4REAL 4REAL, YG’s fourth album, was initially slated for a release in April, unannounced and unexpected. When Crenshaw legend and close collaborator Nipsey Hussle was tragically murdered on March 31, YG decided to delay its release and nix the surprise. Nipsey's heartbreaking death took a toll on all of hip-hop, but especially on those who were close to the late, great Los Angeles hero.
4REAL 4REAL is here now, nearly a month later than planned, with “In loving memory of Nipsey Hussle” written on its cover; an indication we might want to bring a few tissues.
Since breaking out with his 2014 debut on Def Jam, My Krazy Life, Compton-born rapper YG has delivered material that is both bright enough to blind naysayers and lacking in luster. “Big Bank,” YG’s 2x platinum certified, star-studded single, was a tremendous success in 2018, but the album that houses the record, Stay Dangerous, was more focused on hits than the heart. Lyrically, the 29-year-old is at his best when life inspires art; a storyteller needs a story to tell and YG is a storyteller.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
1. “Hard Bottoms & Socks”
Applause to begin the album; sounds like the kind of audience you'd find in a small jazz club. YG is talking. This is a nice mood. “This that real rap shit.” Okay, a slower beat, but it’s perfect as an opening record. “Let the marathon continue.” I wonder when this was recorded. He’s touching on what he brings to hip-hop. Very confident voice, he’s not iffy or unsure of himself. “We going to do this one for hip-hop" is not a statement you'd expect to hear in 2019. Shout out to anyone still doing it for the Vine. Okay, I like this. A nice breakdown would be a nice way to close, the energy needs to shift or YG risks dragging on too long. “I’m the nigga.” Okay!
2. “Bottle Service”
YG has me intrigued. The production is hitting! The intro build-up with how Mustard's drop came in was a nice one-two punch. Yeah, this is a strong switch up. The tempo is bouncy, very West Coast. “Ain’t got time to clean the house, bitch I got a maid.” I laughed. There’s a bite to his flow, it's way more aggressive and focused than the YG on Stay Dangerous. Some good lines, too. How he uses the woman calling the guy a scrub as the break between verses works better than a hook would’ve. I like this a lot. Good start, YG.
3. “In The Dark”
A nice bass to begin. Another Mustard beat. Both of his offerings thus far are better than his contributions to Stay Dangerous. A banger in the making. YG's singing “The freaks come out at night” might be the highlight of my week. I love this vibe. It feels like if Michael Jackson shot the Thriller video in Compton. Just imagine a werewolf YG doing the moonwalk. I don’t usually say this, but I wouldn’t mind a Blueface feature here. He would own this tempo with some offbeat humor. The breathing textures are a nice touch. Currently my favorite. Each song has only gotten better.
4. “Go Loko” ft. Tyga & Jon Z
Sounds like a guitar? Mustard tag! Whoa, I'm loving these chords and the bed squeak. A slower record, but the mood is set. “Hey Mamacita, hey Mamacita.” I'm loving the attention to detail. YG sounds focused, everything is intentional. I haven’t thought too much about Tyga on the hook, but his verse is good. One artist whose window has never closed is Tyga. If there’s any rapper likely to survive the zombie apocalypse, it’s Tyga. Jon Z is bringing Latin trap vibes. He’s got a nice groove going. I couldn’t understand a word, but he fit the record. We've got horns! A night party in New Mexico. Yeah, the horn section was a great back end touch. A little long, again, but I'll come back for another helping.
5. “Stop Snitchin”
Possibly the worst music video of 2019. What were they thinking!? Admittedly, this song is better as an album cut than a single, but I’m still not sold. A great beat, but lyrically, YG kept his contribution surface level and repetitious. Did someone snitch on him recently? This song must be inspired by real-life circumstances. I like the bar about why he doesn’t run from smoke—he’s not an athlete—as if only professionals are allowed to use their legs to do the Tay-K.
6. “I Was On The Block” ft. Valee & Boogie
Bass! Oh yeah! This is it! YG came in cooler than the snowman on Jeezy’s old T-shirts. He’s using Valee’s whispery flow. It's fluid, effortless, seamless. Very West Coast, very gangster rap vibes. He’s in a zone! The pocket is getting stomped on. “Yeah, I had a meeting with Kanye.” The advice he says Kanye gave him sounds about right. Valee sounds great, but that's to be expected since his flow set the tone for the entire song. I want Valee to record audiobooks. I should have the option to hear him read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Boogie! His voice cut through the beat! He came to eat. "I Was On The Block" showcases the chemistry between these three.
7. “Keshia Had A Baby” ft. Rose Gold
I'm thinking about Tupac’s Brenda. “I know we all know a girl name Keshia.” YG has come a long way from the funky misogyny of “She Wish She Was.” The storytelling is smooth. He’s holding my attention. I’m not sure where Keshia's story is going. Thus far, her life sounds good. He’s introducing new characters, Chris and Ray. Dang, Keshia switched sides on Ray. YG has a thing about women sleeping with a homie’s homie. Keshia and Chris' life sounds lavish. Oh, Chris is cheating on Keshia. I thought Ray was going to return and kill them both. Well, that was messy. I need YG to pen a Tyler Perry screenplay. I would watch Madea goes to Compton.
