton rapper has also gone through his fair share of tribulation throughout his career. His 2016 contentious masterpiece Still Brazy captured California from an authentic perspective, highlighting the systemic racism, crooked cops, and rampant treason that infects his livelihood in every crevice of his home city. Songs like “FDT,” “Who Shot Me?” and “Don’t Come To LA” are embedded with socio-political imagery without ever feeling preachy or surface level. To me, this was YG’s version of an N.W.A. album, understandably combative yet wholly genuine.
Since then, YG’s albums have felt less concise and more aimless, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re still cranking out hits (which he still was at the time with “Big Bank”). On his newest project My Life 4Hunnid, the Compton rapper returns to the more serious side of his persona, as law enforcement continues to antagonize him on a daily basis (he’s been bothered all year about robbery charges from January). There’s a more somber tone this time around, as police brutality and Coronavirus deaths continue to disproportionally affect African American men and women (especially in California).
Whereas Still Brazy felt inherently rebellious from an objective standpoint, My Life 4Hunnid sporadically gives listeners personal insight into how he’s currently feeling, particularly in the context of being a father now. There’s two interludes that feature YG’s daughter on the verge of tears as police storm into his house with gun in hand. Both interludes are followed by songs that fully encapsulate who YG is as an artist (and why he’s so great at times); brutally honest and rarely subtle. “Out On Bail” and “FTP” are patented west coast chants that function in the same demonstrative vein as a 2Pac or N.W.A. The latter track is essentially an updated version of “Fuck Tha Police,” while the former is a cautious celebration of YG’s freedom that should’ve never been hassled with to this extent (“I’m out on bail, them motherfuckers tryna get me/But I won’t tell, so with some time they tryna hit me/I’m innocent as fuck, but they tryna prove that I’m guilty”).
Like any YG album, My Life 4Hunnid features one unifying song that re-establishes the team-like energy surrounding his identity. This time around, we have “Blood Walk,” a flute-heavy microcosm of YG, Lil Wayne, and D3szn’s lifestyle. The track’s kinetic energy zig-zags its way through time, harking back to the aforementioned jerking days of YG’s past. “Swag” similarly hits hard while feeling a tad off-kiltered. The beat-produced by DJ Swish, Quinton Gulledge and Benjamin Lasnier-stomps and slashes in rapid rhythm, allowing YG to show some versatility as a rapper.
Sometimes though, YG leaving his comfort zone doesn’t always mean success. The Lil Tjay-assissted “Hate On Me” is basic rap jargon that never feels nuanced. YG’s use of autotune is borderline cringe despite one or two meaningful lyrics about the police raiding his house. “Rodeo’s” song structure is diminished thanks to a head scratching back-and-forth between YG and Tyga (of all people). Chris Brown does the chorus too? Yeah, no thanks.
The album is truly at its best when YG finds that balance between his own west coast brand and the somber tone he’s searching for. “Thug Kry” and “War Scars” present this veteran-like mentality with help from Chicago crooner Calboy (the former), and Indianapolis native Tay2xs (the latter). YG sounds exhausted in between Henny shots, as he looks for anything to keep him afloat within a tumultuous life (“Sippin’ on that drank daily, I ain’t living right/I’m out on bail for two cases, really I’m living’ that life”).
In a nutshell, My Life 4Hunnid effectively captures the torment and paranoia Black men and women must go through daily while a corrupt police state continues to instigate them. Though stylistically aimless at points, YG comes through with a worthwhile, politically-charged endeavor.