YG - My Krazy Life
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Record Label: CTE World/Def Jam
There was a time in hip-hop when you couldn't pick up a major release without running into skits. In some cases these skits added to the story of the album, but more often than not they just caused a bunch of outrage from fans. Which is fair, after the first few times of hearing them, skits have little to no use. At some point, though, something changed. There are likely several examples of things like this happening prior to 2012, but when Kendrick Lamar scored a number 1 album in the country with good kid, m.A.A.d. city, he inadvertently made skits acceptable again. He did change up one little detail, though, and tacked skits onto the ends and beginnings of songs instead of having them stand as their own tracks. This one slight tweak to an already existing formula ended up making a pretty big difference.
This is all important to note because, on his debut album My Krazy Life, fellow Compton rapper YG finds himself making slight tweaks to already existing formulas himself, and the album as a result feels like a beast all its own. My Krazy Life is filled with skits, but like good kid, m.A.A.d. city, none (aside from the intro) are their own tracks. YG uses these skits to tell a sort of “day in the life” type story, and while this is by no means a new or original concept, the storytelling is seamless and easy to follow, due in part to the attention paid to the skits. But a well done concept alone won't sell an album, and YG makes sure to deliver on the music side with some of the strongest hip-hop tracks in recent memory.
Like many great artists before him, YG's secret weapon is a trusty producer that has been responsible for shaping his sound. Snoop had Dre (as did Eminem), Clipse had The Neptunes, Drake has 40, and now YG has DJ Mustard. Mustard's production marks another aspect in which YG is making slight changes to existing formulas. Mustard takes a number of influences and morphs them into a sound that has become a staple for YG. You've got the hard hitting drums and orchestral hits with airy synths on a track like “Left, Right” that call back to Dr. Dre's influential west coast sound, paired with big 808 kick drums and rolling hi-hats that are so easily found in modern trap production. Mustard's real secret weapon is in the BPM of these beats; most hover in the upper 90's, giving the songs a certain bounce that would lend itself nicely to a dance floor.
None of this would matter if YG didn't know how to use the production, but thankfully, he makes it more than clear that these two are a match made in heaven. There's a certain amount of grit and grime to DJ Mustard's beats, which is evident by the hit single “My *****,” and YG brings an undeniable energy to the table that gets you fired up. “I Just Wanna Party” encapsulates much of YG's mentality throughout the album: “I just wanna party, I don't wanna hurt nobody, but I'll beat the fuck out of a *****.” It also brings to light one of YG's biggest strengths, which is the ability to craft hooks that you cant help but find yourself shouting along with by the time you're on your third or fourth listen of the record. They're simple enough to where you'll be able to pick up on them with ease (“Left, left right, right, Left, left right), but never overtly annoying or boring. As a result, many of these songs have the potential to be pretty big singles, though maybe none as successful as “My *****.”
We've been to the streets of Compton plenty of times throughout the course of hip-hop history, and YG realizes there's probably nothing new he can tell us about his city that we haven't already heard before. To keep things interesting, this album is all about YG and who he is and what his life is like (as the title would suggest). The backdrop is Compton, so it feels like familiar territory in a lot of ways, but we're also introduced to a new and interesting character. A lot of the album comes off as a confessional, with YG detailing some of the things he's done just to get by, like going through with a robbery during “Meet The Flockers.” There's also “Really Be (Smoking and Drinking),” in which YG gets some of the things that have been stressing him out off of his chest, telling us these are the reasons why he smokes and drinks (Kendrick Lamar also comes through with a lightning bolt of a verse). The most telling part of the album, though, is the closing track “Sorry Momma,” an open letter to YG's mother that is sure to break your heart.
Based on the singles, it would be easy to write YG off as your typical aggressive street rapper with top notch production, but the rest of the album paints YG as someone whose story you might want to get invested in. And the story is far from over. For such an expansive, detailed album, it can be hard to forget this is just his debut record. Based on its success (it has sold more than 100,000 copies so far), YG isn't an artist that's likely to show up with a sharp debut only to immediately fall off. YG and DJ Mustard have a big thing going for them right now, and if they continue down this path there's no telling what they'll go on to accomplish. In the meantime, throw on My Krazy Life and get better acquainted with a name that's surely here to stay.