FME 2016 MVP HONORABLE MENTION-YG
We used to crown “mixtape MVP” but the distinction between mixtape and album is unimportant at this point. Everyone has streaming services and no one pays per album, it is a heartless profit starved reality but it is our reality.
YG was almost my pick for 2016 MVP because he distinguished himself as an artist from everyone else on the planet this year and he did it with his music, his words, and his beliefs. In 2014 when YG released My Krazy Life to an avalanche of critical praise a lot of that went to DJ Mustard.
Mustard was having a huge year and he had hits but it was being presented as if he was the white hot sun of the ratchet movement…which is ridiculous. YG’s follow up album to My Krazy Life called Still Brazy is so important. It features two songs produced by P-Lo of the HBK Gang (IAMSU’s crew) and they were doing the exact same sound at the same time Mustard was. Rick Rock, Droop-E, League of Starz and anyone connected to E-40 predates them. People following the West knew this. Mustard was a part of it but not an originator and not the best at it. People reading the headlines and not the articles thought Mustard owned the West and was propping up YG.
YG charged into 2016 throwing B’s at the listener and smashing each song with his impactful delivery. Terrace Martin brought the burbling West Coast thump and the Roger Troutman talk box to Twist My Fingaz, Swish used all his colors to render the deepest most beautiful landscapes behind Still Brazy’s best tracks (Gimmie Got Shot, Don’t Come to LA, Who Shot Me, FDT). The guests are impressive from Lil Wayne and Drake to Kamaiyah, Slim 400 & Sad Boy. YG became a central part of this year’s narrative by releasing the smash mouth election anthem FDT (featuring Nipsey Hussle) and in a real way he had all the West Coast artists shouting “F_ Donald Trump!” Many were making references to Trump as not a reputable character (see Smoke Dza-Don’t Pass The Blunt to Trump) but YG is way more straightforward than your “lyrical” rappers and way more lyrical than your fun “party” rappers.
Before the end of the year he dropped an eight song project called Red Friday. It featured fun anthems full of braggadocio like I’m A Thug but also serious venting on police brutality (One Time Comin’). When I heard him on Left, Right in 2014 I thought to myself “this is a real move the crowd rapper” someone with a voice and tempo that needs all your attention. Still Brazy and Red Friday add more to our shared definition of YG. On songs where he feels personally affronted by someone it is shocking and powerful because he has deep wells of anger that are fascinating. The songs that are about his beliefs resonate because he can’t help but make his views of right vs. wrong vigorously present. His gang lyrics aren’t sensationalist but grounded, straightforward and powerful. Everything he speaks is vivid. He doesn’t approach these songs like Ali did Frazier, more like how Tyson approached Spinks.
He was one of the first names I thought of because he destroyed the box he was put in and that is what everyone is trying to do. It is not what he did wrong that cost him the award it is the unthinkable performance of the winner.