Ever since Casey Veggies stepped onto the rap scene back in 2007, he’s been stuck in the middle. Despite his diehard fans and devout supporters who may rank him higher out of bias, in the eyes of the larger hip-hop listenership, Veggies has always been placed in a middle tier, stuck in a sort of hip-hop limbo, neither advancing nor retreating.
His last solo project, Life Changes, was almost enough to give him a much-needed push. The songs made somewhat of an impact and the replay value was good enough to land him a deal with Epic. Now that he had a little more corporate backing, we would expect a major label debut to give him the platform he needs to reach a wider audience. Unfortunately, we’ve been waiting so long for a Casey Veggies debut, much of the hype surrounding the rapper in his early discovery has died down (and has been replaced with excitement for fresher, newer faces). We may never really know all the politics and behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that resulted in such a long process for Veggies’ debut, but the timing of this project definitely felt a little off; it’s entire roll-out appeared underwhelming.
Nonetheless, don’t get it twisted, Veggies is still a technically-skilled rapper, as he proves on Live & Grow. The raps are almost picture perfect, and Veggies appears to be the most confident he has ever been. In fact, the album can be most appropriately summed up by its title. Each and every song is completely different from the next; showing progression and diversity. There is no lasting concept or drawn out message within the 13 tracks, instead, it renders itself as a musical collage of Veggies as an artist.
We literally get every side of Veggies you could possibly imagine. On “New Face$” we get the bar-heavy Veggies that could rap circles around your favorite rapper. On “Tied Up” with Dej Loaf, we get the Veggies that can cater to the females. While on songs like “Backflip” and “Actin Up” we get the Veggies that has no problem creating an easy-going banger to turn up with the homies. There is a Veggies for everyone. Even the production is all over the map. Everyone from Hit-Boy to Tyler The Creator have beats on this project. Other than the slow Snoop Dogg outro on “Set It Off,” the songs cut from one beat to the next gracelessly. Usually, this sporadicness would result in a mess of an LP but it works for Veggies.
The lack of a concept results in a concept of its own. Instead of taking a snapshot of where he is at right now, Veggies takes us all throughout his musical life. It isn’t necessarily the lyrics that make this happen but the tones, cadences and style he switches from song to song.
So then, why doesn’t this album push Veggies a step ahead? What’s missing?
He is, and always has been, strong at putting together bodies of work that represent who he is as an artist. Live & Grow highlights all of Veggies strengths, but, at the same time, there is nothing extra-ordinary about it. This could very well have been Life Changes Part 2 simply because it is so undeniably “Veggies.” In simple layman’s terms, it’s average.
It isn’t that Live & Grow lacks anything detrimental, but it would have been nice to see Veggies experiment with something new. Perhaps this could have come in the form of a no-feature album or a top-to-bottom concept album. This wouldn’t be something people would expect from him, which in and of itself might have been the head-turner he needed to reach that next pinnacle in rap.
In close, Live & Grow does its job. It provides Casey Veggies’ fans with a solid album that they can listen to for months to come. He delivers everything he usually does without hardly any hiccups. Will this album be one of 2015’s most memorable? Probably not. Will this album secure Veggies spot as one of rap’s most consistent emcees? Yes, he is consistent– but let’s just hope that his next album can actually propel him further in the rap, and get him out of limbo.