The Best Buy Theater in NYC is in the heart of Times Square, but last Friday night it felt more like the 400 block of Compton, California. YG‘s radio-friendly hits have made him one of the most popular bloods in the world. For this show, he brought his fellow West Coast rapper Nipsey Hussle – plus a massive entourage and his overplayed collaborator DJ Mustard – to the stage. Despite being about -1000 degrees in NYC, the people turned out to see a little slice of Cali.
DJ Mustard kicked it off with an incredibly short set – about four songs. His somewhat brief and somewhat un-energetic performance indicates the YG/ Mustard beef may be far from over. However, problems with the venue – including lack of wristbands for the entourage and timing issues – could have been more to blame. Regardless, it’s always fun to see the most prolific producer on the radio today turning up to his own songs in the skin tight white shirt that is quickly becoming his trademark outfit. It’s the kind of outfit that says “I know I may look like a marshmallow, but I’m too rich to care.” This is the strongest DJ look ever in my opinion and seeing Mustard rocking it again brought me right back to the Summer Jam stage.
Nipsey came out next in a highly weather appropriate black mink coat. I was hoping for the all-red-everything look, but alas both YG and Nipsey went with straight NYC black. Nipsey started his set by asking his fans what they wanted to hear. This is typical Nipsey. From making his albums pay-what-you-want, to texting fans, to making #proudtopay his monetization strategy, Nipsey is bringing the music industry back to the people. That night, the people wanted Crenshaw (my personal favorite mixtape of his). He played three tracks off that mixtape – including “Checc Me Out” and “Crenshaw BLVD” before switching to Mailbox Money. After just 6 or so songs, he asked, “Should I bring out my boy YG?” to which the crowd replied in a massive cheer.
YG started with one of my personal fave tracks from his My Krazy Life album “Biken Back Bein Bool”. The crowd immediately perked up from the lackadaisical stylings of Nipsey and began to rock with YG. After his first song, he stopped to talked to the crowd “It’s cold as fuck New York! But we gonna turn up anyway!”
At one point during the set, two female fans started fighting near the front. YG not only called them out, but begged them to stop.
YG ran through a few tracks – “Meet the Flockers”, “Who Do You Love” and “Left, Right” before Nipsey came back out. Rather than total retreat from the stage, YG stayed in the background as one of the 25+ people on the stage. During key moments. YG did his now famous little step dance, which looks something like a Crip walk mixed with Irish Dancing. The few songs Nipsey performed, while technically perfect and flawlessly produced, just didn’t energize the crowd the same way as YG.
When YG came back to the forefront, it was for his monster #1 hit “My N*gga”. The crowd began to not only dance but sing along to the biggest friendship anthem of the year. YG continued the party by asking “Ya’ll really fuck with me from back in the day?” before dropping the throwback “Toot it and Boot it”. While some more uptight artists might run from a slightly cheesy, one-hit party song. YG did no such thing. The crowd was with it, rocking with him until the end, and even cheering his dancing once again.
YG added to the energy by bringing out Yo Gotti, who performed his hits “Act Right” and “Fuck You”. This was a good way to mix up the almost total take over of DJ Mustard beats.
It was interesting to observe the interplay between the two rappers, which represent two distinct generations of California rap. Nipsey brought an OG West Coast vibe, along with a slightly older crowd. But, in the end, YG is a superstar and the balance was off. If the show featured ASAP Ferg as originally planned, the two could have gone back and forth, dueling with hits and keeping people engaged. Instead, Nipsey was more of a break, a lull in the overall show. But, this did work to showcase the pop star status of YG, and keep the show a more diverse mix of beats and voices. By the end, one thing was clear – the West Cost is dominating rap, even in the heart of NYC.