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YG: 'I'm Stepping Into My Powers'

YG in Los Angeles a couple days after his second album, <em>Still Brazy</em>, was released.
GL Askew II for NPR
YG in Los Angeles a couple days after his second album, Still Brazy, was released.

YG is a serious guy who in the past couple years has faced death, the crumbling of his oldest friendships, the threat of a sophomore jinx and the Secret Service. He also became a father for the first time. Then this month he released the intricate and straightforward Still Brazy to widespread acclaim.

In our conversation he questions a world that barely ever makes sense and resolves to continue with what he sees as the only rational response to our times and his situation:

"When you getting glorified as a rapper or a rap star or a hip-hop artist, it's certain s*** you should feel like it's an obligation. When it's things like this going on in the communities," he says. "You got to say something, you got to do something about it. Like, period. If not, who gon' be the people that speak for the people?"

ALI SHAHEED MUHAMMAD: YG. Welcome back, man.

YG:I mean, what up, what up, what up? How are ya'll? I heard ya'll talkin' 'bout breakfast and all that. I ain't have nothin' yet.

FRANNIE KELLEY: It's the most common response when we ask people. So you're not alone.

YG: Oh, OK.

MUHAMMAD: Even when I'm not fasting, breakfast just doesn't make it on the radar —


MUHAMMAD:— as often as it should.

KELLEY:We should start serving breakfast.


MUHAMMAD:That would be dope.

KELLEY:People would really open up and cry and, you know, tell the truth if they had a muffin.

MUHAMMAD:That's a good one. YG.

YG:What's poppin'?

MUHAMMAD: How you been? It's been — I don't know, how long is it — two years since we saw him last?

KELLEY:Sounds right. Since the last album.

MUHAMMAD:First album? Right?

YG:Yup. Long time. I'm back though.

MUHAMMAD:How you feelin'?

YG: I'm solid man. You know, blessed. Album out, after two years and like a year — a full year process of working on the project. Been through a whole lot. You feel me? We got over it though. We got out the — we almost out the dark spaces and all that, but I'm good. I'm good. They talkin' all that talk 'bout the album, you feel me? I'm feelin' right.

KELLEY:Well, also, happy first Father's Day.

YG: Oh, thank you. 'Preciate that. You got kids?

MUHAMMAD: Not yet.

YG:Oh, OK.

KELLEY:Did you — was that your daughter at the event on Friday?


KELLEY:That was awesome that she was there. That was really cool. It was Khaled and YG's daughter. They're my favorite people.

YG: Special guests.

KELLEY:That event was cool. I mean, everybody was really, really happy for you, and not in a sort of competitive way, just like it was very relaxed and people just showed up to support it felt like.

YG: Yeah. Shout out to everybody that came out. Still Brazy art installation release. It was fun. Had a good time. Had a lot of drinks. I've been drinking a lot these past four days.

KELLEY:Well, you earned it.

MUHAMMAD:Was that a celebration of finally just lettin' it out — people getting to touch the record?

YG: Yeah, you know. Yeah. That part.

MUHAMMAD: That's part of it.

YG:That's part of it, bro.

KELLEY:What's the other part?

YG:What you mean?

KELLEY: Is it difficult to have that much attention on you?

YG: Nah. I mean, no, not really. You just gotta do it. You gotta give the people what they want, and some mo'. You gotta give 'em what they want and what you want. Like, you talkin' 'bout attention, like pressure? Or you talkin' 'bout just attention-famous-celebrity s***?

KELLEY:I mean like eyes on you, you know when you're just in a room and everybody's looking at you and like watching to see like where you're going to go and see how they can like maybe make their move to get their 30 seconds with you. It seems stressful from the outside.

YG:Yeah, that be a lot sometimes, but you know — I mean, I signed up for this. But at the time you figure out like — you learn how to like deal with it and how to move.

KELLEY: How do you deal with it?

YG:Well, a lot of people — they be like, "Yeah, I wanted to come up to you but you was lookin' like you was mean muggin'. You was mad, so I ain't really come —" I'm like, "Yeah. I know. I be doin' that on purpose sometimes." Keep 'em away from me sometimes. So I got my little tricks on how I be movin'.

KELLEY:That person read the situation accurately then.

MUHAMMAD:They usually don't. Well it depends on the setting, especially if it's like very late night and people have been partying and drinking. They don't know that they not —

YG: Oh, yeah. The drinks. When the drink in ya system.

MUHAMMAD:They completely miss all the signals. They miss the road manager comin' in and being like, "Yo, come here. Let me pull you asi —" All of those signals.

YG:Yeah, all that. Then when it's like younger kids — like the young kids — they ain't peepin' none of that. They excited. They gon' run up on you.

