YG Talks Making ‘My Krazy Life,’ Rap Beef & White Kids Using the N-Word [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
YG is exhausted. The night before this interview he flew into New York with his manager and his bodyguard and went straight to one party, followed by a second party. They stayed up until 4 or 5AM and he says he only got two hours of sleep. He’s been celebrating the release of his major label debut, 'My Krazy Life', which dropped last week (March 18) on Def Jam and is getting abundant love from critics, fans and newcomers alike.
Inside Def Jam offices on a Friday afternoon (March 21), the Compton, Calif., native is scarfing down Five Guys. He admits to fatigue, but doesn’t seem too worn. He looks me dead in the eye when he talks and it’s hard not to inspect the tattoos that crawl up his forearms to his wrists. It’s also hard not to ask for a fry. Two colleagues sit on the same couch a little distance from the platinum-selling rapper, and his publicist sits across from him.
From gangbanging and throwing shots at fellow rappers in his freestyles -- who's he taking aim at? -- to breaking down the recording process of 'My Krazy Life,' YG opens up about all of that and more.
Tell me how you got started rapping.
Off a diss song. Somebody dissed me so I dissed ‘em back. That was my first record, a diss record. It was like high school cliques and s--t, and our cliques really ain’t get along like that. So he made a song and he was naming everybody [in my clique]. The people he was naming he knew, but he didn’t know about me, so I heard my name and I was like, "Hold on, I don’t know you n---a." [So I responded] as I was supposed to.
What made you want to keep going?
S--t just started happening. I fell in love with it. I was doing it for fun at first. I used to come to school and motherf---ers was singing the songs and s--t. I was like, "What the f--k?" They’d be like "That s--t hard!" Then they started playing my s--- at little house parties, high school parties. Then I started performing around L.A. and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. This was in high school. I was like 16, 17.
Were you gangbanging at the time?
I was like… banging in the 'hood, but I wasn’t officially put on yet, you feel me. I got put on when I was like 18, I dunno, 17. But yeah we was gangbanging. Shootin’ guns, partyin’, all that. [At a] young age.
What makes it official, when you say you were put on?
When you get put on, you gotta fight [puts up fists], you gotta get put on. It’s the life.
You get more personal on 'My Krazy Life' than you have on previous projects. Why?
'Cause it’s an album, so I feel like you got to talk about your situation. I knew everybody was already like, "YG only do party music. He only got singles." I knew that was the word. So I’m like, alright. I’m 'bout to come with that s--t and tell my story.
When you doin’ an album, you want people to buy into that s--t. You want it to stick. You don’t want to drop an album and come and go. You want to drop an album and motherf--kers still buying it five, 10 years from now. So we took our time and worked on it for that reason.
How long have you been working on the album?
Since like last February to September 2013.
How’s the relationship with Def Jam been? Were they leaning on you for more big singles or were they letting you do your thing with Mustard?
Nah. They were trying to get the album out earlier, like when ‘My N---a’ was in its prime, but the album wasn’t ready. So now that everybody’s heard the album and the reviews are good, [Def Jam] sees why I was taking my time.
Listen to YG's 'Do It to Ya' on Spotify
Does DJ Mustard package any of his beats with hooks or do you write all your hooks?
I write [the hooks]. ‘My N---a’ was like half me, half Rich Homie Quan. Then all the other s--t, all the other songs where I’m rapping on the hooks is me. On the features like ‘Sorry Momma,’ Ty [Dolla $ign] wrote that hook, Tory Lanez wrote the hook for ‘Me and My Bitch.’ TeeFlii on ‘Do It To Ya,’ he wrote it. But all the other hooks and the songs are written by me.
DJ Mustard doesn’t have anything to do with writing the hooks, but we’ll be in the studio and I’ll ask him if some s--t’s hard, he’ll say "yeah" or "no."
What’s it like in the studio with Ty Dolla $ign?
S--t regular. That’s the homie. We been in the studio since 2008, smoking this weed, chilling, crackin’ little jokes, and we just go in. Sometimes during the studio sessions that’s when bitches come through, but when we were working on the album we was up in Atlanta.
I moved to Atlanta for the summer, so Ty would fly in for a week and we’d do music, Mustard would fly in for a week and we’d do music, and then he’d leave and the following week Mustard would fly back, you feel me.
I couldn’t record my album out in L.A. I can’t focus out there, it’s too much s--t going on. I be too in the mix, too involved with the homies, doing all types of other s--t. I did ‘My N---a’ verse in L.A. and I did ‘Who Do You Love’ in L.A., but everything else was done in Atlanta. I did ‘Bicken Back Bein’ Bool’ in New York.
