It’s a Saturday in September, and YG is on the top floor of a split-level rooftop patio in Hollywood, holding court over a small spread of boneless wings and a chilled Dos Equis. A churning Jacuzzi buoys a large Bathing Ape floatie nearby, and a tableau of lush trees, luxury cars, and impossibly gorgeous real estate rolls across the surrounding hills and valleys. The home’s owner, Sickamore, a former Def Jam A&R who is now VP of A&R at Epic, runs a game of Madden 16 downstairs with YG’s day-to-day manager Nano and longtime friend Psych. The guys throw parties here sometimes, and neighbors rarely complain.
Just last week, YG woke up on this very patio to impassioned fellatio from a houseguest, before nodding off for a few more hours. “That’s how I know I’m blessed,” the 25-year-old Compton MC says. “That’s why I’m trying to handle my situation in the right way.”
Life certainly hasn’t always been this sweet for YG. Like on that one sunny morning back in 2008 when a friend short on rent asked him to come along for a quick score in nearby Lakewood. “He hit me up to go flock,” YG says between bites of wings, invoking the colorful local term for breaking and entering. “I’m one of the niggas that knew how to do the shit. It’s 11 a.m., broad daylight. I’m like, ‘Come get me.’”
YG is a funny dude and a compelling storyteller. He speaks in sharp bursts, at turns boastful and comedic and brimming with Cali slang, and he uses charisma and rhetorical flourishes (repetition here, a quick joke there) to pull listeners in and make them feel like co-conspirators along for the ride.
“I’m climbing in the window,” he says. “Get halfway through the window, the police pull up. Boom.” He punctuates the sentence with a pound of his fists. “‘Freeze!’”
Of course, he did not freeze.
“We get on,” he says, picking up the pace. “We running. It’s a big-ass neighborhood. We hopping all through backyards. We hiding on top of roofs. You ever see the buildings that have the big-ass plastic—they put the tent over it when they spraying fumes? It’s a house with a tent on it. I go hide under the tent. I’m trying to hold my breath. My nigga, the police is, like, right here. They move, I hear them. So I hop out the tent and start running. They start chasing me again.”
The whole thing sounds like something out of a crime drama you’ve seen before: young black male running down some palm tree-lined street in broad daylight, LAPD hot on his tail.
“We hit another backyard,” he says. “Come out the other side, police got the whole shit blocked off. Man, they had the helicopters and all that. Twenty police cars. So we run back in the backyard. It’s some old pickup truck…
“I’m laying under the truck like, ‘Fuck,’” he says. “We caught. It’s all bad.”
YG and his friends had done countless jobs like this before. Why did this one go wrong?
“It was my fault,” he says, his tone shifting slightly from triumph to hushed reflection, a slice of sun cutting back and forth across his jaw. “I was being thirst. I’m trying to crack the window. It ain’t sliding open. The homie’s like, ‘It’s taking too long, let’s go.’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t come out here to just come and then just go. Y’all niggas called me, nigga, we about to get up in this motherfucker!’”
An old robber’s adage says it’s better to get away with nothing than get caught with everything. But youth emboldens all, and YG was nothing if not young.
“I busted the window with my hand,” he says. “Bam. Unlocked it, slid it, climbed halfway in. Police pulled up. They had a silent alarm.”