MUHAMMAD:I like that energy, though. It's interesting. I don't drink so I'm always like really just —


MUHAMMAD: Chill, but it's like I'm really feeling all of that energy and I just take it all in. I'm like — I understand the excitement.

YG:I feel the energy better when I'm faded. I receive it better.

KELLEY:Why do you think that is?

YG:Cause when I be sober I just be like — real talk.

KELLEY:Like on guard, kind of?

YG:Nah, I just be mellow. Just real regular.

KELLEY:Okay, so you feel like maybe you can interact with that energy better when you're a little bit lit?


KELLEY:I get that.

YG:But it's all love though, you feel me? I love the fans and the supporters. Be so many of them sometimes, you got to have your s*** together.

KELLEY:Especially around here.


KELLEY: But you mention pressure. Is that like a — that seems kind of self-imposed. Where does the pressure come from?

YG:I mean pressure will come from a place like — my first album did what it did as far as on the critic side of things. It was classic. It's a classic album. That's what everybody say, so you know, m************ was talkin' 'bout that sophomore jinx. You come with your second project, it always be wack. It don't be as good as the first one. So with that comes a lot of pressure, and, like, majority of the time, regular situations, a lot of artists would be pressured. I don't know if I was a little press — I wasn't pressured, but life had hit me around the time I started working on my second album, so that just made it like, damn. Like, the devil on me. What I went through caused the pressure, and not just me coming out with my second album. It's what I was going through during me working on my second album. You feel me? That would cause pressure, but, I mean, the music spoke for itself and everybody's f****** with it. They say I skipped the sophomore jinx.

KELLEY:This guy knows something about skipping the sophomore jinx.

YG:What you think?

MUHAMMAD:Absolutely. It's a great album. You know, it's consistent.

YG: Thank you.

MUHAMMAD:And it's raw without being — it doesn't sound contrived. I think sometimes people really go in with concepts and they, like, design a concept in their mind and try to build a life to make it seem real.


MUHAMMAD: And so your album is not. It's pure. You know, it's real. And it's interesting how you put it together. Just the story, trying to figure out — you asking a question which I have no idea what that feels like being in your state — your shoes — trying to figure this out, and at the same time —

KELLEY:Which question?

MUHAMMAD:Who shot me? Which is the title of one of the songs on the record.

So, when you set out to — you had already began the process of recording the record, so how did that event shape the finish of the album? Did you just stop everything? Switch directions?

YG:Nah, I mean the album was — we went into my second album knowing the title was Still Crazy, so we always knew who was about to be — like the type of s*** we was talking 'bout. Just like the dark side of a success story. You feel me? And at that time I had stuff goin' on with the homies, like, I was falling out with — with day one friends. We wasn't seein' eye to eye, then me and Mustard fell out. You feel me? So I was already on some dark s*** a little bit. Darker than the first album. So when I got popped, it was just like, "Damn! This s*** like real life. This s*** is still brazy. Like for real, for real." You feel me? We just kept going in, but most of the records that's talkin' 'bout the dark side to the success story, s*** was all before I got shot. "Don't Come To LA," "Gimmie Got Shot," "Twist My Fingaz," "Police Get Away Wit Murder" —

MUHAMMAD:That's my favorite song by the way.

YG: Yeah. I recorded them joints before I got shot. The ones I did after I got shot was "Who Shot Me," second verse on "Twist My Fingaz," "Word is Bond," "I Got a Question," "Blacks & Browns" and "F*** Donald Trump." And "Why You Always Hatin?" So a majority of the records where I'm talkin' about what I was really goin' through on me dealing with success, them came before I got shot, and when I got popped, the "Who Shot Me" s*** just tied it all together.

And it just happened organically. We was in the studio talkin' about the situation — it was like two, three days after I got popped — me and the homie, we had to change locations. We had another studio, ducked over to it, we all in the room talking about it, trying to figure out who it was, what happened, you feel me? All the schematics. We was talkin' for like two hours, then I had my young boy, Swish — he was up in there — he produced a majority of the album. He got like five tracks. He started playing some beats after we got done talking, and the second beat he played was that beat and I was like, "Who shot me?" That's just how the record came. I didn't go like, "I'm about to make a song about who popped me." None of that. We was talkin' about it and we was lost, then the homie just start playin' beats, and it just came out like that.

MUHAMMAD:That's dope. How do you take that experience, take everything that you had been gone through already before that — you know, just new friends, figuring out what's really strong between the old friends, all of that fame, just all this new stuff — how do you transform that into the direction of what you supposed to be doin' or what you want to do?

YG:Man. You said how I transform that into what?