Listen to YG's 'Sorry Momma' Feat. Ty Dolla $ign
Word, your manager told me you did that song in one take at Quad Studios. While you were recording, I’ll call it ‘My Hitta,’ did you realize that it was a hit?
S--t really when Rich Homie Quan got done with the hook, we knew it was gonna be a street anthem. We ain’t know it would be platinum-selling. Then we put it out and it started doing what we thought it was gonna do, but then the DJs started playing it on the radio and making their own clean versions and everybody was calling in like, ‘Ay, this the s--t!’ So we’re like damn, how the f--l we gonna clean this song up?
It took us like three weeks to figure out the clean. That was a little cold ass situation.
Who named the clean version ‘My Hitta’?
I think Steve-O [Carless, A&R of Atlantic Records and President of CTE] and Jeezy came up with that. They told me and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the s--t.’
What do you think about white kids saying the n-word when they’re singing the song?
It’s good. It’s just how some people say it sometimes that will make you feel a certain type of way. You can’t make a song and then expect motherf--kers not to say the s--t, because you made the song. It’s just how some people use it sometimes that be rubbin’ s--t the wrong way.
So you’re not against it in theory?
[Long pause] Why you tryin’ to get me to… nah that s--t, I mean, like … When you got a song and they singin’ the song, they singin’ the song. It depends on how you usin’ it. If you just out there sayin’ it, that ain’t cool. If it’s the song … I can’t really say too much because I made the song and put it out there, so motherf--kers is gonna sing along to it. They feel it because it’s talking about friendship. You just gotta sing along to it at the concert, then after that… it’s over with [laughs].
Did you get in the studio with Drake and Kendrick, or did they send their verses?
Are there any songs you recorded that didn’t make the cut?
Yeah, there are a lotta songs that didn’t make the cut, like 30 songs. I got this joint with Bone Thugs that I ain’t put out, s--t raw as f--t.
What’s your relationship like with Young Jeezy?
That’s like big bro, I can call him right now and he’ll pick up. Or if he doin’ somethin’ and don’t pick up, he’ll hit me right back. It’s hands on, there ain’t no going through somebody on his management team or nothing like that. It’s a real homie type situation.
I spoke to Freddie Gibbs earlier this week. He said he told you he loves the album and that when ‘Toot It and Boot It’ came out, he wasn’t f---ing with it.
He told me first, he ain’t get it, but then he started hearing some other s--- and he was like, ‘I f--- with it.’
You guys are cool?
[Long pause, side-eye] Yeah, we straight.
I have to ask you about your Hot 97 freestyle last night.
What …? I was rappin.’
You said something about, ‘I’m talking to two of you.’
Yeah I did, I said, ‘I’m talking to two f---s.”
I dunno. They know who they is.
There’s a lotta talk on the Internet about who they are.
You can’t go by the Internet. S--t is false sometimes.
That’s why I want to ask you.
[Laughs] You crazy.
[Publicist: He’s just doing his job. People wanna know!] [Laughs]
People are saying they think it’s Tyga and Problem.
I mean … that’s what they think, that’s what they think.
You’re not gonna confirm or deny.
It’s like when you in court and the judge talking and trying to put some s--t on you. Or the police asking you questions, I don’t know what you talkin’ about. I don’t have no clue.
[Publicist: Yeah… I think we should move on to the next question]
I respect that.
You f---in’ police?
[Laughs] Nah, it’s just that people wanna know.
Tell me the role Sickamore [Def Jam A&R] played in the making of 'My Krazy Life.'
He did a lot. He A&R’d the album. He’s been a road dog, doing video treatments. He really A&R’d the album though. A&R’s nowadays aren’t doing what he’s doing. They just bring the artist beats. Me and Sickamore was in the studio, in the trenches really going in on subjects and concepts. How to lay down a verse, how to structure a song. He’s from New York and he come from this hip-hop s--t, so he had me doing my homework. We were playing classic albums that we f--k with and listening to how they were doing their things. Stuff like 'Doggystyle,' 'Chronic 2001,' 'Get Rich Or Die Trying,' 'Ready To Die.' I was off all that. Played that s--t all day.
Terrace Martin has a lot of production credits throughout the album. What role did he play in the studio?
He helped with … he added instruments, like he took some Mustard beats and sounds and took them to another level. He played on ‘BPT’ like the [imitates the stabbing synths], he did that, he had the strings on that s--t and made that s--t bigger than what it was. He made some s--t stick out and he helped with the sequencing, like how the s--- flow, how the s--t goes right to the next s--t like sssh and somethin’ else pop, you feel me. And he did the ‘Sorry Momma’ record. And DJ Mustard played the drums on that s--t.
Listen to YG's 'My Krazy Life' on Spotify