Consistency is key. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a key for YG since the release of his sophomore album, Still Brazy. Teetering between raw, authentic Gansta-Rap/G-Funk and West Coast Hip-Hop style influenced by So-Cal flavored popular rap hits, YG has this esoteric identity–it now shifts, stunting by pandering features and weak beats and hooks. He’s trying to find ways to make his style more vivacious. Though this isn’t to discredit YG since he still delivers full skillets of different food of quality, and on his latest album, Issues, he returns to past recipes that has better consistency. I Got Issues is leveled, giving us an exuberant force of those West Coast Hip-Hop and Gangsta Rap/G-Funk bangers boasted by layers of authenticity and unique samples. He’s bringing levity musically, flexing his range, and having fun at times, as he relays these delineations of issues YG’s been through and still goes through, as he continues to cement himself as one of the younger heavyweights killing.
Opening with “Issues,” you’ll immediately start to get whiffs of what has been present in past albums but not as effervescent since his solo tracks on Stay Dangerous. YG gives us four straight songs that embolden YG’s essence. It’s what is in the middle of the album where most stumbles appear, specifically from the artist’s side and some of the production. Though he’s treading toward keeping himself relevant through certain features–I mean, let’s face it, YG isn’t hopping on something as poppy as that song with Fergie, “L.A.LOVE”–they are predominant misses. It’s easy to find yourself veering back toward his solo tracks, especially with his clear direction. “Go Dumb,” “Sacred Money,” and “Sober” aren’t the most gripping, at times feeling distant; some don’t have lavish production like “Go Dumb” and “Toxic,” and others have weak features that tune you out like Post Malone.
When it comes to beats, the consistency is high, but there are a few blemishes. “Toxic,” you get a gut punch immediately as you hear “Be Happy” by Mary J. Blige get sampled. As it progresses, your sense of positivity with slight bewilderment starts to fade with lackluster verses and a nearly monotone beat. It’s similarly the case in the middle as YG whips up some poor concoctions that get lost by the features’ drab performances from ones you wouldn’t expect. One of the first tracks you’ll notice on the tracklist, “Sacred Money,” will be so because of the names J. Cole and Moneybagg Yo, but push that aside since it explores particular characteristics YG has beaten to death lyrically. It’s not like the crisp street-cut “How To Rob A Rapper,” which features D3szn & Mozzy, two artists that understand the assignment. The aforementioned “Go Dumb” and “Sober” show levels of mediocrity as YG tries to adhere to radio standards, except these tracks aren’t that memorable. Even when YG shifts in this direction, there are some highlights due to the sheer fun he has had making tracks like “Go Loko” with Tyga and Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. I Got Issues isn’t absent from that kind musical fun, though it can be more subtle than apparent.
From the crisp gangsta-rap-influenced bleakness of “No Love” and “Killa Cali” to the more adventurous “Baby Momma” and “I Dance,” YG is coming with his all, even though not all translations work. There is musical depth amplified by its sonic layer, mirroring elements from other hip-hop subgenres and allowing us to finally see YG express a slight melodic digression from the known. “No Weapon,” featuring Nas, creates harmonious equilibrium as the producers bring elements of Jazz-Rap and that Southern Cali sound of the 90s, more modernized. “Baby Momma” isn’t far from your normative G-Funk track; the funk is subtle, the percussion fruitful, and YG is jovially performing about his disdain for baby momma. Fortunately, these tracks are smooth surfaces on the dirt path you take toward your destination. And on this path, that flurry of greatness elevates the I Got Issues further, especially with the external layer coming from the perspective of his performances. “I Dance” sees YG attempting to bring that So-Cal Latin/Hip-Hop hybrid to the forefront, but unlike “Go Loko,” this one has more flavor and potent featured work from Californian singer-songwriter Cuco and Argentine reggaeton artist Duki.
Listening to I Got Issues wasn’t so much rejuvenating because that essence of gangsta/west coast hip-hop has seen variations, and here, it’s more consistent. My Life 4Hunnid gave us “Blood Walk” and “Out On Bail;” 4Real 4Real gave us “In The Dark” and “Stop Snitchin’,” and so on and so on, but when that flavor spreads more thoroughly, you get something that’s more repeatable. Coming in hot with “Issues” and captivatingly closing on a somber note with “Killa Cali” I Got Issues is a YG album I’ll be returning to rather swiftly.