MUHAMMAD: Yeah, is it like a slow process or is it something that instantly hit you, like you know what your purpose is, what you supposed to be doin', where you're going?

YG:You talkin' 'bout when I find out, when I'm sittin' there, and I come to the conclusion that this m***********, he ain't for me? You talkin' 'bout that process?

MUHAMMAD:All of that. Yeah.

YG:Yeah, I mean for that process, that's not an overnight type thing. That's some s*** like — you know you got people in your life and they do little s*** here and there, and you don't never react because ya'll homies, so it just be like, "I'm not bout to trip off that." But as s*** keeps happening, it's like "Alright." You get so many red flags, you start to look real — you feel me? You start to stand out. And that's what it was. It was like m************ kept doin' little stuff and they just kept doing those things — I never said nothin'. Then they start doin' different things. I never said nothin'. And then it was just one — s*** that just put the icing on top. Like, "Alright, enough is enough, dog. N***** is fraud. I ain't f****** with you n*****." It's a process. You feel me? It's a process. It can be some years. It can be some months. It was a minute before I really was like, "Alright, I ain't f****** with you n*****," and I cut n***** off.

That ain't nothin' you ever want to go through with your homies, cause these dudes I really come up with — I know. But it come with the success. It come with the fame. It come with — like, me and Mustard, Ty. We all came together, so we all had a gang of people around us. We all got — like Ty got his homies, his cousins. Mustard's got his homies. I got my homies. We all was homies though. So it's a gang of young black males from the streets — ain't never had too much — finally get on. A lot of people feelin' different type of ways about different type of situations, so it's a lot of conversations and sidebars on just little messy s***. But it's gon' come with the situation when it's happenin' like that. So, it just got to a point where it was like, "Alright. I done heard what you done said. You did that. You did that. I'm bool. I'ma fall back from you dudes." That's what I did. And it was s*** going on for some years, bro. You feel me?


YG: I answer your question right?

MUHAMMAD:Yeah. Yeah, yeah. In addition to that, moving forward with your career, understanding all those experiences, the situations, the communication, the people feelin', taking things the wrong way, misunderstanding, or just have their own ambitions and they're not really there for the right reason, and changing the scenery a little bit — you go in and make this record, moving forward with your plan — your career plan — what is your plan?

YG:My plan? I'ma stay consistent with the music, for sure. Keep building my brand. I got two clothing lines — I got the 4hunnid clothing and I got the Bompton clothing. I ain't launched the Bompton line yet. I got that. I just dropped new caps for 4hunnid today. You can go cop that on I'm about to get into the film space, like the movie space. I got label situations in all type of like, s*** going on right now. I ain't really talked about none of it. I got a lot of little different business ventures, you know. I'm just gon' —

MUHAMMAD:You still pushin'.

YG:Yeah, I'ma keep pushin'. I'ma stay consistent. I'ma deliver. And I'ma keep using my platform to uplift people who I feel got what it take, or deserve it, or just — you feel me? Like homies been there from day one and speak up for the culture. You know, be the voice for the people and get this money.

MUHAMMAD:You definitely the voice for the people. I remember having a conversation with Terrace — I don't know, over this past year. Time is flying. I can't remember when I talked to him about it, and I'm not good at remembering the details of a story — but I feel like he told me he was somewhere in Compton and some kids, some youngins had run up on him or something like that, and he was assessing the situation. He understood what it was and just finding a way to reach out to them. And so he said, "Ya'll f*** with YG?" And that was it. That was a click, you know, the conversation that then turned whatever was going on until he was able to have a real conversation with them and get into their head and see what motivated them, what moved them, in life. And they talked about you. You the voice for them. What does that feel like?

YG: I mean, I don't know. It's real regular to me. I just feel like as time go by I'm realizing certain stuff, and I see certain stuff not happening. I'm just steppin' up. Steppin' to my powers, you feel me?

MUHAMMAD:But in terms of just, you know, where you are and you want to be the voice for the people and to help put people on as you said. I don't know. Is there a sense of — OK. Let's talk about the Donald Trump song. That's a powerful song.

YG:Hear that.

MUHAMMAD:That's like definitely speaking up for a group of people — we not hearing our voices that much.

YG:Exactly. That's why I was like — as I was workin' on the album — cause I didn't go into the album with plans on being on some political rap s*** — but as I was workin' on the album, you know, these things start to happen. And keep happening. It just was getting crazy and out of hand. I'm like — I was feelin' some type of way. We was talkin' about it over in my little camp and I'm the type of dude where like, I don't really like talkin' too much about somethin'. It's either like we gon' do somethin' about it or we're not. If we ain't doin' none of that s***, like leave it alone. So it was these things goin' on, like police killing innocent people — blacks — and it kept happening. And it's like, "Damn, like, for real? Aw, I'm trippin'. I'ma speak up. I'ma trip. I can trip." And it was like, make a difference, or it might change some s***. So I'm like, "Alright, I'm 'bout to go in on 'em." That's how the "Police Get Away Wit Murder" record came.

