It's a hot time to be a Los Angeles rapper.
Last month, Top Dawg Entertainment charted its first No. 1 album, Schoolboy Q's "Oxymoron," and a few months earlier his peer, Kendrick Lamar, earned Grammy nominations for album of the year and new artist.
Tuesday marks yet another major turn when Compton rapper YG releases his highly anticipated major label debut, "My Krazy Life."
A rough, boisterous, cuss-heavy record that documents the rise, challenges and emotions of the artist born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson, the record was a collaboration from start to finish by highflying South L.A. producer DJ Mustard and features another buzzing hit maker, Ty Dolla Sign, all of whom ascended together.
YG was ubiquitous at last week's South by Southwest music festival, where he gigged the Def Jam Records showcase, the Fader Fort and the Blitz party and guested with New York crew ASAP Mob. During his Fader gig, Snoop joined him onstage.
While in Austin, Texas, YG sat down to talk about his new album, the next phase of his career and his recent audition to play MC Ren in the forthcoming N.W.A biopic, "Straight Outta Compton." [Note: for readability's sake, YG's favorite cuss word has been replaced throughout with the word "stuff."]
You first hit in 2009, but your major label debut, "My Krazy Life," is only coming out now. What took so long?
I was in jail, and I got signed three months later. This is my first album, but I've been dropping mixtapes before that. I was in a situation where I was a West Coast artist signed to an East Coast label. When me and Mustard first started putting out big records, [they] got a lot of recognition on YouTube. But Def Jam didn't know what to do with me because it was a new sound and I was a new artist.
So I just had to keep doing it, keep putting it in everybody's face. We were setting up our own tours, working on mixtapes. I was spending my own money on videos, spending my own money on radio, doing all that. It took me some years to be in this situation. It took a lot of work. It ain't no overnight process.
When you say it was a new sound, what do you mean?
DJ Mustard was my DJ from back in the day, from 2008. He wasn't even making beats yet and I had that song "Toot it and Boot It." I was releasing big songs back in the Myspace days — making all the music and the kids started jerkin' to it. I was talking about some [stuff] that wasn't made for the kids, but the beats, the music, the kids just gravitated toward it and started dancing to it. They labeled me the "King of the Jerk," but I never ran with that title.
The music I was doing, me and my homies were in the streets doing all the high school parties. We were doing the house parties. There were shootouts going on. I was throwing parties in Compton, in Crip neighborhoods. They'd come into the house and start shooting. I had my mama there — I had my whole family there helping me because I was making money and I was helping my family at the time.
Were you booking the shows at clubs? How many people would come?
We were just using venues. I had parties in church halls. My mama knew people that had venues and all that, and I knew a lot of people from forever. I was always popular growing up. She used to get me the spots, and I used to have parties. Probably about 300, 400 people. I was like 16 or 17.
At that time — high school — there was a lot of kids from different cities and neighborhoods going to these parties. Popular parties every weekend. We used to have fights, shootouts, all that. That was growing up.
That's why a lot of people respect me in L.A. that's around my age group, because they saw me in the streets. They saw me at all these parties performing. Mustard was DJing. Ty [Dolla Sign] used to come perform with us. That's how the sound that we have now was created — all the [stuff] we was doing when we was young, just our lifestyle. And when we sat back on it and looked at it, that's how it was supposed to sound. It was some party gangsta [stuff], some real street [stuff] at the same time.
Are you relieved that "My Krazy Life" is finally coming out?
Yeah, Tuesday feels like the next stage. I just auditioned for the N.W.A movies as MC Ren — hopefully I'll get that.
Did you specifically audition for MC Ren?
Yeah. They felt like I fit his look and all that, and I'm from Compton so it's in my blood. They're trying to get real people from L.A. and Compton. It's definitely the next stage of everything. This year is going to be a good year.
My favorite song so far is "Meet the Flockers," about burglary.
That's my favorite song on the album. It's like my Ten Commandments.
I don't want to get you in trouble, but you seem to speak from experience.
Yeah. See, I went to jail for that. So I know all about that [stuff]. Breaking into houses — I got a strike for that. Picking locks, sliding doors — I went to jail for all that. But that's in the past. That's over with.
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