Interview was originally written for True-Magazine.com’s 71st print issue.
Driving north on the 101 through the city of Angels late on a misty winter night, on my way to YGʼs studio near the Hollywood Hills, the city almost feels heavenly. Mesmerized by skyscrapers to the west, partly hidden by ethereal clouds, and the fact that thereʼs no traffic northbound on the 101, I find myself getting comfortable. When, all of a sudden, a mass of illuminated tail lights immediately bring me down to earth, stuck between a drive I was enjoying and my destination – YGʼs modest, yet far above average, home which is nestled between blue collared Thai Town and the extremely wealthy in the foothills just below the iconic Hollywood sign.
Interestingly, YG and longtime friend and collaborator, DJ Mustard, find themselves similarly situated. YG tasted commercial success with his first hit single, Toot It and Boot It, and DJ Mustard is nibbling on even greater success as there is talk of a possible grammy for him via Iʼm Different, a song he produced for Two Chainz last year. The duo is successful by most accounts, but are not satisfied there. Comptonʼs Young Gangsta, and producer DJ Mustard, share where they were, are, and want to be from aunique position, somewhere between success and stardom.
Fans of rap know who you are, or at least think they do. In your own words, who are YG & DJ Mustard?
YG: YG is a young gangsta, you feel me? Iʼm a good guy though; Iʼm a loyal friend. Iʼm like a family guy too at the same time. YG falls in love with females too, see people might not know that. I got a heart… sometimes, not a lot. Thatʼs YG though.
DJM: Um, Iʼm 22, Iʼm from California, born and raised. Iʼm just a young dude, just workinʼ and tryinʼ to get rich.
Before we get to the questions, whatʼs on your guysʼ minds right now?
YG: I want to tour and make millions. That simple.
DJM: My goal this year is a hundred placements… I mean shit thatʼs gonʼ chart; shit thatʼs gonʼ go platinum. Right now Iʼm at two: I got a number six and a thirty in the Hot 100.
YG, top 3 most influential rappers/emcees? DJ Mustard, DJs/producers who have inspired you?
YG: My favorite [is] Lil Wayne, off top. And, I got a homie who inspired me too, his name PC. And itʼs either gotta be Juelz Santana or the Game, you feel me?
DJM: Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, and DJ Quik. Dr. Dre is just a musical genius. And Lil Jon, his longevity was crazy. And then DJ Quik, heʼs just one of the greatest.
YG, your first major commercial success was Toot it and Boot it. What was it like paying dues leading up to that?
YG: Oh, I was in the streets heavy, you feel me? I was doing free shows, I was doing shows for fifty dollaʼs… from LA, to the IE to San Bernandino, Riverside to Fresno, you feel me? I was doing whatever came my way, you feel me? I was doing a lot of music, putting it out for free. That was back like when MySpace was crackinʼ; I was on there heavy. Yeah, like, my name in the city was buzzinʼ and around that time I was 16, 17, 18, so I was doing like all the teenage shit: house parties and all that type of shit. But I was in the streets a whole lot, puttinʼ my life on the line a whole lotta times.
Mustard, you have made quite a name for yourself, and have even helped to shape the current sound of mainstream production – a good example of such is Two Chainzʼ Iʼm Different. Whatʼs it take to become a successful DJ and producer in todayʼs music industry?
DJM: See, I was DJing since I was 11, so it just all went hand in hand. I kinda taught myself how to make beats; Iʼve been makinʼ beats for like four years. I would watch Ty Dolla $ign [in the studio] a lot, and the group Jack Sample, now they [called] Drugs, and Iʼm a part of Drugs too. So, itʼs like, Iʼm just watchinʼ [them], itʼs like havinʼ big homies and you just watch ʻem and you learn. You always have to be with somebody thatʼs better than you, you gonʼ get better.
How did DJ Mustard and YG meet and why does the chemistry work so well?
YG: Back in the day I was doing my first mixtape. And I had this dude who was doing my street management, his name was Big B. He was like, “[you] need a DJ to host [your] shit”. So Iʼm like, “yeah homie, who?” He was like, “Mustard”. And I already knew who he was, I mean I didnʼt know him personally, but I knew who he was because he was DJinʼ all the crackinʼ parties I was performing at, so I knew who he was. So Big B linked me with [DJ Mustard] and since then he has been my DJ and then we just [became] homies, you feel me? Thatʼs why itʼs so easy to work [together], because webuilt a homie relationship.
What happened with Def Jam to push you to take the indie route?
(Chooses his words carefully)
YG: Iʼm still witʼ ʻem, but I got that independent grind. New artists got to have that independent grind; if you donʼt got it, then your label ainʼt never gonna push you… (Takes a breath and decides to go ahead and say what he is thinking)…that shit gets frustrating some times, but I just keep doing what I do – I put out mixtapes, go on tour, get a song crackinʼ in the city, then it goes to the radio you feel me? Thatʼs just the formula. But, hopefully this time though, after a song get on the radio, the labelʼll follow up and do they thing and then an albumʼll come out after that.
Tell us a little about Pu$haz Ink and about the way the PI inner circle operates.
DJM: Pu$haz Ink is like a family. Weʼre just like brothers, like homies.
Just Reʼd Up 2 clocked something like 400k downloads the first week. How does it feel to see all of your hard work being supported?
YG: It feels good. Blessed. Feel great, but I got to keep goinʼ though.
DJM: Man, we tryinʼ to do so much, itʼs just like, itʼs normal. Itʼs like, whatʼs next?
What stands out about the creation of Just Reʼd Up 2?
YG: When I [was] in the studio with Geezy, he always be tryna help, like, help me with my craft, put me up on game, you feel me? Heʼs like [a] big bro. I cherish that. I appreciate that. No homo.
DJM: [Creating] Bompton. It was just so creative; I was using new software, and YG kind of helped produce it. It was like damn, we just made a new sound.
YG, where are your sights set right now?
YG: On the album release; I want to put out an album. The EP before the album though, then we gonna drop the Iʼm From Bompton album. Shoot, some more videos, go on tour, do the radio thing… just the regular shit.
DJ Mustard, how did it feel when you found out you were in the running for a Grammy with Iʼm Different?
DJM: I was like, “what!?”. I was just like, “damn, thatʼs crazy for an album that I was a part of.” I was going crazy for a minute. Then, it just hit me… alright now back to work.
I teach high school English in South Central and a couple of my students, andyour fans, have some questions for you:
-Diamonique B: “How does it feel to be in a position to be able to help the people around you?”
YG: Oh yeah, I feel blessed about that, for real, for real.
DJM: Itʼs always good man. When you can help your mom, and I got a kid now, and my girlfriend. And I just help my friends through my music…
-Chyanne W: “When are you going to release an LP?”
YG: Iʼm going to release an EP like top of the summer, and then my album gonʼ come probably the end of this year, top of next year. Thatʼs what I got in my head, but shitʼll probably go different, a curve ball, you feel me?
Which track best represents YG & DJ Mustard?
Both: IʼM FROM BOMPTON!
Final thoughts for hip hop culture?
YG: Shit, I love it. I appreciate it. Hip hop is what you make it. Download my mixtape, follow me on Twitter and all oʼ that!
DJM: Itʼs new. Kendrick sold like 230k, something like that. The west coast is getting, like, a candle lit. Now itʼs like, all you ignʼant motha fuckas donʼt blow it out.
Peace and Love,