Bam. That came. I did that record last March. That was after the Mike Brown and the Eric Garner stuff happened. And after I did the record it kept happening. It just got worse. I'm like, "Damn, this s*** wild." And you know there's people doin' stuff — marching, protesting and all that — like I seen J. Cole and all — it was a lot of people involved in that situation. That's how that record came. Bam.

Then I did another record called "Blacks & Browns" that's on the album. I did that record just to bridge the gap on the blacks and the Hispanics relationship, because everybody, like the world — what's put out to the world, to the people, the most is blacks and Mexicans don't get along. That's what was put out to me the most cause of where I'm from, and I just know — I know that is real, due to where we from, and it's gang infested so we be at war over gang s***, but if you ain't in a gang, if you just growing up out here, on this side, the youth, you got a good relationships with Hispanics. Like we grow up with 'em, we go to school with 'em, we next-door neighbors with 'em. We share some of the same cultures. You feel me? So, I felt like that ain't really been put out to the world like that. It have a little bit. Pac used to be on that, but I still feel like it really ain't been put out there like that, so that's how that record came out. I'm just trying to bridge the gap and let m************ know, to reinforce, we f*** with the Hispanics. You feel me?

And then, Donald Trump started talking that s*** about the Hispanics. Then it's like, "Damn, this is wild!" So I put my boy up on there, Sad Boy, and in his verse he's talkin' about — I'm talkin' 'bout what the blacks goin' through and how we need to do better as blacks, you feel me? On some black s***, how we need to do better. Sad Boy talkin' about the Hispanics, the Hispanic culture and what they go through and how they feel like mistreated in America and all that — unappreciated. And he's really talkin' towards Donald Trump, due to the s*** Donald Trump was sayin'.

And we had to blank some lines out of that song, after the "F*** Donald Trump" song came out. Secret Service called in on Universal, wanted the lyrics to my album, all that type of stuff. So we end up having to blank some lines out to be able to put the song on the album. He was really speakin' towards Donald Trump, but that record is — I'm talkin' about what we goin' through. Sad Boy talkin' 'bout what they goin' through, and it's similar stuff. You feel me? So it's really me trying to bridge the gap on that one, and the "F*** Donald Trump" s*** came after the "Blacks & Browns" came cause he kept talkin' that regular s*** and you know, it's like, "Damn." So I started feelin' like he was racist. Something happened with the KKK and he was like, endorsing 'em or something, or they was tryin' to endorse him. What happen with that again?

KELLEY: He didn't disavow an endorsement by them.

YG:Yeah. Exactly. So it was like, "Oh, so you with that, too?" You feel me? Then all the blacks was getting' — how they was getting' treated at the rallies, and how he was talkin' about it after like, "Yeah. He deserved that!" It's like oh, OK. Like you on some racist s*** and you ain't representing us right as Americans. You don't fit for us like our President. You feel me?

It was all that, and all that just came while I was workin' on my album. These was the type of things that was goin' on and we was talkin' about in my camp, and I'm like, "Man, I'm about to just talk about all this s***." Cause I really feel some type of way about it. So that's how that s*** came, and that was just me, probably just growing on some man s*** and then on some artist s***. I'm steppin' into my powers. But I realized I was stepping into my powers after I did the record. But we listened to it like, "Damn, this s*** gon' be crazy." Cause ain't nobody — I didn't even know I was about to be on that, on this album.

KELLEY: Can you tell me a little bit about that interaction with the Secret Service and Universal? How does it feel when the Secret Service tells you that they're afraid that you actually want to harm somebody because of your lyrics?

YG:I mean, it wasn't — what we was sayin' on the record, when they first start callin' in, talkin' about they banned the record and they said we couldn't use it on the album, when we did that song we wasn't — that song wasn't about to even to be on my album. We just did that record and put it out. It got on my album like a week before I turned the album in. Last minute because we were just seeing how powerful the record was and how the people was reacting, so we like, "Yeah, this needs to be on the album." So we figured it out at the end and got it on the album, but when the record came out the Secret Service was callin' in because it was like we was talkin' about Donald Trump, if he win he was gon' get assassinated, probably killed. Nip said that in his verse, and then I said, "I'm surprised El Chapo ain't tried to snipe you." Then when they first start sayin' like we sayin' stuff and that song is not appropriate or some s*** like that —


YG:Yeah. I'm like, "What you talkin' about? This is America. Freedom of speech." But then I really started listening and I'm like, "Oh. S***. That could really happen. We could really spark something and really have some people really tryin' to do what we sayin' up in this record." So it's like, "OK, like —" And that really wasn't even what the record was about. We wasn't on no, "We 'bout to say ignorant s*** to get m************ talkin'." It was like, nah. We really goin' in. We really —

KELLEY:Right. That's how you felt.

