Rap music isn’t colorblind. Unless an artist has an astronomically unique skill or trait, the public will not look past his skin color and simply focus on the music. Eminem was the most successful trying to break down this barrier through his talent and persona. Coincidentally, next up to the plate is Yelawolf, Shady Records and Eminem’s newest protégé. Yelawolf isn’t a new artist by any means. He first broke onto the scene with his critically acclaimed mixtape “Trunk Muzik.” Under Shady Records, Yelawolf will seemingly craft his history of Alabama and quick tongued raps into commercial success. With his first attempt, Catfish Billy brings us “Radioactive.”
Hit the jump to read the full review.
Yelawolf is easily one of the most unique rap artists ever. If you could somehow combine the best elements and sounds of T.I., UGK and Bone Thugz, Yelawolf would emerge under the Gadsden, Alabama sunlight. His early catalog includes many stories told about growing up in Alabama, his struggles through school and relationships, as well as the ins and outs of drug use in his hometown of Gadsden. “Radioactive” combines all of these themes with more recent events of his career, including signing to a major record label and gaining commercial success. Even through all the success and working with Eminem, Yelawolf’s authenticity to his style of music has pushed him to this level. At some points, “Radioactive” seems to fall into some of the traps of commercial trends.
Through the first six songs on the album, I genuinely got the feeling this was turning out to be the best release of the entire year. Each song was perfect in capturing the themes that Yelawolf has built his entire career around: Box Chevy’s, family, alcohol, and community. The introduction injects a pulse to the album, beginning with Yelawolf stating, “I am the American Eagle.” The first single for the album brings Lil’ Jon out from obscurity on “Hard White.” A pure chant anthem, this song delves back into the glory days of when Lil’ Jon was a mainstay on radio stations across the country. Yelawolf has always stated that classic rock and punk rock are just as influential to his music as hip hop. Because of this, it was only right that he enlisted the Detroit native Kid Rock to sing the chorus for “Let’s Roll.” This serves as a dedication record for Yelawolf’s hometown of the south, and could easily become the next big hit for him.
The highly anticipated Eminem feature didn’t disappoint, also working alongside Gangsta Boo on “Throw It Up.” Irony strikes at the end of this song, however. An interlude features a conversation between Eminem and Yelawolf, with the two joking about featuring a love song on the album. Yelawolf has definitely made songs about relationships in the past, with “Love Is Not Enough” serving as a prime example. The sound and abundance of “love songs” on Radioactive depreciate the value of his classic sounds. “Good Girl” and “Write Your Name” see Yelawolf alongside some lackluster guest features on the choruses. One vocal feature that I did really enjoy was in the track “Animal.” Fitting in with the popular dub-step and rap junction we have seen lately, “Animal” is a high energy song employing Fefe Dobson to help out with the hook.
“Radioactive” is really a tale of two sounds. The high energy and strong emotions that are audibly sensed in the first half of the album almost drop off completely towards the end. Two songs specifically, “Everything I Love The Most” and “Radio” manipulate some of Yelawolf’s classic rock influences into a slow and almost boring manner. But to balance those songs out, “Slumerican Shitizen” is an uptempo anthem alongside Killer Mike.
This album absolutely contains every aspect of his career that Yelawolf has stressed as important. He worked alongside Eminem, Mystikal, Lil Jon, Kid Rock, and Killer Mike, who were all influences to his career. The inclusion of choruses sung by other people gave the album too much of a pop and radio sound, when Yelawolf easily could have thrived in reciting the hooks, as he did on “The Last Song.” Though the album musically slowed down towards the end, the content remained perfectly fit throughout the entire listen. A debut album should tell a full story of the artist for new listeners to learn something, and Yelawolf did exactly that. Whether or not you still can’t get over the sound of Yelawolf’s unique and sharp rhymes, he will be around the industry for a long time. “Radioactive” is a step in the right direction for a long career.
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