YG - Stay Dangerous (Album Review)

Thursday, 09 August 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

‘Stay Dangerous’ is the third studio album from Los Angeles rapper YG, an artist who burst onto the scene with his 2014 debut ‘My Krazy Life’. It's a record that, despite impressive moments, demonstrates how he has struggled to find a distinctive musical voice in a highly saturated hip-hop scene.

One reason is that his lyrical subject matter and musical production appear to have regressed. The power of his original work was in the gripping authenticity with which he described growing up in Compton. By comparison, the lyrics are pretty boring here and the instrumentals on ‘Stay Dangerous’ could accompany any number of rappers on any number of labels.

When a performer’s backing sounds identical to that of their contemporaries or competition, there is renewed focus on the vitality and originality of their artistic personality.

But, far from developing what was so striking about his initial releases, YG has instead leapt headlong into predictably lurid misogyny alongside gloating about wealth and status. Or, to cite track 12 of the album: PUSSY MONEY FAME.

Despite this, there are some exciting moments. Handgun has a fairly fresh sound, with a guttural guitar and piano loop lifted by a percussive A$AP Rocky guest spot. Trap’s hostile takeover of US hip-hop often reduces good work to the highly generic, but those elements work particularly well here, with niggling hi-hats and 808 congas giving the song a sinister-yet-mischievous flavour.

Elsewhere, the collab-laden Big Bank is probably the standout. It’s a track with a hugely infectious, minimalist xylophone line, elevated by guest spots from Big Sean ("I’m rare as affordable healthcare!") and Nicki Minaj. The video is also excellent, with compelling framing, performance shots and rapid camera moves. However, like the music itself, it falls prey to the regressive toxic stereotypes of the genre, with wads of cash and gratuitous jiggling arses.

In many ways, those arses demonstrate the fundamental authorial weakness of the record. There’s untapped creative potential in a rapper with a such a giant platform, but the development of more original themes appears to have been bulldozed by commercial concerns. At best, we are seeing an artist still finding their inner voice. At worst, we have already seen YG's best work.

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