When YG reemerged on the scene with "My Nigga" in late 2013, I paid him little attention. This, after all, was the same rapper who released "Toot It and Boot It" three years prior. I did not dislike the aforementioned songs, but I did not really love them either and it seemed to me that he was more or less a 'singles artist’ who was focused on pumping out hit after hit with no real desire of making a good, cohesive album.
Fast forward a couple months to January of 2014, YG released his debut album "My Krazy Life" and I was baffled to hear people compare the album with Kendrick Lamar’s "good kid, m.A.A.d city." While I was not the biggest fan of Kendrick’s album at the time, I still felt like it was undeniably worthy of its acclaim and it was confusing to me that people were attempting to say an album with “My Nigga” was as good, as meaningful, and as layered as an album with “Swimming Pools (Drank).”
"My Krazy Life" went from an album that I was set on skipping to one that I really became interested in hearing. I wanted to see if the comparison held any merit and, if it did not, I was ready to roast YG, the album, and everyone who hyped it up.
After my first listen, I thought: “Sure, 'My Krazy Life' is good (almost great, really), but we cannot compare it to 'good kid, m.A.A.d city.' YG’s album is ignorant; he is not trying to say anything important like Kendrick is!! It is too commercial to be taken seriously!!!” yet I quickly found myself beginning to understand the comparisons after a few more listens to the album.
I became baffled again but this time because someone who made a song like “My Nigga," and let’s not forget “Toot It and Boot It," was able to make an album that was extremely similar and just as important as "good kid, m.A.A.d city." The comparison appeared to be silly at first, but "My Krazy Life" and "good kid, m.A.A.d city" deserve to be compared as well as contrasted because the worth of both albums and the messages they hold are increased tenfold not just by their similarities but also their differences.
At their cores, "My Krazy Life" and "good kid, m.A.A.d city" are story-driven albums from young black men who rap about their lives and experiences in Compton, California, mostly using their lyrics but also a number of skits to talk about drugs, alcohol, sex, and gang culture while also touching upon depression, addiction, and race. The detailed stories found within each album begin with more or less the same individual yet their actions and experiences as well as those of others and how they choose to handle the problems that arise leave them in different situations.
Throughout the narratives they provide, both are very much aware of the wrong they have done and that is done by others around them, but a major event in each story (the arrest of YG in "My Krazy Life" and the death of Kendrick’s friend Dave in "good kid, m.A.A.d city") causes the men to realize that changes need to be made in themselves, their communities, and the world they live in.
Following his arrest, YG only momentarily shows remorse and regret with “Sorry Mama,” the final track on the standard edition of the album, and quickly returns to his old ways after his release from jail as seen with following tracks on the deluxe edition while, following the murder of his friend, Kendrick copes by turning to religion and devoting himself to his music with his mother requesting:
“If I don't hear from you by tomorrow, I hope you come back and learn from your mistakes. Come back a man, tell your story to these black and brown kids in Compton. Let 'em know you was just like them, but you still rose from that dark place of violence, becoming a positive person. But when you do make it, give back with your words of encouragement, and that's the best way to give back, to your city.”
The stories told in "My Krazy Life" & "good kid, m.A.A.d city" do not necessarily end with these albums; both YG and Kendrick have gone on to release new albums which, unsurprisingly, are just as socially and politically charged as their previous albums, if not more. YG’s "Still Brazy" (2016) and Kendrick Lamar’s "To Pimp A Butterfly" (2015) touch upon many of the same subjects and themes found in the albums released before them, but they differ in that they contain a greater focus on the personal journeys the artists behind them have gone on in the time that has passed.
"My Krazy Life" and "Still Brazy" are just as important to hip-hop and, more broadly, black art, as "good kid, m.A.A.d city" and "To Pimp A Butterfly" are, just like YG is just as important to hip-hop as Kendrick Lamar is. They provide similar yet different and realistic perspectives that are crucial for listeners to hear.
Life is not full of back-to-back conscious moments but, instead, full of moments where we are ignorant, both unknowingly and consciously, as well as moments where we do have those deep realizations about life, often times following those ignorant moments. Sometimes we do make these changes instantly and sometimes it just takes time.
Maybe the Grammys will make strives to further diversify itself and its nominees, and maybe the Grammys won't.
I just vow to continue to appreciate and celebrate black excellence in art, espeically music. No matter Rae Sremmurd or Outkast, Nicki Minaj or Janelle Monáe, YG or Kendrick Lamar.