Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Def Jam
Genre(s): Rap, Gangsta Rap, West Coast Rap, Pop-Rap
Much ink has been spilled over the death of regionalism in rap: New York's A$AP Mob fusing Harlem rap with Memphis and Houston aesthetics, Chief Keef and Chicago's drill kids building on the blueprint crafted by Waka Flocka and Lex Luger in Atlanta, and Drake up in Toronto shrewdly cherry-picking styles from everyone. However, a group of Cali savants are eking out a body of work that gives the lie to the current proclamations of post-regionalism. Up north, the Bay area hyphy sound's morphed into something sleeker and poppier thanks to LoveRance and Heartbreak Gang’s Iamsu! and Sage the Gemini.
YG's long-awaited debut record is structured around a familiar conceit - a day in the life of a young Compton kid who can't seem to avoid trouble - and will provoke appropriate comparisons to Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. DJ Mustard handles the bulk of the production here and uses a constantly hiccupping bass and hypnotic snares to imbue everything - even threats - with the unmistakable levity that's become YG's trademark. My Krazy Life benefits from cohesion and strong sequencing (the lead-in to megasmash My Nigga is notably smooth), while songs like I Just Wanna Party and Left, Right are hedonistic jams sprinkled with distinctive California cultural markers.
Love it or loathe it, unashamed gangsta rap exists, and in 2014, it thrives with folks like Chief Keef and other Chicago-based thugs ruling the youth side of the genre, while Southern smokers take up the rest of the chart positions, including plenty of freaky hits for Gucci Mane and glitzy baller smashes coming from the Miami-based Don Rick Ross. That leaves gangsta rap's birthplace, the West Coast, with little representation, but the 24-year-old -- and sounding much younger -- Compton kid known as Y.G. wants to bring all the gold home to the land of Cube, Snoop, Dre, and Eazy-E.
My Krazy Life approaches West Coast rap with all the new-school determination of Allen Iverson driving past Michael Jordan from the top of the key. YG’s Def Jam debut is earning comparisons to The Chronic for its swerving synth-wheeze (you’re obliged to listen on Beats by Dre) and good kid, m.A.A.d City for its cinematic elements (skits, storylines, rapped dialogues). Neither is far off, because here, the gritty, prodigiously horny rapper from Compton has blown the ceiling off his once limited-sounding style.
YG :: My Krazy LifePu$haz Ink/Def JamAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaThe secret of a good album is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible. Of course, George Burns may have been talking about sermons, but it applies to hip hop LP's too. Fortunately, YG has applied this to his debut "My Krazy Life" and thanks to superb production from DJ Mustard, savage editing from Young Jeezy (who acts as the Executive Producer) and an unerring sense of fun… Well, what could have been the most clichéd debut in history ends up being quite irresistible.This is West Coast hip hop boiled down and reduced to the most essential elements, and almost everything else is ruthlessly cast aside.
A 46-minute tale of celebrations and regrets, the debut album from West Coast hot property YG is the most ambitious hip-hop concept LP in a minute: a 24-hour ride where he gives detailed instruction on how to rob a home – then gives even more details about the consequences. Though he doesn't quite have the narrative zeal of Kendrick Lamar or Ice Cube, YG rides beats with a singsong flow that's instantly winning. And when those beats are the sproinging trampoline bounce of ratchet mastermind DJ Mustard, sounding like a lowrider fueled by Four Loko? Well, it's no surprise so much of this krazy story takes place at the party and in the bedroom.
Though TDE leads the pack carrying Los Angeles on their shoulders globally, the city takes equal pride in its youthful culture fueled by the sub-genre known as “ratchet” music. The leading pioneer of this popular, minimalist sound has been DJ Mustard, responsible for unavoidable melodies not limited to Tyga’s “Rack City” and “I’m Different” by 2 Chainz. Both are hits that have made it possible for subsequent winners Ty Dolla $ign and Sage The Gemini to forge ahead in today’s market with their respective hits “Paranoid” and “Red Nose.” Another accomplishment in Mustard’s still fresh yet flourishing tenure was contributing to Jeezy’s recent strides.
YG, My Krazy LifeWhen you think about it, YG’s My Krazy Life shouldn’t be as fully formed as it actually comes out to be. YG, before this year, had one kinda hit in 2009’s “Toot It and Boot It” and fit comfortably into the role of one of many a West Coast Rapper that really didn’t have a prominent opening in the past decade’s rap council. Still, with the help of collaborator DJ Mustard, YG’s commercial debut is a wonderfully visceral surprise, whose individual strengths culminate to form a powerful, impressive whole.
The first words rapped by YG on his Def Jam debut reveal not only his home city, but also his block and gang affiliation. "Nigga I'm from BPT (west side), TTP (what block?), 400 Spruce Street" repeats the hook over a typically sparse and chilling DJ Mustard beat, somehow imbued with twenty years' worth of Cali gangsta rap. Seductive G-funk synths blare in the foreground while a creeping piano motif lingers in the back – this would be early Death Row nostalgia except there's not a kick or a snare in sight.
The virtues of simplicity are many, and also too easily dismissed. In hip-hop especially, where complexity is too often equated with progress, the straightforward can get a bad rap. And yet it’s music like this, distilled down to first principles, that moves the genre, and gives it many of its signature moments. Take a pair of sounds that, over the last year or so, cut through the clutter in distinct and different ways.
“My Hitta” is pretty specific for a Billboard Top 20 hit. To hang with YG and co., it’s a requirement that you don’t trip over potential romantic interests, be averse to snitching, be willing to catch a case when necessary, and just be about getting money. Specific stuff, but the funkified modernization of “I Got 5 On It” still skirts ubiquity.
“Mustard on the beat, ho.” If you listen to rap and R&B, those five words are a Pavlovian trigger for what comes next: no doubt, a banging party rap track built with DJ Mustard’s reliable template, all sawtooth bass, one-note melodies, low-end slap, “hey” chants and finger clicks. You might be less familiar with YG, but the Compton rapper has been linked with Mustard since the start, commissioning some of the producer’s first beats (in fact, Mustard’s DJ drop is ripped from YG’s ‘I’m Good’). And while My Krazy Life is YG’s debut, it feels more like an album-length celebration of Mustard’s ratchet revolution, a sound distilled from LA G-Funk, Atlanta snap and Bay Area hyphy.