YG:Yeah. It's really — this how we really feel. So when they was calling in and when I found out what parts of the songs was what they was trippin' off of, I'm like, "Alright, I get it." And then the record end up — we blank those parts of the song out on the album version and it was cleared to be on the album. So it's solid. It really wasn't really nothin', it was just we was talkin' 'bout, he'd probably get assassinated and that type of stuff, and since John F. Kennedy got assassinated and all that it was like, "Nah. Ya'll can't do that."

They was saying all type of s*** that I don't even know. My boy Steve-O, my A&R, he was really involved on the conversation. He just told me — he was tellin' me what was goin' on. I'm like, "Damn." But he could tell — he could talk about all that s***.

KELLEY:OK. So they were more fearful?

YG:Yeah. It was on some because Donald Trump is running for president, we can't have that out there like that. You feel me? That type of s***. Because of John F. Kennedy situation. But when they called in we like, "Damn. Mission accomplished." You feel me?

KELLEY: I've seen a couple interviews that you've given recently. You said that you thought maybe you would suffer some consequence for the record. That maybe people would — maybe the cops would be on you in certain situations more, or like venues wouldn't want to work with you, or whatever. That seems like a rational expectation. A: Has that happened at all so far?

YG:Yeah. That happened.

KELLEY:OK. And then, why do you think that more people don't say what they feel?

YG:They scared of what's gon' happen. The consequences.

KELLEY:These consequences.

YG: Yeah. They spooked. You know, the rap game is like pop now. Everybody pop stars. And I'm not talkin' 'bout on some because your music is successful and is crossing over, you pop stars. I'm not talkin' about that. That's all good. I'm just talkin' bout, like, the rap game is soft right now. You know? It was all started off talking about the culture and what was going on in the communities and all that type of stuff. That's the grassroots of rap, hip-hop. Hip-hop s***. It ain't too much of that s*** goin' on right now. Or, if people talkin' about it, they talkin' about it in a way people ain't feelin' it.

Like you know how you was just sayin' you want the fruits of your labor and all that, you want s*** to be felt? It's a lot of people that say stuff but it ain't felt because it's like, it ain't no authority behind it.

KELLEY:People don't believe them.

YG: They ain't pressin'. It ain't aggressive. And then they not followin' up, doin' no real s*** behind it. You feel me? So yeah.

KELLEY:And do you think that's musicians kind of self-selecting? Like people being like, "I would like to make friends this year." You know? Or do you think there are business pressures?

YG:Everybody tryin' to play — I mean it's both. I'm a business man, too. Like, I'm not tryin' to stop myself from makin' money and all that type of stuff, but it's like, when you getting glorified as a rapper or a rap star or a hip-hop artist, it's certain s*** you should feel like it's an obligation. When it's things like this going on in the communities and culture s***, you got to say something, you got to do something about it. Like, period. If not, who gon' be the people that speak for the people? Not the people that's up here speakin', like, the people that's up here, but they from right here and they still in tune with the people that's down there. Cause we out here doin' shows and we in all these cities. It's these people that's down here that's coming to support us. You feel me? So it's like somebody got to speak up for 'em. I'm speakin' up for myself and my family. I'm just not speakin' up for those people, I'm speakin' up for a lot m************.

So I don't know, man. It's weird to me. It's weird to me. Like when it was going on, and I'm working on my album, I'm sittin' back like, "Who gon' say something? Who gon' speak up? What they gon' do?" And me and Nipsey, we was always talkin' about doing s*** and pressin' and protesting and shutting s*** down and all that type of stuff, but we already like the most black boy m************ probably in the rap game, on the west coast, cause of what we represent, where we come from, our perception to these people. You feel me?

KELLEY:To various, like, security people?

YG:Yeah. Promoters, the higher power people, the police and all type of stuff. My shows is already getting stopped and shut down for I don't know. I ain't did nothin'. Ain't nothin' happening at my shows, so I really don't know. They says it's my perception, but it's like, I just did a successful tour and don't nothing happen. Like, why is you — you feel me?

KELLEY:Yeah, well there was a cop car outside of your event on Friday the entire time.

YG: That was due to because when Kanye did his pop up for the Pablo stuff, it got real wild up over there, so since then, since his s***, they just heavy with the police security on Fairfax, when m************ is doing s*** like that. That's why that happened.