8. “Heart 2 Heart” ft. Meek Mill, Arin Ray & Rose Gold
The album has slowed down. "Heart 2 Heart" is a well-produced record, and YG sounds good, emotionally-driven. Great arrangement. It sounds like something Puffy would appreciate. The second verse is good, too. YG's getting back to more vivid, detailed lyricism. Arin Ray and Rose Gold sound great together on the hook. Meek! He also sounds great. Some heartfelt bars, no pun intended. “Heart 2 Heart” has a winning line up. I'll have to revisit Meek’s last album when I'm done. Other than “Stop Snitchin,” YG hasn’t stumbled.
9. “Play Too Much” ft. SAFE
I hope the album picks back up, but it doesn’t sound like it is with this build up. It’s smooth. Well, I’m good with this. The instrumentation is lush, and storytelling YG is killing it. Talking about a story that ended with him getting played by a woman. He doesn’t sound angry, but, upset. Genuinely upset. “Play Too Much” is the story of a player who got played. Can’t say I relate, but telling the story from this perspective feels unique. This is a record only YG could make. I’ll revisit.
10. “Do Not Disturb” ft. Kamaiyah & G-Eazy
Keys! How the whistle blew and then Kamaiyah’s vocals came in was a movie. This is her world now. She has taken over the album. The bounce is infectious and her voice sounds richer than an expensive chocolate. “YG can’t rap? Bitch I got bars” haha, maybe some harsh criticism inspired him to put more effort into these verses. Wow, G-Eazy came in with the Mystikal reference. Not bad, Gerald. I would’ve loved more Kamaiyah, but a solid track.
11. “Do Yo Dance” ft. Kamaiyah, RJ, Mitch & Ty Dolla $ign
This is the funk. The music video should be Snoop Dogg crip walking in leopard skin slippers. The album’s momentum is... confusing. The pacing is completely off, but I like the diversity. More Kamaiyah and she sounds glorious. YG is giving us some good barbecue music before the family reunions start this summer. I’m not sure if this is RJ or Mitch, but their verse was solid. Ready for Ty, need him to bring the soul. I love the hook, it’s so fun. And another vocalist that’s not Ty Dolla, but I like his voice, too. TY! If they trimmed the other features, “Do Yo Dance” is a radio record. It’s too long to be a traditional hit, but I hear so much potential here. Keeper.
12. “Her Story” ft. Day Sulan
Strings! They're very sharp and a bit sullen. Oh, the way it switches up suddenly... yes. The low drums. Okay! So, it’s an interlude featuring a verse from Day Sulan. This is my first time hearing her sing. She has a good voice, a nice flow. She’s telling a woman’s story, is it her story? Honestly, this sounds like the intro of an album. Not a bad first impression. More, please.
13. “My Last Words” (Nipsey Tribute)
This is YG’s speech from Nipsey Hussle’s funeral. “My brother from the other color.” He’s very sincere in how much he appreciated and admired their relationship. “Hussle the motivation, my nigga.” Nipsey forever.
14. “Stop Snitchin” ft. DaBaby
Knowing a DaBaby verse will grace this beat is something to be excited about. I wish YG would’ve changed his first verse. It’s hilariously aggressive. Young Dolph would kill this beat, too. The more it plays, the more infectious it becomes. DaBaby! He came in swinging. His charisma reminds me of an early, fresh-out-the-trap T.I. He did his thing. Not mad at his contribution.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on YG's 4REAL4REAL:
YG’s decision to release a second full-length album in less than 10 months initially filled me with fright. After Stay Dangerous, I thought his best bet would be to exercise patience. Thankfully, 4REAL 4REAL is a comeback record that reintroduces YG at his most inspired.
Confidence and enthusiasm radiate throughout the album's 14 tracks; YG is self-aware of his artistic identity, he's maturing as a man, and he's fully adjusted to the celebrity life, thus avoiding some of the mundane missteps that plagued his previous album.
While there's an undeniable West Coast influence throughout the album, 4REAL 4REAL isn’t weighed down by tropes. Other than “Stop Snitchin,” the material has a fresh perspective; YG's storytelling adds a layer of realism that elevates his material, allowing the songs to come to life.
Some artists create their best work only after their backs are against the wall, and much like Anderson .Paak delivered Ventura less than six months after the critically mixed Oxnard, YG elevated to a higher level on 4REAL 4REAL.
For anyone who believed YG was at risk of losing his balance, stumbling before the big fall, 4REAL 4REAL represents a return to form. He still has plenty of stories left to tell.
By Yoh aka 4YOH4YOH aka Yoh31.