[9 March 2012]
For those whose exposure to Tyga has mostly been limited to his outrageous duo of would-be summer dominating west coast singles, “Rack City” and “Bitches Ain’t Shit” (the latter of which is curiously absent here), it’s possible to not approach Careless World totally intimidated. But for those who’ve been aware of Tyga since his appearances on MTV2 with a co-sign from Fall Out Boy and Gym Class Heroes (their lead singer/rapper is his cousin) telling us about his appreciation of “Coconut Juice”, The Last King is understandably ogreish. Clocking 18 tracks minus the skits – including a seven-and-a-half minute screed titled “Love Game” complete with three minute dubstep outro – and as ominous a subtitle as Rise of the Last King, on paper this album seems like one of Young Money’s more audacious offerings. Tyga’s been working hard on the mixtape scene for a long time since his inconspicuous No Introduction debut four years ago, and, while tapes like Black Thoughts and Well Done 2 have earned him some positive attention, it was hard to avoid a consensus that Tyga was a long ways off from getting another shot at store shelves. But then “Rack City” happened in December, and little more than two months passed before Tyga got a second chance in the real world.
“Careless World” opens the album in all the ways one might fear an album of this sort would, perfectly average as it is, thanks to its reach of an outro that’s reportedly being pulled from retail versions (hint: Tyga somehow relates himself to Martin Luther King through a sampling of one of his speeches). The song itself is passably enjoyable thanks to Jess Jackson’s Thank Me Later-lite piano heavy beat and Tyga’s similarly indebted delivery, but the sample adds a certain lack of self-awareness the rapper who claims “got your grandma on my dick” about thirty minutes later was wise to remove as soon as King’s estate filed a complaint. That minor legal note aside, Careless World‘s most newsworthy for Tyga wearing a number of different hats competently, albeit perhaps in a way that most of them still feel ill-fitting. “Rack City” remains his peak potential as of this album, a strip club banger that borrows from the social irreverence of artists like Kreayshawn and Lil’ B while providing a perfectly infectious, trouble starting cousin to Drake’s “The Motto”. Pharrell drops by with “Lil’ Homie”, as solid a contemporary Neptunes track as any, and either convinces Tyga to rap like Pusha T or convinced Pusha T to ghostwrite for the kid; either way, it’s as satisfying for that as anything else. There’s also Nas’ baffling-as-usual appearance near the end of the album on “Kings & Queens”, and if you’re only checking this album out because his name’s on the back that track won’t be worth the price of admission, but it’ll definitely keep the buzz for his upcoming Life Is Good project in full motion.
Predictably, Tyga’s at his best when he essentially follows the “Rack City” template by finding an irresistible beat and dropping dozens of non sequiturs on top of it. He goes toe to toe with Nicki Minaj on the obnoxious “Muthafuckka Up”, matching her childish whimsy for a track that feels almost shockingly unfit for any scenario. It sounds like a song for middle school children, but the subject matter is so decidedly not that the track will probably just end up sitting there in limbo, though label boss Birdman’s proven to have a penchant for making room for those sorts of songs on radio stations in the past. In fact, Careless World as a whole feels trapped between polar opposites much like Game’s similarly ambitious R.E.D. Album. The smooth, somewhat introspective tracks like “Do It All”, “Far Away” and “Light Dreams” feel like they’re from an entirely different planet than “Muthafuckka Up”, “Rack City”, “Celebration”, and “Potty Mouth” (careful around that Busta Rhymes verse; it’s a totally different song). Some will chalk this up to artistic diversity, but, if that’s the case, its complexity is of little actual import due to Tyga’s lack of interest in providing context for his bipolar artistry. All there really is to grasp onto are the moments Tyga sounds like an entirely other star, like “Lil’ Homie” or “I’m Gone”, a Boi-1da production that sounds like a Thank Me Later B-side not only because of the beat but because one gets the impression Tyga has a reference track of Drake’s original version playing through his earphones. Moments like those arrive throughout the album which makes Tyga a very hard rapper to get to know, and more importantly on an album that spends half its time trying to sound open emotionally it becomes difficult to actually connect with the guy and a struggle to finish the very, very lethargic series of love songs that close the album.
To Careless World‘s credit, at its worst it’s an album that’s really hard to feel any sort of way about. But it’s also hard to completely ignore how well made it is, as the beats from Jess Jackson, Arthur McArthur, D.A. Dorman and more may fall in line pretty tightly with the rest of pop rap radio right now, but they do so with more professionalism and earnestness than plenty other imitators can muster. Tyga’s playing it safe is disappointing in some ways, but, considering how many aggravating tunes he’s turned in on the mixtape circuit in his career, it’s probably for the best that he set his sights on average and hit the bullseye again and again. That his guests are the highlights of his album isn’t a surprise, either. Truthfully the only surprise is that this album didn’t capitalize on the everywhere-ness of “Rack City” in a similar fashion to his #BitchesAintShit mixtape, which felt both unquestionably West Coast in flavour and undeniably Tyga (the reckless, misogynist, unexplainably enjoyable kind). As said before, “Faded” (a Lil’ Wayne vehicle that’s equally as delirious as “Rack City”), “Rack City” and its kin feel sort of out of place amid most of this album’s other songs, which I think if most Tyga fans (and non-fans) had their way would be the other way around. But Careless World is what it is, and while that may not be much it’s professional and adequate enough that – daunting as its length may be – his fans should be satisfied and his detractors should be relieved to continue having little reason to pay him any mind. Well, besides that incendiary Nas spot. Somehow Tyga’s become an excellently modern version of Too $hort’s pioneering delinquency. It’s a shame he seems so afraid to embrace it.