YG, at age 24, is a man of many faces: gangbanger, party animal, sex God, momma's boy. In a 24-hour day, he's all of the above, ready to swap thizz face for mean mug at moment's notice. He's not trying to be the most interesting man in the world. Sex, drugs, crime...women, weed, weather--nothing groundbreaking here. But YG's story really feels original, and that's because he tells it so well. He gives real insight into each aspect of his personality and how essential they are to his Compton, or as the Bloods like to say, Bompton, way of life.
In early '09, YG did a six-month stint for burglary. This was immediately after he had linked up with DJ Mustard, both still unknown outside the LA area, to form Pu$haz Ink. At the time, Mustard was a mixtape and party DJ. Amazingly, he hadn't started making beats yet. In December '08, with Dijon's aide, YG put out 4Fingaz, his first Pu$haz mixtape. A month later, he was in jail. Luckily, it looked like his debut made an impression. His mixtape caught fire, and record execs began to take notice. When his time was up, he had major labels on his doorstep. In October 2009, he was signed to Def Jam. But he wasn't quite ready to become a superstar. Only one tape under his belt, and a jail sentence (and past enemies) in his rear-view, he needed time to grow as an artist. He’s since dropped five mixtapes, but it took him over four years to put out his debut album, My Krazy Life.
If you were keeping tabs you had an idea of what YG was about: Living large, making up for lost time, keeping things Bompton 24/7—but he hadn’t formally introduced himself. My Krazy Life is just that: A day in the life, a day in his hood. Well, not a day per se. The album begins with YG's momma screaming at him to stay away from the gangbangers, lest he end up like his daddy. It ends full circle, with YG calling his momma from jail. There are plenty of highs and lows in between, and the highs, with Mustard's help, are off the charts. Krazy, yes, but it’s not a disjointed project. For YG, gangsta rap and party rap have always been inseparable.
You’ll rarely find YG apologizing for his hedonism, but he doesn’t always glorify his behavior. There’s a method behind the madness, which he pains to explain on “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin).” The song starts as he wakes up from a bad dream; the paranoia’s really sinking in. To top if off, he’s got morning wood—too stressed to have a woman share his bed these days. YG’s been a rising star for some time, but this is his first album; his fate in the industry isn’t sealed. He may look like he’s having fun, but this is a job, and the stakes are as high as ever: Namely, the fate of his entire family (as well as countless homies relying on him for handouts). So why does he still hang around thugs? Fame hasn’t granted him immunity. If anything, it’s put a target on his back. He’s lost four homies in the past couple of years, each of whom he namedrops at the end of the previous track (“Who Do You Love?”). Is he really insane for thinking he might be next? For needing something to take the edge off?
YG, with his Def Jam (and Jeezy) affilitation, might seem to be a byproduct of rap’s post-regional state, but My Krazy Life is the most West Coast sounding album this year. Kendrick Lamar, who’s hinted at a 2014 release date for his upcoming LP, might have something to say about that, but he was happy to drop a verse on his Compton compatriot’s debut. You might wonder why Kendrick, who doesn’t smoke and has expressed qualms about his own alcohol use, is featured here. It's clear, though, he knows exactly where YG is coming from and has a lot to say on the subject, a subject that's rarely treated with such nuance.
He starts off furiously, out of breath, channeling the same dark corners of his psyche that we heard on “Swimming Pools.” Obviously, Kendrick is now a household name, and it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean he’s at peace. Though he’s found rapping to be preferable to hustling, every day is still a hustle. He imagines walking into his label, holding up the A&R man, and demanding the chips that are rightfully his. Then he takes us to the tour bus, where he suddenly gets a “bad call”—a close friend has just been killed. As it sinks in, visions of revenge start to haunt him. He’s on the road, he’s got shows, but his mind is back in CPT, and it’s all out war. But for tonight, he’s alone with his thoughts. And a few bottles. It’s more than just temptation.