Tyga’s Seventh Album finds his career back from the brink. However, is the rapper back in his zone or just playing it safe?
There isn’t a rapper as easy to minimize in stature than Tyga. With now close to a decade under his rap-career-belt, he’s survived multiple record contracts and phases within the industry, and accrued a decent catalog for himself. None of this has necessarily translated into respect or credibility sadly; plenty of critics tend to lampoon him for being ostentatious or corny. Likewise, those who aren’t already fans of his output tend to dismiss him based on his commercial focus or his many admitted moments of media embarrassment that most rappers would be unable to return from. Yet, Tyga still perseveres, and has recently provided us with his seventh studio album, the boldly-titled Legendary. It’s an album hot on the heels of a major comeback for Tyga and hopes to put him back in position as a major player in the rap scene.
Last year could have easily been the end of Tyga’s rap career to be perfectly blunt. His R&B album, Kyoto, was mostly one note and listless with a few songs accused of plagiarism from other artists. As far as the fans and listeners were concerned, most wanted to make fun of Hajime Sorayama’s erotic artwork for the record’s album cover rather than actually bother with the music inside. That he somehow managed to recover at all is almost miraculous, but sure enough, a mere few months later “Taste” became a smash hit of the summer and turned the rapper’s fortunes around immensely. While the contributions of Offset and producer D.A. Doman (who supports a bulkload of songs on Legendary) can’t go understated, credit should go to Tyga for recognizing that a lot of his fans, and perhaps the casual listener alike, simply wanted him to return to what he’d garnered appreciation for in the first-place: mid-tempo ‘ratchet’ style club records. As such, the new album Legendary contains a lot of that but, perhaps to a fault, as there is very little otherwise.
Legendary recognizes that the formula of “Taste” is, not only a successful one, but what a lot of people want and expect to hear from him. In fact while longtime partner/collaborator/producer Jess Jackson has no involvement on this album, a lot of the people involved with this album are Tyga mainstays, such as the aforementioned D.A. Doman, Dupri or DJ Mustard. While this is by no means Tyga's worst album (because again, Kyoto most vividly exists), it’s the most conservative and regressive as it finds him strip-mining his catalog from the beginning of the decade-- but without the more ambitious or experimental decisions. Besides maybe the Dr. Luke assisted (and probably TisaKorean inspired) “Maykherkhum,” so much of it remains in the same mid-tempo post-ratchet sound that was pioneered by Tyga’s early successes such as “Faded” and “Rack City.”
This same sort of cynicism permeates on Tyga’s behalf, with most of his rapping incredibly hushed and monotone, devoid of excess. While it’s not a common argument for people to argue that Tyga is among the best rappers in the game, he’s an accomplished technician when he’s at his most inspired and energetic. Yet, as Tyga seeks out additional hits, it appears his eccentricities take a backseat.
Nevertheless Legendary isn’t without its moments of brightness, and some of those come from the various guests who have fun in Tyga’s nightlife environment. While Tyga and frequent collaborator Chris Brown sound joyless on the bouncy “Haute,” reggaeton star J Balvin sounds like he’s having the time of his life. Meanwhile after the inspired albeit weirdly-titled “Lightskinned Lil Wayne” it’s Weezy himself who helps Tyga with the load for “On Me,” and later on, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie perfectly compliments the exotic sample for “Goddamn.” The less said about the features from Blueface (disappointing) or Swae Lee (atrocious) the better.
Legendary is undoubtedly a bounce back from the Tyga we found at the beginning of 2018. At the same time, there’s an unmistakable air of "playing it safe" at the expense of any extreme emotion-- whether that be satisfaction or otherwise. Nevertheless, Tyga’s proven more than a few times that counting him out entirely is a fool’s errand, and that he has the talents and the capabilities to prove doubters wrong. He also has the talent to do a little more than that however, and one hopes that next time around, the rapper makes an album that offers just a little bit more than what's tried and true.