But uh, we always talked about speaking up and just doing certain things around when all this s*** was happening, but we never did it because we was always hesitant, cause we was already getting black-balled, a lot. So we like wrote like — we was on a little business money s***. We like, "We can't do that cause we just gon' f*** our s*** up even more." Then it's just like, "Nah, man, this s*** is too much. There ain't nobody doin' nothin'. We got to say something." That's how that record came.

MUHAMMAD:Speaking on perception and what — people I think sometimes want to highlight stuff, or create things that's not even there and make it up and then highlight it, like it's something — sensationalize it. Can you talk about your organization, Four Hundred? What's it called?

YG:Oh, 4Hundred Waze. Non-profit. We partnered up with the mayor of Compton and we do all our events, you feel me, in Compton right now with her, and my momma, she really runnin' it. We do a lot of, like, giving back — homeless shelters, just underprivileged kids and a lot for the city — and I'm involved with that. We do, like, two events a month and —

KELLEY:Is there any way our listeners can get involved?

YG:Yeah, just go to, I think. And just be tuned in. I tweet stuff, when we had like — we do like fundraisers and all type of things and just events. They just got to tune in.


MUHAMMAD:There's some artists that, they keep that sort of work in the community quiet because they don't want it to be publicized. It's just, you know, a personal thing, which I totally understand that. But considering the negative stroke people try to paint you with, why don't you publicize it a little bit more so that people can really see —

YG:Hey bro, I publicize it. They just don't care about it.

KELLEY:They don't write about it.

YG:They want to talk about, "YG got shot." "Shooting at a video shoot YG was at." That's the stuff they highlight. I got publicists, bro. So when we do that type of stuff, we send it to the publicists and tell them, "Blast it out." They not highlighting those things, though. They not like — we invitin' the news to these events, TMZ — we invitin' them. We trying to get those type of things highlighted. They not highlightin' that. You feel me? That's why, it's like, this s*** is brazy. Like, it is what it is. I don't know.

MUHAMMAD:Sounds like you gon' be writing a book in, like, 20 years.

YG:No. I'll probably write a book before that.

KELLEY:Yeah. I believe that.

YG:S***t is wild though, bro. I've been tryin' to get those type of things put in the media since I started doing it. They don't give a f*** about that s***.

MUHAMMAD:I think you should — well, I don't know. I can't tell you what to do. You probably doin' it. I don't even know.

YG:Yeah, bro. I got people. I got a whole — my momma — I got a whole team on the foundation side. They be tryin' to get those type of things headlined in the media, to make the headlines, and it just don't happen. But let somethin' — let some guns go off or something and I'm around, or a fight, or just some wild, like, messy s*** — that s*** gon' be headlines.

KELLEY:Yeah, I mean, that's them trying to protect their little business. You know?

YG:Yeah. They tryin' to get their views. That's just, though, I can't even get mad at the bloggers — whatever you want to call them. They gon' put up what the people gon' gravitate to the most.

KELLEY:Yeah, that's the problem. That's like the actual problem.

YG:That's the real problem. The people don't care 'bout that type of stuff. You feel me? They don't care about that type of stuff! And it's probably — it's YG. They don't care about that type of stuff from me. That's probably really what it is.

Cause I've been sitting back and I really been like, "What's goin' on?" It's like, I do something crazy — I get shot, that's what everybody talk about. They want to interview me and "Ahhh." They gon' want to interview whoever get shot though, if you a celebrity. If you a basketball player or a actress or a white boy, if you get shot, that's something to talk about. That's some scary s***. They gon' want to talk about it. Alright. If a fight break out in a club or some s***, they gon' make that the headlines. People gon' gravitate to that. They gon' be going, "What happened? Oh, what fight? What happened? Did he get beat up? Did he win?" That's just the world we livin' in. So that's where the problem at. It's the people.

But it's like, how that's gon' change? That's not gon' change. That ain't gon' change. It's like entertainment. That's like — you feel me? Like, if you made a movie about giving back on some foundation s***, that s*** probably wouldn't do no numbers at the box office. You feel me? You do a movie of s*** blowin' up, shoot outs, Menace II Society movies.

KELLEY: Blockbuster.

YG: That's the s*** that sell. F*** it. It's the entertainment business.

MUHAMMAD:Well, you here, so. I'd like to talk about it cause you don't always get a forum for it, but feeding 800 or having a goal — that's your goal of feeding 800 people? Is it every — I can't remember.

YG:Nah, we did something. I think it was like for the next 400 days or something we was gon' try to feed 400. That's the hashtag: #lunchbag. I think it's two times a month, on Sundays — we go around Compton passing out food to homeless, to, like, everybody. Whoever out.

MUHAMMAD:Do you get a lot of people that show up?

