Established mixtape rapper and former founding member of Odd Future, Casey Veggies (Casey Jones) from Inglewood, CA has finally released his major label debut album, and it comes some eight years in the making. The one time Carrots & Peas Int. artist released his first mixtape, Customized Greatly Vol. 1, in 2007, made six more over the next six years, released his first LP (Sleeping in Class) independently in 2011, signed a deal with Epic Records in 2013 and now, after all that hard work, has a brand spanking new LP to share via Vested in Culture in association with Epic. Casey Veggies doesn’t betray his independent, underground roots on Live & Grow (his crafted lyricism and heart have stuck around after all this time), but there are definitely some sellout maneuvers and mainstream tactics employed in the album.
Casey’s fixation on growth is at the core of Live & Grow, and he mainly just celebrates his early career success here, though he does show thanks and love for his family and blessings at the end. The downside is its lust for fun and feeling good. Young Veggie, as he is so endearingly referred to as in spots, would rather rap about having pull with the ladies, having money and making more, and balling with his honey as opposed to other socially demanding issues. One look at Live & Grow‘s guest list (YG, Ty Dolla $ign, DeJ Loaf, BJ The Chicago Kid, Tyler The Creator, an uncredited Snoop Dogg and others) might suggest a desperate attempt at industry assimilation on the part of Casey Veggies, but luckily the results don’t sound too extremely glitzy and actually mesh quite well if a little superficial and commercial-sounding still.
All that culminates to the meaningful conclusion, particularly the last four offerings. Casey’s “Sincerely Casey” song for his mom shows much love for the woman most responsible for raising him and with whom he has a very special bond. Casey then vents on police wrongdoing and starts to come to grips with fame in “RIP,” and in “I’m Blessed,” he sends a prayer to his grandmother above, fixes himself on “do[ing] it right” in life and simply expresses a lot of positivity to close the album out on a good note. It may be perceived as an insult that the headier bits in Live & Grow are relegated to the end with perhaps the logic being that the audience would get bored with them in the middle or that they are not important enough to be the centerpiece, but at least they’re there. It might help to remember that the very beginning includes a touching speech by Casey’s father and a focus on aspiring and striving from Casey so all is not lost.
Musically, an assortment of well-accomplished producers give the album the latest crazes and trends mostly and unknowingly put the pressure on Casey to give the most memorable performance. Most of the time he delivers up to par. The sun is just rising for Casey Veggies’ run, and if the fruits of his labor are not fully ripe now, they likely will be in the future; however, in Live & Grow, Casey is in a growing phase, not quite at complete maturity and not ready to evolve either. Aside from those considerations though, the album, which was released yesterday Sept. 25, works as a cool hip-hop break with plenty of fun West Coast vibes from everyone involved.