Sky's The Limit
It took YG five years after getting signed to Def Jam to release his debut album, but when it finally dropped, a rap star was born.
Interview Miranda Johnson

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of XXL Magazine.

On a chilly fall afternoon a week before Thanksgiving, 24-year-old Compton rap star YG is chilling on a couch in the video room at the new XXL offices on Manhattan’s East Side. He’s in town for a private screening of his debut movie Blame It On The Streets—which he both wrote and stars in—later in the evening. The release of the film in December marks YG’s final big move in a year filled with accomplishments. The CTE World/Def Jam Recordings artist began 2014 with a bang thanks to the March release of his long-awaited solo debut My Krazy Life. The album, which featured the hit single “My Nigga,” landed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart in its first week. “If it wasn’t for Frozen, I would have been No. 1, that had me hot,” YG laughs. “My Nigga,” which features Rich Homie Quan and CTE World founder, Jeezy, premiered in the end of 2013 but had peaked at No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart by the time My Krazy Life dropped.

The stars continued to align for YG, who joined the Drake vs. Wayne Tour this past summer and launched the BestCoast Connection Tour with Harlem’s A$AP Ferg in fall. Now with the release of his movie, YG wraps up the past 12 months a new man, eager to make 2015 even bigger and better.

XXL chopped it up with YG about his year worth of accomplishments, the status of his joint label Pushaz Ink with Ty Dolla $ign and DJ Mustard, why Suge Knight calls him “The Best Rapper Out Of Compton” and more.

XXL: It took you five years to put out your debut album, My Krazy Life, after getting signed to Def Jam in October 2009. How glad were you to finally release it?
YG: That was a relief. I finally got my shit off but I took so long though because I was trying to do it right. That shit paid off, we did it right. I was anti-album from when I got signed all the way to 2013. I wouldn’t talk to nobody about an album. I was studying the game.

What made things different for you with your albums as opposed to the mixtapes?
[With] the mixtapes I would go in the studio and just rap. I wouldn’t go in there with a concept or nothing like that. I would just go in there and make songs about whatever I wanted to talk about. It really didn’t hold no weight. With the whole album shit, I came at it a whole different way. I studied all the classic albums and did my homework. I went in the studio with a concept, a story.

In March you released the documentary, My Krazy Life, which had Kendrick Lamar and Drake talking about you. How was it to have big artists like those two supporting the movement?
It was a blessing. It felt good. It felt like YG mattered, he’s somebody. I’ve been fuckin’ with all them people from like back in the day. Like Drake been supporting, he been told me he was going to do something for me since back in the day. So the time finally came and it was right. The documentary was just all the artists speaking on [me]. It felt like I almost made it or something. I got all these people who are big in the music industry and all that, they’re speaking on YG. Speaking good on my behalf, it’s a good feeling. Knowing that all the work you put in, [people] are noticing that and they’re fuckin’ with you.

You have the Pushaz Ink label that you announced with Ty Dolla $ign and DJ Mustard this year. Seems like it got a lot of attention with all the success of the three of you.
I think Ty doing his own label, Mustard got his own label and I got my own label. We were going to do the group label thing, but then we all decided that everybody should have their own label because everybody had their own type of shit that they want to do. We still homies. It’s still the same program. It’s just everybody has their own label.

You three were planning on doing a collab project, is that still going to happen?
Hell yeah, that’s for sure going to happen. I told them we should probably wait like two years to do it so that when we do it, it’s big. I got my fan base, Ty got his fan base and he can sell this amount of tickets, I can sell this amount of tickets. So when we put it out to go on tour, it’s going to be a big-ass tour. We’re still building right now. I know after my second album though, it’s over.

Suge Knight called you “The Best Rapper Out Of Compton.” What was your reaction to that?
I know Suge, I heard about that. Suge fucks with me. Suge saw me out there on the streets. That’s the thing about L.A., everybody knew I was in the streets. So they saw me go from 0 to 10, so it was like [people] who are haters at the heart, they really can’t hate. Overall, I did my thing. Suge is just supporting though.

You and DJ Mustard closed New York’s annual Hot 97 Summer Jam concert together. That was a big look for two West Coast guys. Were you happy with how it went?
I didn’t like that. We should have went before Nicki [Drake and Wayne] because this is not our side. We can’t close in New York, I was mad the whole time. That doesn’t make sense to me. They put us on after Nicki. I don’t know whose choice that was. Now when you’re on the West Coast, let me close that, I’m going to go ham. I wasn’t feeling that one. [It was good] just to be able to say I did it, I performed. It was a cool little experience because that’s legendary out here so to be a part of that on my first album, it was a good feeling.

You were on the Drake vs. Wayne Tour this past September, what was that like?
It was cool. The police kicked me off like two dates though. After Suge Knight got shot in the club at 1Oak in West Hollywood with Chris Brown, the cops just started canceling my shit. I had a Hollywood show I was supposed to do on Halloween. So when they announced the Drake vs. Wayne Tour and they saw I was on that, they told Drake and Wayne that I couldn’t do two of the dates. And if I was to go to the venue, they weren’t allowed to perform there anymore. It was like, if Suge Knight got shot at a Chris Brown party and YG does some events, some shit could happen. We be straight at my little events. Lately, they’ve been cool because we aren’t on that. We ain’t tripping no more, we’re out here handling business.

Your CTE boss Jeezy got arrested later that same day.
They tried to tie me into that. Like, YG, he’s with Jeezy. Then Suge Knight got shot. He’s a Piru, I’m a Piru. That’s fucked up. At least you still got to be on the tour. I did like four dates. It was turnt.

And you started the BestCoast Connection Tour with NYC’s A$AP Ferg.
BestCoast Connection Tour, we played that off the West Coast Connection. Me and Ferg, we got two dates on this side of the year and then the rest of the tour is in 2015.

Why did you want to go on tour with A$AP Ferg in particular?
I fuck with Ferg. I’ve been fuckin’ with Ferg. I feel like he’s got a different fan base than I do and vice versa. So when we get together, it’s going to be some shit. He’s going to gain fans, I’m going to gain fans and we’re going to have a good time. The people are going to be happy and we’re going to get a little bit of money. Why not?

Your new movie Blame It On The Streets just came out. What inspired you to write an actual movie?
I don’t know. I just wrote the movie ’cause I’ve been doing a lot of auditions and shit. So I got the scripts of these movies that I’m auditioning for and we were planning to shoot my movie [around the same time]. So I was like, I’m about to write it because there’s a script right here. A movie based off my album, I can do that. I did it. It’s A1.

It took me like two months [to write]. The movie is based off life behind two songs on My Krazy Life, “BPT” and “Meet The Flockers.” We were trying to make the album and drop the movie at the same time but that ain’t work. So we figured out how to still put the movie out. We had a little support and we just had to add the music with it, so we did the soundtrack.

How has your life changed with your success this year? Can you walk down the street normally or not anymore?
Hell, nah. That shit is crazy. I can’t walk...I mean, it depends. On the West Coast, I can’t go nowhere, it’s bad. But [in New York City] they know me, too. I’m still in the stages that I don’t believe this shit, so I still be moving like I’m regular. Like I’ll be moving by myself, I’ll go hit the mall. Next year, I’m going to set all my shit up.

What are you looking forward to in 2015? The Grammys are coming up...
Hopefully, I get nominated for that. Me and Ferg are on tour at the top of January and the end of January, I have to go to Australia. When I get back, I might do a movie, a mixtape or an album. I might do a porno.