YG:Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, for sure.

MUHAMMAD:Are you getting any other outside support or is it just the work you and your mom are doin'?

YG:We tryin' to get support. That's my money though. I'm puttin' up, like — people ain't really like — I don't know man.

MUHAMMAD: This what you do: for those people that give you some criticism, you turn the tables on them, be like, "This is what you tryin' highlight? This is where you going? But how come I'm over here doing this? What can you do? How come you running away from that?" I think you should —

YG:I should get on them like that, huh?

MUHAMMAD:You should kind of like flip it. Reverse psychology on them. Be like, "I'm disappointed that you can't find the time to come over and help our situation."

YG:Yeah. Real talk. I like that.

MUHAMMAD:Start tweetin' about, "You doing this, but come out of your pocket right now. Feed a few people."

YG:I'ma start pressing that line. I'ma start pressing that line on people. That's gon' f*** 'em up.

MUHAMMAD:I mean, I'm thinking Muhammad Ali a little bit. You know, may he rest in peace, but I think you kind of have to take a – I think, you know what it is? That our access — and when I say our I'm speaking about black communities' access to resources financially, resources on a medication and education level — has not always been to the highest caliber. And so when we get in a position, there may be more of a low-key sort of movement, but I don't see other communities moving consistently in a low-key fashion. I think they make a lot of noise.

I'll give an example. There's this organization in Chicago called Louder Than a Bomb. It was started by this young poet, and he started holding these poetry workshops. He's been doing it for 15 years, so now it's on a larger scale. I attended a fundraising with — they invited me, Alec Baldwin and Alfre Woodard. And in 15 seconds, Alec Baldwin said, "OK. So you need to get the money from the people, right? Alright, that's what I'm here to do. I'm not going to sit here and schmooze and just, you know, have these casual conversations. My power — the asset of me being here is that I'm going to motivate those purses to move." And he just did it in such a for — like, "I'm not being passive about it. I'm being super aggressive."

KELLEY:Like, unashamed.

YG:Like, "We need some money to do this. Is you helpin' or you not?"




YG in Los Angeles in June.
/ GL Askew II for NPR
GL Askew II for NPR
YG in Los Angeles in June.

MUHAMMAD:And I just think about, it's how Muhammad Ali was all the time. You know, just like — in so many different ways. So, I don't know. I'm just tryin' to take my passive practices, I don't know if it's just cultural or whatever, then try to find a way to be more effective.

YG:Yeah. I mean, you're right. Our people got to do better though. Yeah, we got to do better, man.

MUHAMMAD:I admit to that. Yeah.

YG:I get it though. You feel me? I know we're — I know what's up. I know what's going on. We got to figure it out though.

KELLEY:Can we talk about this song, "She Wish She Was?"

YG:What up?

KELLEY: Can you help me understand that song?

YG:Self-explanatory. It's all in your face right there. "She wish she was a hitta ..." I mean it's a record just talkin' about basically like — I'm still down here. I'm up here, but I'm still around all the b*******. So, I done dealt with a lot of females. I know a lot of females that they don't come off in like a female, woman, lady-like —

KELLEY:A traditional conception of femininity.

YG:Yeah. They on some — they do what they do because we do what we do. And then — you feel me?

KELLEY:You mean in imitation of what you're doing or like, in reaction to?

YG:It start off as reaction.

KELLEY:Right. Yeah.

YG:Then after they react like that for so long, that's just what they do now. It's just regular. You feel me? And it all starts from probably a broken-hearted relationship that went bad, and now they just — do you feel me?

KELLEY:Yeah. Yeah. I think it might often, at least in my experience, start earlier than that, in a lack of a model of a long term, loving relationship.

YG:Yeah. That too.

KELLEY:You know, a dad that can kind of model that, and a mom that can model a way to retain yourself within a family, that kind of a thing.

I mean it felt to me — honestly, the way that song felt to me was that was Part 2 to a story, and I didn't have Part 1. That's why only, sort of, confusion — or maybe it's like we need the — I would like to hear a female version of that song.

YG:Yeah. I've said so: a female need to make a female version. S***. Somebody better remix that.

KELLEY:Well, yeah. That kind of brings me to Kamaiyah, who I like a lot. And I've —

YG:I'm a fan.

KELLEY:Yeah, I've been saying for a while, I can't believe she's not doing more features because her voice is such a natural fit with the west coast sound. I mean, obviously, because she's from Oakland and everything, but the tone of her voice works with yours and with Drake's really, really well. What do you like about her?

YG:Everything you just said. She comes with the coldest melodies. She got her own whole little style. Her approach to the music, her image — all that is just different and it's new and she from Oakland. I got love for the Bay. Bay my second home. They love me. They treat me like I'm from the Bay.

