The Music of South Central L.A. Plays the Same, From Death Row to Bompton
By Courtney E. Smith
On April 15, something called a tetrad began in the night skies.
A tetrad is what astronomers call a series of four lunar eclipses that occur within two years, something that has happened only five times in the last 500 years. During the eclipse, the moon turned a deep orange, and people called it the Blood Moon, a name that harkens back old religious beliefs about the End of Days (Joel 2:31 goes, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”)
Late at night on April 15, one guy in particular made sure not to miss this cosmic event. YG‘s Twitter feed was a digital sea of red, showing photos he’d retweeted of the moon wrapped in red bandanas and another with his face displayed on a mock-up of the red moon, because YG is a member of the Bloods.
More specifically, he comes from a neighborhood in Compton (or Bompton as the Bloods call it — C’s are strictly reserved for Crips) that’s run by the Tree Top Piru, a Bloods-affiliated neighborhood gang. His contemporaries and sometime collaborators, including Ty Dolla $ign, Nipsy Hussle and Schoolboy Q, have also proclaimed their affiliations or gang banging pasts. The genre has been out of vogue for the last 10 years in mainstream circles, but the sounds coming from the West Coast of late signal a renaissance of a genre perfected by Death Row Records in the ’90s: gangsta rap.
There’s violence in it, but a big part of gangsta rap’s legacy is its function as party music. For his part, YG makes party songs and adopts the easygoing, Casanova side of Tupac Shakur, while sidestepping the thoughtful, activist points Tupac also addressed. Musically, it’s got the same regional flavor as its predecessor, but YG doesn’t dip into the back and forth of gang-on-gang or artist-on-artist threats that used to pepper the lyrics. The gang life is there, but it’s subdued and often coded. There’s no standing on the corner with an AK ready to pop.
“The ‘Bicken Back Being Bool’ record is talking about me chilling on the block while all this stuff is going on, like shoot-outs and all of that,” YG told Radio.com. “That’s regular stuff that everybody can relate to. On the ‘Meet the Flockers’ record, I’m talking about breaking into people’s houses, residential burglaries.”