Previously underwhelming hip-hop artist makes breakthrough in new album

Elijah Watson

Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson, better known as Tyga, had an ill-received debut when listeners first heard him on collaborative studio album, We Are Young Money. The rapper’s verse on the hit “BedRock” was memorable for all of the wrong reasons: “She watchin’ that oxygen, I’m watchin’ ESPN/But when that show ends, she all in my skin lotion,” says Tyga, his spurts of nonsense so ridiculous that they made fellow Young Money labelmate Gudda Gudda’s verse look like a masterpiece. Fortunately, with just a bit more age, the young rapper has refined his delivery and has enlisted a laundry list of some of hip-hop’s best producers to create Careless World: Rise of the Last King, a well-produced and vibrant album that dispels any doubts about the rapper’s talents.

“He’s already made you the king that you are,” says Tyga’s mother on the song “Black Crown.” “Black Crown” seems to embody what Tyga’s major label debut is all about: making his journey on his way to become the self-proclaimed hip-hop king. “Working hard like one day I’ll afford the four-door Porsche/Approaching every corner cautious,” raps Tyga, his dreams of success and fortune accompanied by atmospheric synths and luscious keys. “Black Crown” is a great example of the rapper’s newfound creativity. He surprises listeners with retrospective narratives like this, creating a balance with more mainstream-friendly songs on the album.

If “Black Crown” is about Tyga’s journey to success, “Rack City” is about him reaping the benefits of it. The club-banger is reminiscent of hip-hop group The Pack — it’s so cheesy, but listeners can’t help but succumb to its infectious beat and memorable hook. Tyga will forever go down in history as that one rapper who courageously boasted, “Got your grandma on my dick.” The line is so humorous and out-of-place but is said with so much confidence and swagger that Tyga comes off as a female connoisseur, showing no discrimination to his cougar club fan-base.

Album opener “Careless World” starts off shaky. Tyga’s declarations of being a king is dubious at first, but once the angelic strings and lavish production kick in, the rapper’s boasts actually carry resonance, rather than coming off as foolish and arrogant. Add some rapid-fire verses, assault rifle hi-hat cymbals and staccato snares into the mix and you have a song that displays Tyga’s larger-than-life dreams for himself.

Tyga’s songs are all spread out, giving the rapper moments to boast about sexual encounters (“Faded”) and analyze his growing success (“This is Like”). It’s refreshing — his 2008 independent release, No Introduction, was mediocre. Being on record label Decaydance Records with cousin and Gym Class Heros singer Travie McCoy proved unsuccessful, as the rapper flopped over dance-driven production handled by Pete Wentz — probably Tyga’s first mistake.

At least now he’s under the tutelage of a record company that is actually known for creating mainstream hip-hop, and this album is proof of that. There are no “Coconut Juice” sequels here, just songs that show Tyga’s rise to hip-hop superstardom.

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: Rapper heals repute in breakthrough