Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Album Review: Yelawolf- Radioactive
First things first, I love Southern hip hop. My love affair with the South is well known, at least to those who know me. I love the soul of Southern hip hop, the detail Southern emcees pay to their music and how it is meant to sound, and I feel like the South has gotten a bad rap for a long time for "killing Hip Hop" because of acts like Soulja Boy and Gucci Mane becoming the face of Southern hip hop. That is why it is so great to see old acts like Z-Ro and Bun B still hold the South down, Big Boi and Killer Mike still going stronger than ever, and new stars are on the rise to bring the soul back like Big Krit and Pill. Had to say that.
That being said, Yelawolf, the Alabama native, has the internet going nuts...Paul Wall. The Shady freshman has been around Hip Hop for a while now, and like he will tell you, he is far from a young rookie. Yelawolf has lived life, seen trials, and survived the gutter. Like him or not, his passion for music is never in question, and whenever he raps or even just talks about Hip Hop, you can feel that he lives for this shit. One has to appreciate an artist who genuinely loves this genre, and its refreshing to hear a rapper not afraid to admit that he's nothing without Hip Hop.
After receiving mass praise for his now most known work Trunk Muzik, and being signed to one of the biggest labels in the game alongside super group Slaughterhouse, SHAAAAAAADY, Yelawolf's buzz is at an all time high. The XXL freshman may have delayed his debut album Radioactive, letting Cole, Phonte, and Evidence do their thing, but now his album has officially been released, and everyone has an opinion, from Yelawolf's biggest fans, to his harshest critics. So the question becomes......is Radioactive really whurlin?
My experience with Yelawolf has surprisingly been a rocky one. I first heard of Yelawolf when he made a guest appearance on a Big Boi track. I shrugged his verse and him as a whole off for a while, just seemed like a hick that could spit average shit. Then I see his mug pop up more and more, my friends on and offline talking about him, and I'm hearing that THIS dude is the next best thing since he who shall not be named? I been down this road before, and I was not pleased, but I gave Yelawolf a fair shot.
I listened to some stuff, and someone put me onto Trunk Muzik, and to be honest...I skimmed it. I had my mind made up on Yelawolf before I really sat down with his music. Decent enough skills, I loved the Southern influence, but he just had too much going on for me. That was my initial assessment. Later on, the more people hyped him up, the more I came in to say how much I did not enjoy his music. I never hated Yelawolf, but I never saw anything special about him and thought he wasn't for me.
Super fast forward to now, and Radioactive is here, and I have to listen to it, because something kept pulling me to this album. I love Southern Hip Hop, I love dope beats and dope lyrics, and Yelawolf has some of my favorite rappers cosigning him. There had to be something I was missing right? So before I listened to Radioactive, I dove into his music once again and really sat with it to gain an understanding of who he is as an artist and what his sound is, so when I listened to the album I would be prepared.
I still wasn't prepared, because although Yelawolf's music is ok, its just ok to me. Radioactive....showed me a little bit more than what I expected considering what his previous work sounded like. I'm still not too high on Yelawolf, and I do have some problems with the debut album, but it did surprise me a bit, mostly because of how Yelawolf fused the sound that lead him to the level he is at now, while also expanding beyond said sound to draw in more casual fans. By that I mean...I am not a big Yelawolf fan, but I have listened to him a lot by this point and have prior knowledge of his other works....but some of these songs on here are meant to appeal to those who may never have really gave Yela a shot.
Its Yela's attempt to sit down his loyal fans with his potential new ones, and what makes it impressive is how subtle and well put together it is so it doesn't sound forced. Yelawolf hits you over the head with that hard "different' dirty South sound that gets your bass booming and your head shaking with early songs like Hard White and one of my personal favorites, the eerie and grimey Growin Up in the Gutter.
He still includes his Southern influences, adding in sharp yet loose Southern flows and slick lyrics, not those corny punchlines other rappers OD on. But he also draws you in, in what I can only assume as his attempt to expand his sound and take it a different direction he has never taken it to bring in a new audience. It is a chance many rappers take, and many fans criticize deeming "selling out" for mainstream. Yelawolf doesn't sell out here though, or at least it doesn't sound like it to me. Is it a different sound? Yea...but thats not bad at all. I like that Yelawolf tried to take a risk, incorporating different content, delivering heartfelt messages and taking his content outside of just whats going on in the gutter. He never strays from his Southern rapid fire style or his passion. Songs like Everything I Love the Most and The Hardest Love Song in the World are dope, and are still Yelawolf, but its him getting a little out the box, so much so that it just takes you off guard...especially cause of how natural it sounds for him.
I can see why die hard Yelawolf fans would both love and be disappointed with Radioactive. Many fans may feel that songs like Radio really don't capture who Yela is as an artist and that he commercialized his music, using more popish sounds than he ever has before. They're not completely wrong though, there is definite pop undertones on this album. But where as an artist like Eminem getting on a song with Bruno Mars may sound a little forced, Yelawolf somehow makes a popish song such as Animal...sound like a Yelawolf song you could have heard a year or two years ago. This album sounds like something Yelawolf could have easily done a year ago if he wanted to....meaning he didn't really sacrifice much of himself. I don't see how it is a bad thing, or how a Yelawolf fan could not enjoy hearing a song like Everything I Love the Most.
Yela has lighter sounding songs but he rounds the album up with The Last Song, probably the most heartfelt song on the album. Also, its a fusion of everything he showed us on the album. The confused, conflicted, fun, reflective, real and passionate man that he is. Dope song.
But is Radioactive whurlin tho?
Kinda......maybe................probably.....idk cuh. I like it, which says a lot to me at least. But it is by no means album of the year, or classic, or better than blah blah blah's album, its just good music. You can ride to it, play Mortal Kombat to it, I'm sure a lot of my white friends are going to go ham with this when they getting drunk, but also lay it down when they just wanna chill. It has a little bit of everything. But its all Yelawolf. My only problem is, I'm not sold on him yet. But its a good effort, better than I expected, and if someone was to tell me this was their favorite album of the year, I at least think it would be a credible claim, cuz this LP has bangers. Its just that, his style is so distinctive, there is no way it is going to connect with everybody the same way, and a lot of Yelawolf's songs (here and in general, good or bad) just sound like a bunch of noise. He's just not for me at this point.
But don't take my word for it, go buy this album, support this album, and tell me what you think. Is it whurlin? Is it bum? Am I buggin? Is Yela buggin? Will he ever stop looking and dressing like a homeless person? Idk b....
oh yea, the first two tracks did blow me the fuck away yo...that Intro>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>