For an emcee not even old enough to even rent a car legally, Casey Veggies’ has spent the past decade competing with artist twice his age. Starting off alongside a slightly older Tyler, The Creator during the early years of Odd Future. He withdrew himself from the collective to start his own brand Peas & Carrots International and dropped his breakout mixtape, Sleeping In Class, before graduating high school. The complete opposite from OF’s more brash collective aesthetic, P&C was a lot more digestible and focused primarily on Veggies. Thematically, the son of Jay Z’s former bodyguard gave a very youthful take on Southern California’s Swag rap era pushed forward by early TDE, Dom Kennedy, Brandun Deshay and others. It worked as well. After high school graduation, he found himself touring nationally with Mac Miller during his K.I.D.S. release. Following various follow-up projects ranging from Life Changes to collaborative efforts with Rockie Fresh, the Inglewood-native remind independent before linking up with Epic Record’s Vested In Culture imprint backed by storied music executive Sylvia Rhone. Meanwhile, Hov’s Roc Nation handled management. For the first time in his career, Veggies has a little more creative wiggle room for his first full-length major-label project Live & Grow. Unfortunately, he doesn’t use the wide arsenal provided and fails to show enough evolution to move into Hip Hop’s major league. However, Live & Grow offers more than a few moments that will satisfy longtime fans of the young emcee.
The biggest problem with Veggies’ debut is the dilemma most artists facing that indie-major transition. Live & Grow doesn’t know if it wants to evolve the on his past or reach into the future. After his father bigs him up on intro “I’m The King,” he spits with that signature Young Veggies cadence on the FreshChuck’s instrumental. THC produces the follow-up track “Set It Off,” which along with the Mike & Keys and Polyester backed “New Face$” doesn’t feel too removed from his free album days. The same goes for the Dom Kennedy featured “Actin’ Up” and Tyler, The Creator’s guest verse on “RIP.” Those already familiar with former work from Veggies have much to sink their teeth into. Thankfully, Hit-Boy’s production on “Wonderful” featuring “go to” LA hook star Ty Dolla $ign show’s he’s willing to evolve from his successful formula sonically.
Live & Grow flops hard during those crossover attempts. Veggies never held much weight in terms of legitimate club bangers and “Backflip” featuring YG and Iamsu! doesn’t help much as he sounds utterly uncomfortable. “Tied Up” featuring a lazy hook from Dej Loaf ends with the same lackluster results. Then there are a few really cringeworthy moments where Veggies attempts to sing like on album closer “I’m Blessed” which features his mother delivering a closing monologue.
Regardless, Live & Grow manages to be a good debut despite some failed attempts at more radio friendly tracks. By the time the album wraps up, it becomes apparent how thin his subject matter is wearing. Veggies lyrical crutch has been his personal anecdotes, very wide view of his various surroundings and swag raps. Again, many with a loyal appreciation of his catalogue won’t mind. Those looking for growth may find themselves disappointed. The radio crowd he tries to go after may not fall into his specific method of turn-up so quickly. Live & Grow could have served as Veggies’ formal transition into mainstream radio. That doesn’t happen at all but, his first big outing manages to be above average anyway.