To be honest, YG should have been buried following 2009’s “find ‘em, fuck ‘em and flee” record “Toot It & Boot It”. It made waves on pop radio but couldn’t sustain itself elsewhere. The rapper born Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson created a record that opposed to his gangbanging ways seemed cotton candy and toothless. Nevermind the fact that it also sort of gave an avenue for Ty Dolla $ign to work within as a West Coast melodic in the vein of Nate Dogg, the record should have guaranteed YG as a rap everyman. Only, it didn’t.
Under the guide of DJ Mustard, YG went back to work, toiling around for years in crafting bubbling West Coast rap records that didn’t try to assume the identity of anything else. Then the Jeezy connection came, Mustard’s supernova ascension to a shared throne of Left Coast ratchet royalty along with the HBK Gang arrived as well and then YG, once left as a one-hit wonder had found himself risen anew.
My Krazy Life, his Def Jam debut approaches the rap table with the guise that it should be a simple affair. Lot of squelching aired out Mustard beats to be toppled by YG in his yelping flair and everyone going home happy with Def Jam footing the bill. Instead, the album acts like the antithesis to another Compton rapper’s major label debut, the opposite side of what happens when a good kid avoids the streets and rather embraces them.
There will be plenty of comparisons to good kid, m.A.A.d city and My Krazy Life, right down to the fact that all of these events take place inside of Compton, California’s sunburnt cavalcade of gangs, hard decisions and hope. Both tend to follow a narrative, each of them chronicling a day in the life but YG’s involves jail cells, cheating girlfriends and more. It’s more comical, a gangbanger’s ode to those DJ Pooh flicks that proliferated the scene in the mid ‘90s and Mustard’s direction here seems to appease that effect.
“My Nigga,” the keyboard sparkling bromance between Atlanta (Rich Homie Quan, Young Jeezy) and Cali is the perfect recipe of non-threatening yet perfectly fun rap singles in 2014. It does nothing more than asserts itself as a literal record, as does much of My Krazy Life. There’s the step-by-step tutorial on hitting a lick on “Meet The Flockers” where apparently the Chinese are your number one target/ Robbery may have never been more en vogue on a record than it is here and his allegiance to the Tree Top Bloods all over “Bompton” keeps the regional aspect intact and the ever centered “Who Do You Love” featuring Drake where YG asserts of how down to the ground he is. “I’m that nigga, I’m that nigga, my Bank Of America account got six figures,” he spits with assurance that despite some of the incidents in his life wanting to appear cartoonish, he still is by all accounts – a budding rap star and not a man who believes himself to ultimately register millions with the push of a button.
Rap at times needs simplicity to hold it together. For all the complexity someone like Lamar and Ab-Soul deliver, there’s the ScHoolboy Q’s and the YG’s to bring it front and center without allienating anyone. While YG can be of course lambasted for not throwing enough into the lyrical pot, he doesn’t need to, especially when three-fourths of TDE appears on My Krazy Life (Q & Jay Rock on the gangbanger party record “I Just Wanna Party” and Lamar himself stealing the show on “Really Be (Smokin’ N Drinkin””). The narrative does have its closing credits moment following a day where YG gets jumped in, cheated on, backstabbed, shot at and rescued by his mom. There’s no moment like on good kid where it seems like rap may effectively get YG out of the street for good. It just seems like all of these events, real and possible are what make My Krazy Life one of the more surprising debuts of the year.
For a kid who grew up looking at another man from Compton team with someone from Long Beach to create some of the most misogynistic party records imaginable, YG’s fits the role of rather straight forward West Coast rap plenty. And it took one turn of fate to pull it off.