4REAL 4REAL is YG's Homage to Nipsey, the West Coast & All of Hip-Hop
Evan Dale // June 2, 2019
Five YG projects in as many years have defined the modern West Coast hip-hop aesthetic, only paralleled in his prolificity by Dom Kennedy, only mirrored in the global spread of his geographic subset by Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, The Creator. My Krazy Life introduced his mean-mugging yet bouncy wave to the world, Still Brazy perfected his delivery, and Stay Dangerous – which came out in 2018 – solidified YG’s place as a generational leader not only throughout Southern California, but worldwide. Returning to the Hip-Hop Album Chart’s upper echelon for the fourth time in his career with the release of 4REAL 4REAL, YG explores and redefines the West Coast aesthetic in a post-Nipsy Hussle world.
To this point, it would seem that any negative press aimed at the project is in response to its lack of linear conformity or stylistic adherence. But when viewing 4REAL 4REAL through the lens of wide-ranging homage to a myriad of stylings he’s mastered, YG’s influence and inspiration – founded in memory of his late friend and collaborator – presents itself with clarity and definition.
4REAL 4REAL is the kind of slow-grinding, bass-heavy collection of bangers we’ve come to expect from the brazy yet bool MC, fit with thought-provoking, meaningful lyricism that shows YG in a number of differentiating lights and adept musical nuances. It’s a different kind of project, but that seems like the point. Like the rest of hip-hop, particularly the Southern California rap sphere, YG is grieving the loss hip-hop’s most philanthropic leader but does a pretty remarkable job of honoring his influence not only on West Coast rap, but across the spectrum.
Me and Mustard kept this shit lit, ooh //
Pac ain't the only motherfucker with the juice //
Call Dre, call Snoop, call Game and Kendrick too //
When you think about the West, it's me and Nip, red and blue.
From the very beginning with Hard Bottoms & White Socks, there is an air that 4REAL 4REAL is going to make a case as another defining moment in YG’s career. The track is an anthem à la Lil Wayne’s Dedicate where YG claims credit and overarching influence on the modern scene.
Talkin' 'bout the West Coast, I'm the face of it //
Gangster in designer clothes, I'm the face of it //
I told them hoes to get low, I'm the face of it //
I put on the bros, I'm the face of it //
Drove the Maybach to the block, I'm the face of it //
Dissin' all the opps, I'm the face of it //
Hard bottoms, white socks, I'm the face of it //
We gon' do this one for hip-hop.
And it’s hard to argue with his logic. From flow to fashion, YG has perhaps had more underappreciated, long-lasting effect on hip-hop culture than anyone else over the past half-decade. In equal breath, it’s easy to argue with the critics downplaying 4REAL 4REAL’s lack of stylistic direction to YG’s pre-existing canon. YG made this world and he wants to make the next one too.
To it, he invents wildly across the 4REAL 4REAL spectrum. Moving from the downtempo and downright pissed off vibe of the album’s opener, YG hops into a tear of high-energy, arrogant anthems reminiscent of the crowd-pleasing radio slappers his mainstream career has bubbled over with: Bottle Service, In The Dark, Go Loko which sees guest spots from Tyga & Jon Z, and Stop Snitchin. And though substance might seem in short change across those four tracks, two things should be noted: substance has never been the reason people have loved YG, but substance, and more importantly range, are to follow anyway.
I Was On The Block which sees YG and fellow West Coast juggernaut, Boogie attacking South Chicago Valee’s one-of-a-kind flow, is an exhibition of the slow-paced, high-energy hip-hop of the modern cloth. Both YG and Boogie revolve more closely around the classic West Coast aesthetic, but have no trouble making the new wave their own.
Keshia Had A Baby displays YG’s affinity for the G-Funk era, simultaneously honoring Tupac’s Brenda Had A Baby, and going the direction of Dom Kennedy with a modern take on the classic tale, while still holding true to the original thematic exploration and classic California instrumental makeup.
And the wide swatch of stylistic exploration only continues from there. Heart 2 Heart, with the aid of a funk line from Rose Gold, is another display of an old school West Coast vibe fit with an addicting chorus by way of Arin Ray. Play Too Much rides another slappy bassline and invites the emotionality of SAFE to deliver one of 4REAL 4REAL’s early standouts. Do Not Disturb with features from Kamaiyah & G-Eazy is a surprise club anthem sure to tear up the dancefloors all summer long. The same can be said about Do Ya Dance, albeit in a far more inviting and fun-loving kind of way. And Her Story is a vibrantly Southern track, showing a previously unearthed take on YG’s sound.
Across the board – which feels like the right way to describe the range of YG’s most experimental album to date – 4REAL 4REAL is another defining moment in the West Coast leader’s long and acclaimed canon, but it earns its definition in ways previously unexplored. In homage to the place and people that made him, YG has a wider appreciation and understanding for hip-hop’s past and present, both rooted in the lessons and memory of Nipsey Hussle. It’s a beautiful thing to see a veteran so liquid in his wanting to explore and reinvent, and even more beautiful when that exploration and invention churns out so many differentiated and bold hits.
Once a highly celebrated one-trick-pony of the hip-hop club anthem, 4REAL 4REAL exhibits YG an influencer, but also a student of wider musical range without sacrificing the energy, the lyricism, or the one-of-a-kind intangible he’s always brought to the table.