Much ink has been spilled over the death of regionalism in rap: New York’s A$AP Mob fusing Harlem rap with Memphis and Houston aesthetics, Chief Keef and Chicago’s drill kids building on the blueprint crafted by Waka Flocka and Lex Luger in Atlanta, and Drake up in Toronto shrewdly cherry-picking styles from everyone. However, a group of Cali savants are eking out a body of work that gives the lie to the current proclamations of post-regionalism. Up north, the Bay area hyphy sound’s morphed into something sleeker and poppier thanks to LoveRance and Heartbreak Gang’s Iamsu! and Sage the Gemini. Down in L.A., DJ Mustard’s elevated the profiles of third-tier YMCMB star Tyga, singers TeeFlii and Ty Dolla $ign, and Compton rapper YG. Mustard’s sound peruses the common ground between the chunky low-end synths of seminal house hits like Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” and the orchestral pomp of g-funk-era Dre. He and YG have worked closely on mixtapes such as 2012’s 4 Hunnid Degreez and the Just Re’d Up series, forging a symbiotic producer-rapper bond the likes of which has scarcely been seen on a mainstream field of play since Drake and Noah “40” Shebib.
YG’s major-label debut My Krazy Life marks a turning point for the duo; here, Mustard’s production and YG’s songwriting have both gone deliciously widescreen. Mustard’s still working with the melodic economy that has drawn shrewd trend-watchers Drake, Young Jeezy, and 2 Chainz to his fold, but here they’re lighter and brighter. The opening fanfares on My Krazy Life’s tracks are gossamer but massive, like a blindside smack from a pillow. Typically, Mustard’s productions lay their wares out early and drive home simple hooks flanked by little else but 808 kicks and claps, occasionally throwing in a weird embellishment or nod to his forefathers. Strip club anthem “Left, Right” doubles down on its colossal three-note theme with a fiddle midway through each verse, “BPT”’s air raid siren keys are accented with orchestra hits like Dre and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”, and “Do It to Ya” plunks out piano and Moog melodies on loan from Tha Dogg Pound’s “Let’s Play House”.
But by and large, Mustard’s game is achieving ecstasy through simplicity and repetition, hooks and drums thundering through each measure with scarcely a note gone to waste. YG could’ve shit on a mic with Mustard as co-pilot and still turned out a halfway listenable hour of music, but to his instead he’s used My Krazy Life to play with the gun-toting lothario rubric he pieced together on the earlier mixtapes. The album is very much an exercise in genre (gangsta rap, natch) beholden to all the structural touchstones of a modern-day mainstream rap release, but this time YG’s classicist read on Southern California gang life comes with a refined flair for storytelling. Stylistically, YG says he was aiming for Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, and you can hear faint traces of that record on My Krazy Life, especially in the way that songs that touch on his background as a convicted residential burglar (“1AM”, “Meet the Flockers”) collide with decadent good life numbers like “I Just Wanna Party” and “Who Do You Love?” to paint a picture of a young gangster who works hard and plays harder.
My Krazy Life periodically eases off its unsettlingly gleeful blueprinting of breaking-and-entering scenarios through YG’s ace hook construction and a selection of comical interstitial skits—and hang around for the deep cut “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”, which pulls the listener inside the loss and desperation that provides the impetus for such extralegal escapades. My Krazy Life also finds YG flexing a greater comfort in regards to songs about women. It might be unreasonable to expect a guy who rose to fame on “Toot It and Boot It”, whose body of work is rife with vengeful pith like “Bitch Betta Have My Money” and “Youzza Flip”, to care about his bedside manner—but he makes inroads. “Do It to Ya” is the requisite sex jam, but this time the focus is on reciprocity instead of conquest.
“Me and My Bitch” chronicles the souring of a relationship after a girlfriend cheats, but he intimates that he still carries a torch for her when they slip into a nebulous friends with benefits arrangement after breaking up. My Krazy Life’s most engaging relationship song is familial: “Sorry Momma” closes the album with an apology to YG’s mom for a laundry list of petty misdeeds and a pledge to do better by her now that he’s rich and she’s not doing so well. On a certain level, the softer touch of these songs ticks off the expected major label song-for-the-ladies pandering—they’re replete with syrupy hooks from ratch&B crooners Ty Dolla $ign and TeeFlii—but they also reveal a songwriter who remains captivating even when he pushes his trademark tough guy posturing to the side. From classic Compton set-repping rhymes, to guest spots from TDE’s Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q, to production that boils g-funk down to its requisite elements, My Krazy Life breathes new energy into West Coast gangsta rap.
YG holds summits with out-of-towners throughout, exchanging bars with Drake on “Who Do You Love?”, taking a beat from ATL maestro Metro Boomin for “1AM”, and celebrating friendship with Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan on the platinum-selling buddy anthem “My Nigga”. But this album’s sense of place and time isn’t amorphous and dependent on collaborators, as it’s been with YG’s peers: My Krazy Life is always kicking back under roadside palm trees or darting through back alleys, shaking foes that give chase. It’s a record that’s always posted up in sunny SoCal, and whether it’s serving up carefree party anthems or dispensing crass advice on whose houses to knock over and what to take, L.A. feels like the capital of the country when it’s playing. YG and DJ Mustard have been dress rehearsing for nationwide stardom all along, but My Krazy Life is ratchet music’s Technicolor reveal. ( Review by Craig Jenkins from pichfork.com )