The West Coast might not get the shine it deserves on the national hip-hop stage, but YG has a plan.
During an interview on REAL 92.3 LA, the STAY DANGEROUS rapper responded to a comment from DJ Hed regarding the West Coast presence at the 2018 BET Awards being exciting because the region's music scene "don't ever get looks like that."
"We too real," YG said, citing the often violent, gang-affiliated nature of West Coast rap ("We just represent a lifestyle that the world don't want to glorify or award or give props to, 'cause we gang-infested over here...") and a hesitance on the part of rap fans who didn't appreciate OG West Coast rappers to come around on new-school talents from the Pacific Coast: "From back in the days, the older homies that came up out here before our time, they did a lot of stuff and they probably rubbed a lot of people wrong, so they probably still getting [people saying,] 'Nah I don't fuck with them dudes.' They doing that, but it's from back in the day. 'Nah I ain't feeling them,' but they taking it out on us."
Fresh off the release of his third studio album, YG then offered up an easy-to-follow blueprint for West Coast rappers to gain respect.
“We gon’ smack these dudes with these hits,” he said, “and we gon’ put… We gon’ drop these nuts in they face, and they will have to respect it.”
Jokes aside, show host Bootleg Kev continued the thought, asking YG if he recalls the time he and other upcoming LA rappers were not getting their due shine from OGs, remarking that YG made it out of LA without the major Dr. Dre co-sign, something that YG has touched on in his lyrics ("I'm the only one who made it out the West without Dre," "Twist My Fingaz").
Though YG admitted that with the internet it’s easier now than ever before to be a new artist coming out of LA, both he and Kev agree it's damn near impossible to break without any help. While YG has made it farther than some of his contemporaries, this is not an exclusively LA problem; this is the curse of regionalism. Think: Bay Area curse. Also think: revivalist raps in NYC.
Any time an artist builds their career off their allegiance to tradition and the sonic roots of their city, they can amass a cult following, but they also stand to alienate listeners that are less-in-tune. This is a reason why A$AP Rocky has a better chance of rising to national acclaim while Westside Gunn, for all his impeccable talent, is not crossing over as much as his music may deserve to be heard. Regardless of where you’re based, though, YG is right: a steady string of hits is usually the key to gaining respect in the music industry.
Regarding YG's claim that gang affiliations bars him from the national conversation, while it may be true that some rap fans would be drawn to his music because of his gang background—that voyeuristic tendency implicit in all music fans—we also cannot deny that the upper echelon of the genre is far more clean cut.
The Drakes, J. Coles, and Logics of the rap world are all gang tie-free, because as YG points out, “They look at us [gang members] like animals and stuff like that, so they try to keep us out.” This toxic perspective is also something G Herbo touched on in a recent DJBooth interview.
Whether or not YG’s latest album puts him into an even larger national conversation, we cannot deny that he’s already made one of the best rap albums of the decade off the strength of his regional approach.