When Tyga and YG announced that they were teaming up for a joint project at Rolling Loud earlier this year, I admit I was eager. Hometown pride aside, YG and Tyga are two of artists left from the blog era who have consistently shown improvement on each project. Tyga’s last project, Legendary, was an overlooked gem in 2019, while I would take YG’s I Got Issues over the other, more highly touted album from a Compton rapper that dropped last year.
The reason is simple: They both know what they do well and they don’t try to do too much else. Truly, there is not enough of that “stay in your lane” mentality in rap music these days. It often feels like every new rapper wants to be a capital-A “Artist” or a rock star, and while diversions from the beats-and-rhymes tradition like Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here are fun and interesting in doses, there’s an elitism to those artists’ insistence they aren’t just rappers.
What, exactly, is wrong with being “just” a rapper? Rap music blew the ceiling off of pop culture, reshaping society in its image. It was the most dominant genre in popular music for longer than it was acknowledged for it. It changed the face of advertising, fashion, film, politics, television, and more. I get it; Drake and Kanye West are globally-recognized household names. But T.I. and Ludacris are doing just fine, thanks.
Which is why Hit Me When U Leave The Klub, the joint “playlist” from two of Compton’s longer-tenured second-generation hip-hop stars, is so valuable. It asserts — efficiently, at just 14 tracks, and effectively, with at least 11 of those tracks being certified bangers — that staying in your lane can be profitable and fulfilling too. Someone has to make the music that makes the clubs go up; it might as well be them.
Especially because that’s what they’ve done so effectively individually for so long. Both Tyga and YG took their time figuring what works for them, so why fix what isn’t broken? Both rappers’ breakout singles — “Coconut Juice” for Tyga and “Toot It And Boot It” for YG — belied their individual talents for making uptempo, ratchet dance anthems; both found their grooves in large part thanks to collaborations with Mustard, whose production supercharged their respective comeback hits and helped make them a fixture of radio in the last decade radio mattered.
Since then, both have seen their popularity rise and fall, but they’ve always bounced back; YG’s highest-charting single came in 2018 with “Big Bank,” a decade after his debut, while Tyga came roaring back in 2018 with “Taste.” Their 2019 collab “Go Loko” was, incidentally, the last time either went double platinum with a straight rap song since and likely laid the groundwork for their chemistry on Hit Me When U Leave The Klub. (YG went 3x platinum alongside Bay Area singer HER with “Slide” while Tyga’s Blxst collab “Chosen” was certified platinum — both R&B songs featuring rap verses.)
“Go Loko” is the baseline and the North Star for the musical direction on Hit Me, with most of the album following a similar formula of the stripped-down, post-hyphy club thump that has dominated the LA underground for the past decade or so, with boastful verses about money, sex, and the occasional gangland shootout. Wisely, they stay away from a bunch of the latter and stick to the more aspirational topics, with beats that rarely drop below 90 bpm. Again, if it works, it works, and they’ve long been aware of their strengths.
That isn’t to say they don’t try a few new things too. The main difference is a clear focus on writing; in the past, both boasted that they rarely put pen to paper when conceptualizing their songs. While this often resulted in a freewheeling aspect that really worked for their turn-up anthems, it also led to an unfortunate assumption among many rap fans that they couldn’t rap well. Hit Me dispels that notion with verses loaded with slick wordplay and clever turns of phrase that might surprise those who’d written them off at the nadir of their respective careers.
And while R&Bass experiments like “PARTy T1M3” and “Boachella” aren’t great, singles like “West Coast Weekend,” “Platinum,” and “Brand New” present Tyga and YG at their best, and the remaining tracks could all easily be singles themselves. Limiting the guest list to just three fellow rappers — Blxst, Busta Rhymes, and Lil Wayne — lets their chemistry shine, and they have plenty of it. No, there’s no salient social commentary aside from autobiographical accounts of life in inner-city LA and neither does much crooning, but again, this is a feature, not a bug. Sometimes, you just want to hear two of rap’s finest trade bars.
The recent wealth of collab projects bears this idea out. Personally, I’ve always loved rappers getting together for quick-hit albums and EPs that clearly stem from their chemistry and friendship (certainly, more than the endless array of diss records and “beef” that much of the fanbase seems to love), but the fact that they’ve always needed to feel like “events” has made them harder to enjoy. It’s hard to live up to Watch The Throne or What A Time To Be Alive (which barely lived up to itself). Hit Me When U Leave The Klub offers an example of the form that seems more sustainable and exciting. There’s a wealth of possibilities for further entries to the joint album canon — this one is a fantastic starting point.
Hit Me When U Leave The Klub is out now via Last Kings Music / 4Hunnid Records / EMPIRE.