Written by Maxwell Caveseno
Somewhere in the apocalyptic seas of violence on Worldstar, a clip exists of an YG show from a few years back in San Diego. The clip consists of brief moments of the rapper performing, then him and his team square off against a group of gangbangers in the audience. Then chairs, stun guns, human bodies and the gold towers for the velvet rope at the club’s entrance are being flung around with casual abandon. It was something out of some video game that sold 5 billion copies so kids could just blow shit up for hours, eloquences about such things are hard to maintain. Thankfully, Keenan Jackson doesn’t suffer this plight.
My Krazy Life practically defies any expectations about people’s perceptions of the former jerk rapper turned godfather of the “Ratchet,” because the devils in the details here and the details are in devilishment. Not since Flockavelli has there been an album so densely populated with violence, and it’s hard recall a modern street rapper so determined to paint such a vivid bloody picture. Here YG serves the goal of past Los Angeles “dumb angels” such as Brian Wilson: to provide the voice of those who aren’t so likeable and precocious as world-weary traveler and prodigy Kendrick Lamar. If Kendrick’s good kid, m.a.A.d. city served as a sort of Ulysses for Los Angeles, this would probably be its Ham On Rye. Self-centered, arrogant, stripped down, obnoxious, yet above all: Commanding.
The album is littered with these hyper-detailed moments of violence. On “BPT” YG describes his initiation into the Treetop Piru’s by beating down someone and recalling how “The haymaker didn’t connect,” and how he restrained himself from stomping his opponent out “cause that’s disrespect.” Or the carelessly offhand way he alludes to masturbating in the county jail on “Bicken Back Being Bool.” For once, it seems his lyrics have finally caught up to the way his voice used to awkwardly squeak and glitch-out through those bass-heavy tunnels in his teenaged attempts of emulating Lil Wayne’s drug-induced robotic tics on early tracks such as “Still Popping” him in a digitaldripped.com/Myspace Profile Player staple. He just casually careens along on a daredevil path; spasmodically dropping stray loose information like it’s nothing.
And the information is necessary; for the most part, YG’s discography up to now has suffered mostly from a lack of personality. But this time Jackson is out here putting everything on display, such as his struggle to heal the wounds of betrayal on “Me & My Bitch,” or his fraught relationship with his mother on “Sorry Mama.” Despite consistently being written off as unintelligent or incapable by most of rap’s critical consensus, he’s able to speak for a whole subset of rap that rarely commit to such detailed step-by-step portrayals of what makes a person turn out the way Keenan Jackson has. The bizarre paradox of “Meet the Flockers,” where YG informs listeners to prey on the Asian community for better odds, while boldly comforting anybody who’s ever had to break and enter into a household to stay afloat is problematic as hell. But at least someone who’s been there is trying to speak on their behalf. Rap has too many rich kids trying to be voices of their generation, and maybe some of the casualties of places like Compton, Chicago, or anywhere else where life becomes desperate deserve the right to affirm their existence.
Def Jam proposed that My Krazy Life is going to be the next The Chronic for Los Angeles. It’s a pretty fair comparison; the Drake assisted “Who Do You Love,” “Left, Right” and “My Nigga” are all massive bangers, with DJ Mustard’s fully-realized sound finally shoving YG out of the limited kingdom of L.A. radio rap and unleashing him onto the nation. It has the sonic potential for him to remain in the chronology of rap the way that those early 90s West Coast classics linger around after decades, enthralling legions of listeners. The storyline is fascinating and direct, the beats are heavy and evocative. At one point, some unidentified DJ, perhaps Mustard, transforms an old school rap staple sample via Eugene McDaniels into a mass of poltergeist triplets screaming to get out.
But I’d defer that, heretically enough, My Krazy Life is more like a West Coast version of The College Dropout. The rare moment a rapper takes the time to document all the details to humanize the people left behind in a way that’s so artistically powerful, hopefully even those who are miles away from such a life may gain a chance to have their eyes forced upon such a life. It is arguably the finest debut from a West Coast rapper in over a decade—yes, even against THAT ALBUM—and it is true marvel to watch YG deliver after so many years of promise, work and dedication.