At 28 years of age, YG is riding the Stay Dangerous mantra well into adulthood, and parenthood too. On the lead single “Suu Whoop,” he describes himself as a “gangbanging-ass dad”, and the remainder of the album is saturated with staunch street narratives and testaments to his reckless behavior. There hasn’t been another global rapper this Blood-obsessed since The Game’s meteoric rise in the noughties, and on Stay Dangerous, YG sticks to his guns – both figuratively and literally.
As a result, Stay Dangerous revolves largely around the themes of money, sex, and gang activity. It’s a formula that YG has championed for years, with his blunt approach making him one of the West Coast’s more memorable gangsta rap revivalists. But while his last album, Still Brazy, tied his personal experiences into politically-tinged tracks like “FDT” and “Blacks & Browns,” Stay Dangerous doesn’t make it that far, save for a handful of expletives launched at the DA, the police, and the president in its opening minutes. For the most part, this album is pure audio intoxication; a mischievous soundtrack for joyriding, partying, and unashamed hooliganism. There’s nothing wrong with playing to the same subject matter – Pusha-T has rapped about cocaine for two decades – but at times, Stay Dangerous lacks the finesse to make these limited topics truly shine.
Still, the first track, “10 Times,” is a high-impact opener that hits like a freight train. YG’s sharp, repetitive hook is contrasted against his drawn out, paranoid verses teamed with brooding keys courtesy of DJ Mustard. The producer was notably absent from YG’s last album, but the two have rekindled their relationship on in lengthy fashion, with Mustard (sometimes accompanied by his infamously catchy watermark) working on ten tracks from Stay Dangerous. “10 Times” sets the scene amicably for an album dominated by devilish sounds, and closes unexpectedly with a slice of gospel relief.
“Suu Whoop” is also thrillingly uncompromising, an homage to the Bloods with hard-headed production that’s reflective of the trap-heavy nature of Stay Dangerous. It comes accompanied by a music video that acts as a West Coast checklist, with lowriders, Chuck Taylors, and a scene where YG rocks a Jheri Curl wig à la Eazy-E (Stay Dangerous is littered with references to other Golden Era gangsta rap icons like Ice Cube and 2Pac). “Suu Whoop” also sees YG seemingly taking shots at 6ix9ine, rapping “I ain’t with the pink-haired Blood shit.” The beat pauses momentarily for YG to spit the line a capella, making his taunting message all the more clear.
Among the smothering aggression, there are moments that take a slightly lighter approach to the album’s omnipresent chest-puffery. “Too Cocky” is a cheeky reinterpretation of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” while “Big Bank” features playful xylophone production and some schoolyard similes from 2Chainz; “Big sack, a lot of hoes like Santa”, “Big shit like a dinosaur did it.” Even the sinister “666” quotes Ludacris’ iconic 2001 single “Move Bitch” in cartoonish fashion, making for one of the album’s more enjoyable moments.
YG also delves into melodic and autotuned territory on “Power” with Ty Dolla Sign and “Slay” featuring Quavo, focusing on his favored sexual boasts in a more relaxed R&B surrounding. By the time we get to the twelfth track, “Pussy Money Fame” – no prizes for guessing what the lyrical topics are – it feels like we’ve heard it all before, numerous times on Stay Dangerous alone. Thankfully, album finale “Bomptown’s Finest” finds YG making full use of a featherweight instrumental, letting his vocals take center stage to reflect on his turbulent lifestyle. With three heartfelt verses wrapped around a spoken word remembrance for late friend CBP Frogg, it’s the album’s most captivating moment as we see YG beyond the flashiness and firearms.
YG and Mustard have a strong track record stretching back several years, and with its effortless West Coast bounce, “Too Brazy” (with help from Mozzy) feels like the pair at their hit-making best. However, other tracks primed for commercial success, like “Handgun” featuring A$AP Rocky, are lackluster and clumsy. Moreover, much of YG’s bravado begins to blur together in the middle of Stay Dangerous, missing the passion or catchiness to buoy the monotonous subject matter. Stay Dangerous isn’t as engaging as previous full-lengths My Krazy Life and Still Brazy, but there’s enough here to show that YG can channel the spirit of gangsta rap into a contemporary, club-driven sound.
YG’s charisma and authenticity are pivotal to his appeal. He’s earned his red stripes and wears them unapologetically on Stay Dangerous, and while the album may be a little one-dimensional, it sounds like it’s crafted primarily for your Friday night antics. For that purpose it succeeds, even if that’s only on a surface level. When you dive into Stay Dangerous, make sure you blast it at full volume in the company of some good friends and revel in the audaciousness of it all, otherwise, it may not have a memorable effect.