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Decoding 'Krazy' 

With his new album, gangsta rapper YG makes a hip-hop record that's surprisingly relatable

click to enlarge YG’s newest record, My Krazy Life, describes growing up in Compton.
  • YG’s newest record, My Krazy Life, describes growing up in Compton.

YG, the fast-rising rapper who'll play the Knitting Factory on Friday, spends the first 20 seconds of his debut album My Krazy Life establishing where he's from:

— "BPT," code for Bompton, California, known to most of the world as Compton but pronounced with a "b" by members of the Bloods gang, who refuse to pronounce the "c" because of their rivalry with the Crips.

— "TTP," an acronym for Tree Top Pirus, YG's gang affiliation of choice.

— "400 Spruce Street," or YG's specific block in Compton, and thus his clique within the gang.

In doing so, the 24-year-old pulls off a nifty trick, not only putting himself on the map (literally and figuratively) but also foreshadowing the attention to detail that helps make My Krazy Life one of 2014's best rap albums and a landmark of post-'90s gangsta rap. Eighteen months after Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" set a new bar for lyrical hip-hop, YG (Young Gangsta, aka Keenon Jackson) is often shortchanged for his "Krazy" wordplay, which he arrives at in a variety of ways, he says in a recent email interview.

"Some shit just come and it stick. Some songs I gotta go back and rethink and rewrite," he says. "But it's all good. That's the process of making a classic."

Much has been made recently about the music on My Krazy Life, and for good reason: YG's longtime friend and right-hand man, DJ Mustard, who oversaw the record's hypnotic, minimalist sound, has become the hottest producer in pop music this summer, scoring hits by Tinashe, Ty Dolla $ign, Jeremih and T.I., among others. He's also the man behind Tyga's 2011 mega-hit, "Rack City," and an integral part of YG's success.

Mustard is "somebody probably (every) rapper would wish for," YG says. "My DJ. The bro. And a super-producer. Shit be (crazy) thinking about our situation sometimes. How we took nothing and made it into something."

But YG brings his own style to My Krazy Life, too, describing 24 hours of his life in Compton. Across 14 songs, he hangs with homies, parties, juggles relationship with various females, breaks into a house, gets caught and goes to jail. Along the way, he offers a deeper look into the lifestyle, rapping about his feelings of shame, embarrassment and fear and creating a well-rounded character in a genre often lacking such a thing.

It's that 3-D quality that makes My Krazy Life not just a certifiable banger, but also complex and relatable, quite a feat for a highly anticipated rap album. It didn't happen by accident, YG says.

"I was under pressure. A lot of it. But we stayed in the studio going till the last day," he says. "They always say what you put in is what you get out, so the work spoke for itself." ♦

YG • Fri, Aug. 29, at 7 pm • $29.50-$70 • All-ages • Knitting Factory • 919 W. Sprague • sp.knittingfactory.com • 866-468-7623

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