With the release of this summer's Still Brazy, YG proved once and for all that he's more than just a very talented gangster rapper-- he's also one of the best album curators in hip hop. Those who thought the conceptual heft of My Krazy Life was just a fluke were silenced by a second consecutive album that mastered pacing, beat selection, and narrative skill. What's more, Brazy took a much different approach than MKL's "day in the life" setup, showing that YG was committed to making each project a world unto itself. Red Friday is a free EP, so it's unfair to judge it by the same rubric, but even still, it lands with a dull thud in the wake of two of the best rap albums of the last five years.

A thematically lighter affair than either album, Red Friday may just be YG getting his less ambitious impulses out in a way that won't disrupt his immaculate run of full-lengths. Maybe he just wanted a chance to try out Nipsey Hussle's "Proud To Pay" release strategy, charging $100 a pop for physical copies. Whatever the case, the tape contains nothing as invigorating as "FDT," nothing as radio-ready as "Why You Always Hatin," and no homages to LA's golden era as accurate and lush as "Twist My Fingaz." In their place are seven B-sides that range from middling to decent.

Opener "I'm A Thug Pt. 2" is a nice retro play, a more mature counterpoint to the (very) 2012 predecessor, and probably the most jubilant cut on the tape. Even still, it's not very memorable, sounding more like a forgotten, generic Game single from 2005 than anything else. Similarly, "Get Out Yo Feelin's" feels like a retread, with its refrain of "Please, somebody tell me why they mad" impossible to hear without Kamaiyah's "Why You Always Hatin" melody popping up in the back of your mind. 

From there, YG ventures into less familiar territory, but doesn't fare any better. It's not that his rapping's noticeably fallen off-- he's always been such a stick-to-the-basics lyricist and he continues to approach subjects in a endearingly straightforward, no-bullshit way-- but his and others' hooks on Red Friday are either maddeningly simplistic or just flat-out grating. "I Know" is too hypebeasty, with featured vocalist Mitch sounding like alternately like Post Malone and Travis Scott, and never like someone that fits on a YG track; "I Be On" is one of the stronger tracks, but it's weighed down by a hook that's overly repetitive and generic; the hook on "Down Bitch" is just straight up annoying, 20-30 seconds of the same cadence hammered into the ground; "I Ain't Lyin" features some truly awful singing by YG; "One Time Comin" is his first-ever uninteresting song about the police. The first time I listened to the tape, I didn't mind it and thought that I just needed another listen or two to let it sink in (which was the case with Still brazy's more minimal tracks), but the things that have stuck the most after return trips are the hooks, and not in a good way.

But YG is at the level now where he could go into the booth and recite the ABC's, and you'd still be able to find something to praise. He's a master stylist, and not in the overly-curatorial "director of vibes" way. His verses here, especially on "I Be On" and "I Ain't Lyin," are worth the listen to hear him try out new tactics like more relaxed flows and this type of reference-heavy lyricism: "Been had mills in the cut/Been stuck my finger in her butt/Been lookin' for revenge/Pablo been my friend." With that couplet, he roasts Future's "Stick Talk," Drake's "Summer Sixteen," and Kanye's Life Of Pablo without breaking a sweat-- in other words, your fav could never. YG's songwriting slumps, but his rapping is one of the few things this tape has going for it. 

Red Friday is a passable project. It's got tight, not-showy rapping, and the features (apart from Mitch) shine. Even with some bland beats and subpar hooks, it's effective in getting you to nod your head. But when you're YG, and your last two releases did so much more, Red Friday seems a little bit like a failure, or at least something that's destined to be relegated to "just an EP" status for the foreseeable future.