When YG snarls, “Fuck the president, fuck the Po-po” on Stay Dangerous opener “10 Times,” he doesn’t do so proudly or with any detectable joy, but rather with dejection in his voice. The man behind perhaps rap music’s fiercest screed against our 45th President (“FDT,” or “Fuck Donald Trump“) sounds, nearly two years on, defeated. There’s nothing as wildly political or righteous here as “Blacks & Browns” or “Police Get Away With Murder,” and Stay Dangerous‘s string of tracks of boastfulness and booling antics range from passable (the melodic and quick-tempoed, if sloppy, “Suu Woop”) to pointless (the lethargic “Pussy Money Fame”). One highlight is the swaggering posse-cut, “Big Bank,” where DJ Mustard’s minimal beat is shaped by a repeating marimba-led instrumental and serves as the perfect vessel for YG’s cockiness (“I got white folks money that I won’t blow”), 2 Chainz’s absurdity (“big sack, a lotta hoes like Santa”), Big Sean’s boyscout-ish one-liners (“I’m rare as affordable health care”), and Nicki Minaj’s assertions that, yes, she is indeed the queen. It’s the most fleshed-out song on Stay Dangerous — but almost immediately afterwards, with the track “Power,” YG ruins all that goodwill by trotting out the ever-more-one note Ty Dolla Sign to waste everyone’s time recounting once again just how much he can’t control himself around good pussy. Things are left up to Stay Dangerous‘s closing track, “Bomptown Finest,” to capture the triumphal spirit of YG’s ascension in the rap game, and trumpet his commitment to staying true to himself. And fittingly it’s probably the best track on the album, but it’s also a bit of an ill-fitting finale for this particular set. Simply put, YG sells-out to a lower common denominator on Stay Dangerous, sacrificing some of the personal veracity and political edge that helped make him so popular in the first place.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Issue 2