YG – Still Brazy
YG’s debut, My Crazy Life, was one of the best hip-hop albums of 2014. Combining DJ Mustard’s ratchet beats meets G-Funk production, alongside YG’s reflective lyrics on life in Compton, the album was a mix between Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid m.A.A.d. city and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. YG looked set to be the next big West Coast star, but things haven’t exactly panned out that way. The rapper was shot by an unidentified man last year, resulting in his sophomore album being pushed back. He was also involved in a long running feud with Mustard, and while the two have reconciled, Mustard’s absence from Still Brazy has left many wondering if YG can achieve the same level of success as his debut. In short, the answer is yes.
Mustard might not be involved, but there are still elements of YG’s sound he helped shaped throughout the album, with former Mustard associate DJ Swish handling the majority of the album’s G-Funk inspired sounds. With the beats West Coast-Centric, lyrically, Still Brazy is another expletive filled journey through Compton and YG’s turbulent life. The rapper goes into detail describing life on the streets on Don’t Come To LA, addresses his shooting on Who Shot Me? and talks about politics on FDT (Fuck Donald Trump). First single Twist My Fingaz is classic 90s gangster rap, while YG and Drake’s chemistry never falters on the banging Why You Always Hating.
Drake isn’t the only big name on the album, with YG recruiting Lil Wayne for I Got A Question and Nipsey Hussle for the aforementioned FDT (Fuck Donald Trump). Fellow Cali locals Slim 400 and Sad Boy feature on a number of tracks, with the best effort being the slinky Word Is Bond.
Verdict: Finally a sophomore album worth the wait.
Chymes – Grow
New on the scene, Aussie electronic duo Chymes will have tongues wagging with their debut EP Grow. The four track release is a joyous celebration of minimal electronica, spearhead by multi-instrumentalist Cameron Taylor and vocalist Kirsten Nyman. The production is gorgeous, with the four tracks running the gambit of chilled, dreamy soundscapes with lush pop melodies and heartfelt lyrics. Nyman’s ethereal vocals reign supreme over the minimalist beats, no more so than on delicate opener Oracle. The harmonies of both Taylor and Nyman add another element to Chymes, with the delicate Grow featuring Taylor’s hushed vocals and Nyman’s soaring lead, the two projecting the emotions of the song seamlessly.
The EP’s other two tracks, the electronic-chiller Clouds and glitchy, melodic Colours round off what is an incredible debut from one of our countries best new acts.
Verdict: One of the best Australian releases you’ll hear this year.
The Game – Streets Of Compton
It’s been a fairly productive past 12 months for West Coast rapper The Game. Having released The Documentary 2 and 2.5, the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 debut of the same name, The Game has also been involved in filming the A&R series Streets Of Compton. The three part documentary premiered last week and delves into the history of Compton and how drugs, gang culture, political and social turmoil helped pave the way for gangster rap. The Game features heavily, along with Compton celebrities Kendrick Lamar and the Williams sisters Venus and Serena, while local community members also have their say on the cities rich and controversial history.
Accompanying the series is the soundtrack from The Game. The 11 track album showcases up-and-coming Compton rappers and producers alongside The Game’s own offerings. As you’d expect on an album dedicated to the home of gangster rap, Streets Of Compton is steeped in the sounds of early 90s hip-hop, with relative unknowns Payso and J3 opening the album alongside Game on the throwback Support Compton. One of my new favourite producers, Jay Nari, provides the beats for popping Hit The News and Bullshit, a cautionary tale of gang violence. Game and Problem link up for the player anthem Unfollow Me Bitch while Micha and Payso lend their vocals to For The Homies, The Game’s touching dedication to all the friends and family he’s lost to gang violence.
The albums best tracks are The Game’s solo cuts. An underrated rapper often disparaged for his constant name dropping (still present), The Game’s storytelling on Street Of Compton is as good as it’s ever been. The Game uses the well-known Blood call sign Soo Woo as a way to describe two females that represent his two Cougar pistols on Can’t Wait, while Death Row Chain is a compact history of Death Row Records, with Game reflecting on the impact the label had on him.
Verdict: The Game cements his position as one of the West’s best.