There was a home invasion inside a marquee Sunset Strip property on Friday night. Two young men, each wearing red bandannas over their faces, snuck into a white-painted residence just off Sunset Boulevard. They made off with sacks of unidentified valuables, all despite the hundreds of witnesses nearby.
The perps, of course, were not actually burglars, just actors in a short and goofy skit during the rapper YG’s sold-out show at House of Blues. The Compton MC (or “Bompton” in his preferred parlance) released his debut album, “My Krazy Life,” in March, and the album has since claimed some more pricey real estate in Los Angeles: mainstream rap radio.
Since his breakout 2009 single “Toot It and Boot It” (a gentlemanly ode to seducing women and expediting their exit from his house), YG has corralled a little coterie of peers driving West Coast radio-rap. They include his longtime producer DJ Mustard, whose sternum-punch kick drums and spatters of intricate hi-hats helped create the “ratchet” sound that has soaked into much of contemporary hip-hop. There’s also Ty Dolla Sign, the compelling R&B lothario who is becoming L.A.’s version of the Weeknd, yet with somehow even less empathy for his club conquests.
All were onstage Friday for YG’s set, which despite its 45-minute late start proved that the MC born Keenon Jackson is impressively overachieving, and may be at the start of an influential scene.
From his statement-making kickoff track “I Just Wanna Party” to “Meet the Flockers,” it’s clear YG has a mixed relationship with the pleasures of the hard knock life.
YG’s songs almost always operate at a turned-up velocity (thanks to Mustard’s precise, sinister beatmaking), and on singles like “Left, Right” he’s fine corralling a dozen girls from the crowd to take the stage and drop low for him. As louche 2014 party-rap cuts go, “Left, Right” is as reliable as any.
But YG can sneak some introspection in there too. Take “Really Be (Smokin’ and Drinkin’)”, in which YG ticks off a ledger of his vices that turns serious: “If I don't make it with this rap…I might be homeless / My moms don't got a job, my pop's checks ain't enough.” Then comes its unflinchingly honest chorus hook: “That's why I really be smokin' and I really be drinkin’ / I be going through some things, you don't know what I be thinkin’.”
The show’s only lag came during the devotional “Sorry Momma,” which was laudable for its intentions but broke the tone of the night (though the unexpected guest sax solo in the bridge was welcome).
Things picked up again when Ty Dolla Sign came out for his own DJ Mustard-produced hit “Paranoid,” a dim-neon tale of tripping in the club while your girls conspire against you.
Drummer Travis Barker joined them at the end for a few recent hits like the rowdy “My N-“ and “Who Do You Love,” and it was clear that YG works best there -- in a crowd of talented peers, each adding distinct tones to this eerie club-rap whole. Sometimes you’ve got to break into a home before you can make one for yourself.
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