If we’ve learned anything, it’s to never second guess YG. The Compton rapper is capable of moving from the most crass word play possible through to aspects of revelatory lyricism – sometimes in the same song. Forever entertaining, he broke new ground on ‘My Life 4Hunnid’, offering something autobiographical, brave, and often poignant. A Mozzy collaboration followed in 2021, with ‘I GOT ISSUES’ finding YG returning to centre stage. Less introspective than its predecessor, ‘I GOT ISSUES’ wrestles once more with personal themes, but refuses to bow out of cartoonish braggadocio in the process.
There’s a lot of highs on display. Bold opener ‘Issues’ darts out of the traps, while ‘Scared Money’ is a supreme piece of arena rap, uniting YG with J. Cole and MoneyBagg Yo. It’s a project of self-confessed contradiction: the pensive guitar loops that dominate ‘Sober’ offer something haunting, before segueing directly into ‘Drink To This’. Very well, then; YG contains multitudes.
Continually criss-crossing over itself, ‘I GOT ISSUES’ remains terrifically entertaining. ‘No Weapon’ offers a Nas feature over a soulful backdrop, while ‘Toxic’ interpolates a vintage Mary J. Blige to fine effect, her soulful voice intermingling with YG’s sharp-edged flow. It’s remarkable that an artist so drawn to the female voice should also discount it, however; ‘I GOT ISSUES’ is certainly guilty of repeating toxic language against women, so often reduced to the role of “this bitch I used to fuck…”
Taken as a straight-up West Coast rap record ‘I GOT ISSUES’ is a success. The slick G-Funk moves that underpin ‘Alone’ are matched to superb street wisdom, the throw-back feel augmented by YG’s personal touch. The lifestyle of his youth is never far from the horizon – ‘How To Rob A Rapper’ follows straight on from ‘Maniac’, with YG building a portrait of someone beyond the fringes.
Perhaps uneven, the record’s 14 track span provides room for growth. At times, ‘I GOT ISSUES’ has the feeling of someone simply getting something off their chest, for better or worst. A burst of rap creativity, YG lets the cards fall as they will, working with passion and alacrity.
Words: Robin Murray