The addition of Ty Dolla $ign to the crew gave them a gifted producer who could belt turn-the-lights-down-low hooks that split the difference between Nate Dogg and R. Kelly. But while Ty focused on completing Beach House, the breakout solo mixtape that scored him an Atlantic Records deal in 2012, YG attempted to combat industry speculation that he was a one-hitwonder. “My fans from day one knew what was up, but there was a lot of pressure from record labels and radio DJs asking, ‘What’s the next single?’” YG says. The money from the Def Jam deal allowed him to move his family into a gated community in Inglewood. But even though his first single dominated L.A. radio, it failed to crack national Clear Channel playlists. The check for the aspiring superstar’s advance may have cleared, but he was no closer to seeing an album released on a major label.
“I used to pull up in the hood and holler at the homies, telling them that I was quitting this rap shit,” YG continues. “They’d look at me like I was tripping, but I’d be like, ‘Nah, nigga, this ain’t working. Fuck this one-hit-wonder shit.’ Then Mustard started making beats. He tailored it to my lifestyle, our culture and how niggas was really living. We took it to the next level.”
Starting with YG’s The Real 4 Fingaz (2010), YG, Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign sparked a hit streak that may wind up in the annals of all-time great trios—alongside the Miami Heat’s Big 3, the psych-rock band Cream and Three’s Company. Songs like “I’m Good,” “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” “Paranoid” and “Patty Cake” became hood anthems mandatory at every function. So was “Function,” which found YG trading bars with E-40, Iamsu! and Problem. Mustard also laced L.A. radio burners for fast-rising R&B star TeeFlii and Brick Squad affiliated Joe Moses.
While none of these songs cracked the Top 40, they attracted attention from their peers. Jeezy took note of YG’s movement and conscripted him to team up with his CTE imprint. The first official collaboration was Jeezy and CTE’s #ItsThaWorld, which dropped in May and spawned “My Nigga,” a classic street banger featuring Jeezy, YG and Rich Homie Quan over a catchy Mustard beat. “My Nigga” is Jeezy’s biggest radio hit in five years. Its immediate predecessor was Jeezy’s “R.I.P,” a smash in its own right that never cleared the Billboard Top 50. (The Mustard beat was originally intended for YG, who gifted it to Jeezy.)
Even will.i.am recently snared a Mustard beat, which spawned a controversy when it leaked to the Internet sans the producer’s trademark tag: “Mustard on tha beat, hoe.” The most impactful of all was Drake’s “The Motto,” which was modeled on Mustard’s blueprint. To pay homage to the Pu$haz Ink influence, the Canadian rap star even took a trip to Compton to cameo in the video for YG’s “I’m A Real 1.”
“People heard the music we were making and started to run with it and make their own. I don’t make ratchet music. This is really how I’m living. I’m talking about shit I’ve done. I’m talking about fuckin’ real-life bitches and naming them by name,” YG says laughing. “But Drake gave it up and said that when he made ‘The Motto,’ he was listening to us. That’s respect right there. Plus, he did a new song with me and Mustard for my album.”
After being signed for nearly a half-decade, YG’s official Def Jam debut, My Krazy Life, is slated for release at the top of the year. He switched the original title, I’m From Bompton, after Jeezy convinced him to select something more universally identifiable. After all, they already own Compton, South Central, Watts and the entire Westside. The goal is to be everywhere for the next four summers.
“I came up through these L.A. streets, a young nigga in gangbanging culture,” YG says. “I never did no fuck shit. I went to jail, got a strike on my record and went through a whole lot of situations, from not having money to having it. But I still made it out. I’m still the same nigga feeding my family and living this same lifestyle. It’s crazy, and I’m probably the only person who can speak on it.”
“We didn’t really have any idea, no plan,” Mustard adds. “We were just kids having fun making music that I thought would crack at the parties. Simple as that.” ♠