YG first broke through with the Ty Dolla $ign-produced "Toot It and Boot It," a single that shot up Billboard and helped secure him a deal with Def Jam. With his primary producer DJ Mustard blowing up on the pop charts—he was behind smashes "Rack City" and "I'm Different," among others—YG seems to be in an ideal position.
His Just Re'd Up 2 mixtape is one of the strongest YG and Mustard have yet put out. Mustard's bag of tricks has deepened and matured, while YG sounds more confident and in control than in previous incarnations. The duo's sound is focused.
We spoke with YG, who's performing at the Knitting Factory in NYC tonight, about growing up, working with Young Jeezy, and how to build buzz in the industry.
As told to David Drake (@somanyshrimp)
On Growing Up in L.A.:
"I was born in Compton, raised all through the city of Los Angeles. I went to Paramount High School, Mayfair High School, all types of high schools. I’m not a high school graduate but it’s all good. I grew up with my moms and pops, pops was in jail for like three years. I was already doing what I was doing but my pops was always the one that was on my head about shit. When he went to jail, I just went ham. That’s when I really started gang banging and all that, I was like 15.
"From there I just been in the streets doing what I do. I went to jail for residential burglary, I got a strike and I was 19 years old. I came home from that and got signed three months after that. That’s when the “Toot It and Boot It” track happened, and “Toot It and Boot It” was a record I wasn’t really fucking with. This was back when MySpace was cracking, I had millions and millions of views on my MySpace. Everybody that was in high school in LA had my shit on their MySpace page. But “Toot It and Boot It” was the one that took off, and when that took off everybody thought I was a one hit wonder."
On Working With DJ Mustard:
"Mustard’s been my DJ since the go, since “Toot It and Boot It” took off. Everybody was like, ‘What the fuck is YG going to do next?’ I’m like, ‘Damn, what am I going to do.’ Because Ty produced “Toot It and Boot It,” but at the time, me and Ty had stopped working. We were working, and then he started being on his artist shit, because at first he was just producing for me. I didn’t really having no music like that, so Mustard was just like, ‘Fuck it’ and we started going in. That’s when we did Just Re’d Up—and I had “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” “I’m Good,” and “Up” on there. I followed up with another mixtape, 4 Hunnid Degreez, and I was on the Tyga tour last year, the Mac Miller tour, I did my own tour and then I came with this tape, Just Re’d Up 2.
"[Mustard's] style—he starts making beats to highlight my music, that’s how he started off and we just kept going over how I like my shit. Now it’s just a sound and Mustard is doing his shit with it."
On Working With Young Jeezy:
"Jeezy was in the city last year or towards the end of 2011. Drama was DJing and he was playing all my shit; the club was going up. Jeezy reached out to the label and the label told me he was trying to fuck with me, so that day I started fucking with him and we been in the studio. That 'R.I.P.' song he has was supposed to be my single. I did like three or four verses for that song but I wasn’t feeling it so he ended up putting it on his mixtape. It’s going up but I’m on the remix though so that’s a look. I don’t have a date yet for the album but that’s all on me though.They’re just waiting for me to turn in an album basically."
On His Favorite Rappers:
"[In Los Angeles] I’m fucking with [Nipsey Hussle] but I already worked with him. I’m fucking with Kendrick Lamar, I ain’t got a song with him yet. I fuck with ScHoolboy Q and Dom Kennedy. I’ve got records with Dom.
"[Elsewhere], I listen to the regular shit. Kendrick’s shit just came out hot, Meek, Nip, Dom Kennedy, Drake, Lil Wayne, Future, Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, Lil Boosie...free Lil Boosie. My shit, all my homies shit. Ty Dolla $ign. I fuck with Chief Keef shit, we be off that. I fuck with Wiz shit too. I like music bro, it could be an artist I don’t know but if the song is banging I’ll fuck with it."
On His Deal With Def Jam:
"They’re the biggest label out. I’m happy to be signed to them because of that. But it was hard. Now, I’m in a better position I’ve ever been in with a label. Before that, it was hard because I���m a West Coast artist on a East Coast-based label. What I've got cracking over there they don’t ever get to feel it because they’re not out there. I’ve been having to go hard and do a whole lot of shit but now I’ve got Jeezy pushing me—we’re on the same label. Then I got Mustard, he’s producing hits and that’s my DJ and producer. They seems like they’re happy, I’m happy, I’m ready, they’re ready so it’s finna go."
On His Mixtape, Just Re'd Up 2:
"It’s my favorite. Because the first Just Re’d Up was us experimenting. We just started doing this shit and it went. Then everybody started following up after the sound on the West Coast. With the 4 Hunnid Degreez mixtape I was like, ‘I’m finna switch up on these niggas just to show them I can do whatever the fuck I want, basically.’ I switched up but the fans wanted that Just Re’d Up shit, that turn up. So, I’m like, ‘Alright that’s what they want’ but that’s me though, I’ve got a turnt up type of personality. Just Re’d Up 2 is coming soon and I give them that, and on my album, I’m going to tell my story, turn up shit, singles—all of that. The album will be probably 80 to 90 percent Mustard. I got Ty Dolla $ign producing some shit. Ty’s got shit, he got shit with Wiz and all that."
On Live Performances:
"Besides touring, we do a lot of club shit. In LA, it’s like Hollywood so we’ll do our stuff out there to break the songs. Basically, we’ll go perform and just turn up—pop bottles, give out CDs, all that. We do that in Hollywood off top when a tape comes out and then we perform at the Knitting Factory, House of Blues, and Club Nokia—that’s where I do my shows at."
On Building Buzz:
"MySpace was the first thing but I started passing my CDs out in the street myself, I do that today still. Can’t nobody deny my shit because, especially on the West Coast, they know the grind, they’ve seen a nigga grind, they’ve seen a nigga out there passing out CDs. They can’t do nothing but respect it and fuck with it. Now you’ve got blogs and all this shit, that’s the best way to do it because once you get shit cracking on the Internet, it’s a wrap. I wasn’t really doing that last year or the year before but now I know I’ve got to do that shit."