YG’s ‘My Krazy Life’ and the West Coast Rap Album Matrix

There are, were I to estimate, three smart ways to write about YG’s new album, My Krazy Life, which he released last week and which is both good and interesting (save for “Do It to Ya,” a song featuring the mosquito-ish TeeFLii that is truly dispiriting, though not entirely unlikable).

The first: To discuss how, for nearly the entirety of My Krazy Life, YG strips away all the excess material, basically leaving only (a) his voice, which he successfully stretches from needlepoint to rotund as needed, (b) producer DJ Mustard, and (c) the two piano keys that producer DJ Mustard knows about. In a less steady rapper’s care, this might’ve been a disastrous decision. But YG is courteous and sincere, and so the emptiness sounds less like emptiness and more like introspection, resulting in a beautiful and bare and beautifully bare album. So you could use that to attempt to explain how YG has rocketed into relevance by being plain. But Jon Caramanica did that already in the New York Times. I have to assume he did a better job than either you or I would have done.

The second: To discuss how YG is from Compton, the same place that produced rap’s most recent truly important person, Kendrick Lamar, and then compare and contrast the two. And that would be fun, I’m sure. But Christopher Weingarten did that already in Rolling Stone, and he managed to do so in all of one sentence. I have to assume he did a better job than either you or I would have done too.

The third: To discuss how producer DJ Mustard was asked to place his chubby little fingers on more than half of the album’s tracks, and how perfectly he did so, which would eventually lead to the argument that the two have created what appears to be, at least within the first week of its existence, the marquee ratchet rap album. And that would’ve been an argument with legs, for sure. But Brandon Soderberg did that already at Spin. I have to assume, yet again, that he did a better job than either you or I would have done. Perhaps you and I should attend a few writing seminars, or at least keep less intelligent company.

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Let us concede then that, given the consideration it has already received, My Krazy Life is a very good album. Let us concede that it is a revitalization of sorts, a contemporary reimagining of the g-funk/mobb music sound that helped California become the first state to fully wrestle rap away from New York’s grip.

It deserves, then, to be placed and evaluated alongside some of the region’s most inspired works. So that’s why I spent 12 hours drawing tiny rapper faces and placing them on a matrix. That’s what you’re looking at. It’s the “A West Coast Rap Album Matrix.”

West Coast Rap Album Matrix Olde English

[Click here for a larger version of the chart.]

A few notes:

  1. This is, by no means, meant to tally all of the very best West Coast rap albums. It has many of them — some might argue that every album on here is essential (a position I hold). But there are plenty that simply didn’t fit. Dr. Dre’s 2001, for instance. Or Suga Free’s Street Gospel (hi5 to writer Jeff Weiss for pointing me toward this album). Or even N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton (which I didn’t include simply because I had already drawn Eazy-E and Ice Cube and didn’t want to draw them again). There are lots and lots and lots more. If I had 15 feet by 10 feet, then I maybe could’ve gotten them all on there. But I didn’t. I had 11 inches by 9 inches.
  1. I relistened to a lot of tapes while researching for this. I was surprised by how very g-funk-ish Cypress Hill’s first album was. I suppose a part of that is because it came out more than 20 years ago, but a larger part is that I have always mostly just ignored them. They were one of the very few rap groups from when I was younger that had any sort of true ties to Latino culture, and since I am a Mexican now and have been so for all of my life, everyone was always like, “Oh, you must really like Cypress Hill, huh?” That shit made me crazy. No, no I don’t really like Cypress Hill very much. I don’t like tortillas or soccer either, while we’re at it.
  1. That’s actually a very big lie. I love tortillas and I still play soccer at least twice a week. But you get it. You get the point I was trying to make.
  1. That’s Del the Funky Homosapien down there in the bottom-left quadrant with the sunglasses and T-shirt wrapped around his brain. I’m actually a little embarrassed that I had to explain that to you.
  1. If you want to swap out Tyler, the Creator’s Wolf for Tyler, the Creator’s Goblin, you are welcome to do so. I understand your grievance, and switching the two will require no other action be performed to the matrix.
  1. I love Too $hort very much. If you are friends with him, please ask him to record verses for basically every song on My Krazy Life (skip “Do It to Ya” though). Thank you.

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YG actually stands for Young Gangsta. I probably would’ve liked this album a lot less if he’d have used that name instead. It’s such a terrible name. There’s a rapper in Houston named Lil Young. That’s a pretty bad name too.

Young Thug, however, is pretty perfect.

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I listened to My Krazy Life at least 15 times while working on this graphic. That’s not an exaggeration. I would recommend that you purchase My Krazy Life. I would also recommend that you delete “Do It to Ya” as soon as you do.

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Snoop is hard to draw.

DJ Quik is easy to draw.

Eazy-E is the easiest to draw.

Filed Under: Music, YG, My Krazy Life, West Coast rap, Dr. Dre, 2Pac, Eazy-E, Del the Funky Homosapien, Ice Cube, DJ Quik, Too $hort, Shea Serrano

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Shea Serrano is a staff writer for Grantland. He recently published his first book, Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book.

Archive @ SheaSerrano