My Krazy Life

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. It’s both deeply referential and defiantly modern, but never anything less than 100% West Coast.

This is the beauty of My Krazy Life, which manages to break the homogenous mould of the majors by retaining an unshakeable sense of local identity. While so many of today’s big rap albums feel as though they could have come from anywhere (or more likely from Mike Will Made It’s studio), YG and long-term collaborator DJ Mustard are in the business of exports rather than imports.

Indeed, Mustard’s self-defined "ratchet" sound has produced some of the biggest hits of recent years – from 2 Chainz’s ‘I’m Different’ to Tyga’s ‘Rack City’ – routinely autographed by YG’s damn-near omnipresent signature ("Mustard on the beat, ho!"). His beats are simple and spacious things built around finger clicks and claps, typically joined by repetitive melodies comprised of only a few notes. It’s a style that lends itself perfectly to manufacturing hits like a French’s factory, designed to decimate dancefloors with a sudden change of pace – and last year’s lead single ‘My Nigga’ did exactly that. Although its Vine crossover and ironic appropriation has been dubious at best, all that is quickly overshadowed by the sight of groups of guys hugging it out in the club with drinks aloft. Thanks to Nicki Minaj’s glowing contribution to the song’s remix, it’s now a love-in for both genders too.

Of course, Mustard and YG could compile a compilation of club heaters with their eyes shut, but few would have expected them to craft a record this cohesive. Even more impressively they’ve done so without sacrificing their aesthetic, and while almost every song here could have fit snugly on their Just Re’d Up mixtapes, they now play a part in telling a larger story.

YG’s story will be familiar to even the faintest of gangsta rap disciples – and comparisons to Kendrick’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City are not inappropriate. Like GKMC, My Krazy Life is based around a grand day in the life narrative; they both feature a house invasion, dangerous liaisons with women and nagging parents on the end of telephone lines. Admittedly, YG takes a rougher approach and lacks the minutiae that Kendrick revels in, but in fairness good kid was without any obvious singles, while My Krazy Life has them in abundance.

Cynics may point to a degree of thematic box-ticking, but under Mustard’s guidance each different type of song is made to fit comfortably alongside one another. Similarly, the big name guest appearances from Drake and Kendrick himself are both effective, but neither song depends on their input.

The record is not without social commentary either, and once you peel back the ugly surface of the twin R&B combo ‘Do It To Ya’ and ‘Me & My Bitch’ you’ll find a man exposing his hypocrisies for all to see. In one moment YG is caught rapping tender support for his girl on the side ("I know you had a long day baby, I know! / The 9-5 shift probably seem like all day baby"), and in the next he’s losing his cool as he discovers his main girl is sleeping around. This pairing of songs is not exactly pretty, but it arrives at the refreshingly naked conclusion: "They ask me why I trust no bitch / Cause my ex had me feelin’ all embarrassed and shit".

His relationship with his mother is equally complex, and while ‘Sorry Momma’ might ultimately be a gushy album closer designed to tie together the album’s narrative, its details neatly describe the strains of growing up in poverty ("Momma said I ain’t acting like her son / cause I’m getting money momma, you ain’t giving me none").

And so, unlike the victory lap of Kendrick’s ‘Compton’, YG finishes his album in a jail cell pleading for redemption. The same warnings are there throughout, from ‘Meet The Flockers’ reckless home invasion to gang slang banger ‘Bicken Back Being Bool’ – but the truth is that most kids in Compton don’t live the Kendrick fairytale. My Krazy Life, then, is the other side of the coin – the grubbier side – packed with instant thrills and hard-earned lessons. These songs might be targeted more at bodies than minds, but they’re essentially the same story told in two different but compelling ways.

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