So it's all that. And you know, she a female. It ain't too many females that's comin' and standing out on some rap s***. So yeah.

KELLEY:What would you do if your daughter grew up and said she wanted to be a rapper?

YG:I mean, if she was good ... like, "Baby, if you wack I ain't 'bout to let that happen." No. But yeah.

KELLEY:Has having a daughter made you think differently about your relationships with women?

YG:I mean, my relationship with women is solid. I treat you how you treat yourself.

KELLEY:So no? It hasn't changed.

YG:Nah, cause I'm not no disrespectful dude who just like — I got a mama. I got a —

KELLEY:Yeah. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that your relationship with women needed to change. I apologize.

YG:Nah, I'm just sayin', I ain't a disrespectful dude. Like, I see and I heard a lot of people say it changed how they think and talk about women and treat women and all that, but like I was never — Like if I'm talking to somebody crazy, I'm talking to you crazy cause you deserved to get talked to crazy. Period.

I'm humble, I'm chill. But I come from disrespect — disrespectful environments and places, so I know like, it's regular. But I'm just me. I'm my own dude. So that's not — like you just can't put that label on me like, "He about to get disrespectful, n****?" Like nah, I'm not. But I could get like that.

KELLEY: You could get disrespectful?


KELLEY:Yeah. I can't speak to that. I mean do you and Terrace ever talk about raising a family and doing this work at the same time?

YG: He got kids, so he was just telling me, like, how it's gon' be, a little bit. But since my daughter was born I've been like, I ain't really been moving around too much so I really seen her grow, from when she was born, all the way to one. So I've been around for the most part.

Usually — I thought I was gon' be gone, but due to life, life hit me. When I started working on the album, it ain't happening. I thought it was gon' happen. Due to everything I went through, like fell out with Mustard. My producing situation was I had to go figure that out. So that took longer than it would've took.

I got shot, so that pushed some s*** back. F***** some s*** up. I went on the J. Cole tour in the summer. I had the studio bus, but I ain't really get nothin' done, due to the producer situation. You feel me? So that put some s*** back.

So I was really out at the crib. I was out here for a long time. So, I've been here. She know who her daddy is and all that. So yeah. It's been solid.

KELLEY:It happens so fast.

YG:Yeah. It happened fast. Everything happens for a reason. It was solid. You know. Now it's time for me to leave, baby. Daddy'll be back.


KELLEY:The relationship that you have with Terrace is really interesting to us. We've spoken to him twice. He's always talking about working with you, especially this time, he was talking about the difference between being in the studio with you and then Herbie Hancock. Just the energy difference. Is there anything in particular about his style that makes sense for you? That you gravitate toward?

YG:I mean Terrace is a real musician. He came in the game doing music for Snoop and all them — with Snoop and all them — so what I do, he already know how to do it. It's just like, he got his own little sound. He got the real traditional West Coast sound, just –

KELLEY:But which doesn't sound dated.

YG:Yeah. No, because he know — it's the old s*** mixed with new s***. It's just sped up a little bit. That's why I like working with Terrace: cause I go to Terrance, I tell him like, "I need this type of beat." Or, "I want to sample this." Or ooh wop and he can do it. It ain't too many young producers that's real — like that really is producers. It's a lot of beat-making. Terrace is a real producer, so he can sit down with you and really help you create a real project.

MUHAMMAD:Talk about your relationship with DJ Swish.

YG:Oh Swish is my young moy. I probably just met him like two years ago, a year-and-a-half ago. He a up-and-coming producer, and he really came through for me on this last album. Yeah. He got what it take, though, to be the next best thing.

KELLEY:How old is he?

YG:Like twenty-two or something.

KELLEY:I saw it in an interview that you gave, that you — and you just mentioned kind of out of nowhere — you're like, "I want a Grammy. Or a nomination, at least." Why does the approval of the Grammy Association matter to you?

YG:That's like a NBA Finals Trophy. That's like a championship ring. That's a Superbowl Ring. Same s***.

KELLEY:Got it. Are you a member of the Grammys?


KELLEY:So you vote and everything?

YG: Yeah. I just hope, you feel me, this year I get my chance, man. You know?

KELLEY:Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about and make sure we got to?

YG:No. This was a good interview.

KELLEY:Well, thank you. I thought it was also.

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Ali Shaheed Muhammad is a world-renowned producer, songwriter and musician, and a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest, Lucy Pearl and production group The Ummah. He cowrote D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" and has worked with John Legend, Maxwell, Mint Condition, Angie Stone, Mos Def and Gil Scott-Heron among many others.
Frannie Kelley is co-host of the Microphone Check podcast with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
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