California rapper Casey Veggies desperately wants to create a storyline on his debut studio LP Live & Grow. His father—"Big Joe," a former Jay Z bodyguard—appears on the intro track, "I'm the King", praising his son's mixtape efforts and ability to balance school with his artistic ambitions. He closes out one of his monologues encouragingly stating, "Watch him work," and then Veggies hops in on his verse: "A lot on mind, and I try not to show/ Yeah, that's part of life, you live and you grow/ She suckin' me slow." The lines, among many others on Live & Grow, don't exactly broadcast personal progress, and the presence of Veggies' father only exaggerates the near-comical contrast between the title's stated thesis and the nature of the album.
Still only 22 years old, Veggies' career stretches back to high school when he founded Odd Future with Tyler, the Creator (who appears on and produced "R.I.P."). He's since moved on from OF, released five solo mixtapes, and launched the Peas & Carrots International clothing line. His biography alone demonstrates that Veggies has, in fact, lived and grown. Throughout the album, however, he often shies away from specific details, rendering the title more of a distraction than a mission statement. "New Face$", for example, is about Veggies' journey to fame—a road that inevitably includes many hiccups and fake friends—but he reveals very little about the trip. He offers possible insight ("New foreign chick and she famous/ She cashed me out and we dated"), but quickly abandons the thought in favor of played-out tough talk.
Veggies' vague lyrics are mirrored in the production, which flips between styles like a major label rap album of 10 years ago might. Tyler, DJ Mustard, Iamsu!, Hit-Boy, Top Dawg collaborator THC, and more contribute work, and there are genuine pop moments ("Tied Up", "Wonderful") alongside somber smooth cuts ("Sincerely Casey", "I'm Blessed"). There are even two takes on California's mainstream sounds: hi-hat-slappin' Northern California hyphy ("Backflip") and bassier L.A. post-g-funk ("Actin' Up"). It's a capable roster, but Live & Grow is more of a platter than a platform, and Veggies never gets to settle into a sound he can develop.
He is at his best on the more California cuts. "Backflip", for instance, is an instant earworm. Nonetheless he is still upstaged by YG, who delivers a more vulgar, memorable verse than Veggies by actually addressing the song's female subject. Veggies just speaks for her, and doesn't seem to see her as anything other than an object of his own success. This self-interest, instead of self-examination, comes through further on "Wonderful" and "Tied Up".
1. I'm The King (Prod. FreshChuck)
2. Set It Off (Prod. THC)
3. Actin Up Feat. Dom Kennedy (Prod. DJ Mustard)
4. Backflip Feat. YG & IAMSU! (Prod. IAMSU!)
5. New Faces (Prod. Mike & Keys, Co-Prod. Polyester)
6. Wonderful Feat. Ty Dolla $ign (Prod. Hit-Boy)
7. Tied Up Feat. DeJ Loaf (Prod. Kane)
8. A Little Time (Prod. Soundz)
9. Life Song Feat. BJ The Chicago Kid (Prod. SDOT)
10. Sincerely Casey (Prod. Mike & Keys)
11. Aw Man (Prod. THC)
12. R.I.P. Feat. Tyler, The Creator (Prod. Tyler, The Creator)
13. I'm Blessed (Prod. THC)
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