Yesterday in a conference room at Def Jam's New York offices, Los Angeles rapper YG played his major label debut album, My Krazy Life, for a group of journalists. Looking on were his mentor Jeezy and producer DJ Mustard, who nodded their heads vigorously while munching on chicken wings from Hooters.
L.A has moved to the forefront of rap for the first time in decades, thanks in large part to Mustard, who came up producing for YG but has now worked with Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown and R. Kelly. But My Krazy Life will be the highest-profile full-length statement the self-tabbed "ratchet" scene has produced to date.
YG and Mustard have done a number of mixtapes together, but a debut album—even as the record industry wilts—is still looked to as a moment to be seized. Kendrick Lamar proved that a rapper's first major label album can be a springboard instead of an albatross, and now it's YG's turn. Off one listen, it sounds like he may have made that jump.
YG and Mustard—who produced a bulk of the tracks and oversaw the project as a whole—have not strayed from the snappy and spacious reinvention of g-funk that made them famous. Instead, My Krazy Life is a reminder of why ratchet is so good in the first place. There is not a bad song on the record, and there are several great ones.
In honor of the album's title, here are the five craziest things about YG's My Krazy Life.
1. The Album Is Structured As a "Day in the Life of YG"
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the album is that it's loosely structured as a story, though in reality it's more like a group of scenes linked together by skits. For instance, "Meet the Flockers" is about YG and friends robbing a house—a crime for which he started serving time five-years-and-a-day prior to when the album drops (notice the "03192009" on the cover's mocked-up mugshot). That song is followed by the hit single "My N***a," a celebratory track about sticking with your crew. The trio of R&B tracks in the album's middle also take on a linear flow: YG cheats on his girl ("Do It To Ya"), then finds out his girl is cheating on him ("Me & My Bitch"), and then asks, rather menacingly, "Who Do You Love."
2. You Get a Real Sense of YG's Identity
The precedent set by Kendrick Lamar is clear, and you're likely to hear people call this something like "the gangsta good kid, m.A.A.d city." It may be a convenient narrative, but Kendrick noticed it, too: YG told the room that Kendrick sees My Krazy Life as "the guy outside the window doing what [Kendrick] was describing" on his album.
YG's album isn't nearly on the thematic level of good kid, but the structure does help you get a better understanding of YG than you might expect, and more than he's shown on his mixtapes. In the mixtape era (and we're firmly in the mixtape era), it can be hard for rappers to make a record that doesn't stray too far from their core sound while still feeling fresh. My Krazy Life accomplishes that deftly.
3. The R&B Songs Are Very Good
My Krazy Life's strength is in consistency instead of super-high peaks. Part of the reason for that is because the R&B songs (mentioned above, plus the closer "Sorry Momma") are all very good. Softening up one's sound can be a hurdle for rappers who primarily make street rap, and over the past few years we've seen artists from Yelawolf to Meek Mill struggle with this. But fortunately for YG, L.A. has a few thugged-out R&B singers (TeeFlii, Ty Dolla $ign) who can provide smooth hooks without coming off as jarring or corny. "Me & My Bitch" with Torey Lanez (a Toronto native who works a lot with L.A. artists) accomplishes what T.I.'s "Why You Wanna" did years ago.
4. DJ Mustard's Bass
Ratchet has as much—if not more—in common with Atlanta snap music than it does the g-funk of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. At their core, Mustard's beats are spare and hypnotic. They seem designed to be easily replicated by humming and clicking your tongue. But My Krazy Life clearly shows the influence of the West Coast. Tracks like "Meet the Flockers" and "1am" have deep, deliberate, loping bass notes.
5. Kendrick Lamar's Verse on "Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)"
G's track with Kendrick is as somber as this album gets. The title refers to diving into alcohol and drugs after watching your friends get killed, and L.A.'s current king comes through with a personal, twisted verse that works as a prologue to his show-stopping feature on Pusha T's "Nosetalgia."