YG’s “STAY DANGEROUS” provides a skeletal caricature of the keyboard and 808 paired west-coast sound that put him on the map, signaling that creativity has run thin and a sonic change of pace is necessary.
As documented, YG’s public feuds with other rappers whom he accuses of appropriating gang culture, “STAY DANGEROUS” ironically borrows quite heavily from the contemporary motifs and watered-down trap music, signaling a surprising dilution of authenticity for the Compton rapper. By failing to introduce a unique element, “Stay Dangerous” relies too heavily upon sonic familiarity.
Tracks like “CANT GET IN KANADA”, “PUSSY MONEY FAME”, “DEEPER THAN RAP” and “BIG BANK” feature mind-numbingly repetitious hooks and lazily executed deliveries over commonplace instrumentation.
“No I ain’t regular nigga, I got hoes in the back, I’m Santa” says YG on “CANT GET IN KANADA”. Clever.
On “PUSSY MONEY FAME” YG cycles through cliche bars about his interest in the rap industry extending only to the money and attention from women, but not the fame. The tail end of the second verse offers an interesting change of pace in lyrical performance. YG alters his flow to speak directly and matter of factly. He repeats the phrase “fuck fame” to as the beat loses its synths and playful keys, underscoring his disinterest.
“But I do wanna fuck a bitch who wanna fuck me ‘cause my name,” says YG humorously in an otherwise unlistenable track.
“DEEPER THAN RAP” points to a series of situations meant to disengage YG the rapper and introduce Keenon Jackson the man. Unfortunately, discussion of betrayal by close friends, the safety of his daughter and spiritual conversations with his grandmother are too casually on the song. Without proper explanation, YG fails to emphasize the level of severity in these events and thoughts in his life, offering only a bland interpretation.
“POWER”, “FREE THE HOMIES INTERLUDE” and closing track “BOMPTOWN FINEST” comprise the highlights of the album. On each, YG delivers refreshingly complimentary verses that at some points glide succinctly above rhythmic beats. Ty Dolla $ign’s feature on “POWER” acts as a soothing presence, with smooth vocals spread over an intoxicatingly melodic performance.
On “FREE THE HOMIES INTERLUDE” YG receives a prepaid call from Ty Dolla $ign’s older brother TC, who is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of murder over a decade ago.
“Shit the last 5 years wouldn’t be the same without you” says TC in gratitude to YG for providing financial support despite rough circumstances. The interlude’s inclusion presents an emotional distinction that leads directly into the last song.
“BOMPTON FINEST” is an exercise in catharsis that regrettably does not translate to the rest of the album. It is a deeply personal examination of lost friendships and personal reputation that proves YG has not lost touch with how to exude personality on wax.
“But in real time the shit out here be too tough, gotta stay dangerous gotta keep touped up” says YG of the album’s attempted motif. According to YG, the concept of the record represents why being proactive, self-aware, and out of trouble at all times is necessary.
“BOMPTON FINEST” uses a series of reflections to get this point across. Despite the last song executing the album’s main idea, the entirety of the “STAY DANGEROUS” is distracted by generic gang-banging tropes and forgettable execution.
What is most troubling about YG’s performance on this record is what it could potentially represent for the trajectory of his career going forward. As the third commercial installment of the distinct sound YG and longtime producer DJ Mustard have developed together, “Stay Dangerous” unfortunately lacks diversity in the substance on “Still Brazy” and authenticity of “My Krazy Life”.
Going forward YG has two options to restore artistic integrity: a return to his earlier projects of purity or introduce an entirely new sound or style of rap. “STAY DANGEROUS” failed to move the needle in either direction, leaving much to be desired.