**** (of 4)

YG excels at telling rich, detailed stories. He's so good, in fact, that when listening to the California rapper's exceptional full-length debut, "My Krazy Life," you may find yourself repeatedly muttering, "Wow, I feel like I'm there."

You feel like you're at the party during "I Just Wanna Party" and will be playing lookout while YG's crew robs a house on "Meet The Flockers." (Note: In 2009 YG served six months in jail on a burglary conviction, making him one of the few current acts able to back up his tough rhymes with life experience.) His narrative ability propels "Sorry Momma" from rap-album cliché to become the best example of the, "I know I've done bad, but I love you mom!" song since Tupac's "Dear Mama."

In recent interviews, YG has admitted to listening to the titans of West Coast gangster rap (Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and less-celebrated acts like Eazy-E and Spice 1) to inspire his recording process. It definitely shows. "My Krazy Life" is literally dripping with nods to classic material, from the Too Short-esque pimp talk on "Left, Right" to literally swiping the piano riff from the under-appreciated 1995 Dogg Pound single "Let's Play House" on "Do It To Ya."

YG was smart to partner almost exclusively with long-time collaborator DJ Mustard, the producer responsible for hits like Tyga's "Rack City" and 2 Chainz's "I'm Different." They feed off of their considerable experience with the other's style. Production from Atlanta's Metro Boomin' (Future, Young Thug) and crewmember Ty Dolla $ign ("Paranoid") adds variety, though this album could have been all Mustard and been more than sufficient. The album is also stacked in the feature department with appearances by Drake, Rich Homie Quan and Jeezy. With YG, the latter two pull off the best three-man act since Bell Biv Devoe on Billboard hit "My N***a." The men of T.D.E (Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar) all pitch in to the party and lend considerable muscle to their features.

In every way, this is a surprising debut from an act that many outside of the diehard rap world weren't checking for. It sure caught me off guard. Here's to a new chapter of California love.

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page