Review Summary: Potential for greatness absolutely obliterated by lazy production and terrible guest-spots.
I first heard Yelawolf on last year’s critically successful album from Big Boi, Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty
. He appeared on a track called ‘You Aint No DJ’ and I was struck by his relatively unique delivery and clever lyricism. Furthermore, that song, and his spot in it, was hilarious and full of a light-hearted attitude which led me to believe that he didn’t take himself too seriously (which is very important for me in enjoying hip-hop). A little bit of research revealed that the featured artist was an up-and-coming star in the hip-hop world, and his big label debut was set to be released in 2011. Radioactive
quickly became one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
To cut right to the chase (as if you hadn’t gathered this already from the rating at the top of the page): Radioactive
is a massive disappointment. It’s not that Yelawolf’s skill has decreased or that his rapping is no longer clever or fun. In fact, Yelawolf’s raps on this album are great for the most part. His signature delivery is as quick and accented as one would expect, and much of the lyricism is clever and catchy, again, as was expected. No, the problem with this album is that just about everything else is absolutely abysmally executed. The beats are predictable and uninventive and the production makes the album sound watered-down and gives it that dreaded “over-produced” feeling. A lot of artists experience this problem with their major-label debuts, and so I was not entirely surprised by it, though it was disappointing to hear.
But what turns this album from an average, watered-down but still decent product, into the overblown mess that it is, is the absolutely awful guest-spots. Just glancing at the tracklist before playing the album should make the listener see red flags. Kid Rock? Lil’ Jon? Fefe Dobson? These are strange choices to be sure, and I’ve listed but a few. But we must not judge a book by its cover; there is of course the chance that these artists actually bring something positive to the album. However, upon giving the album a few proper listens, my worst fears about the selection of featured artists were realized. Kid Rock’s part is typical country-rap that offers nothing fresh or exciting. Fefe Dobson’s part sounds like a rejected Avril Lavigne b-side over a simple hip-hop 101 beat and the result is nothing short of cringe-worthy. And then there’s Lil’ Jon’s song, quite possibly the lowlight of this entire mess of an album. ‘Hard White (Up in the Club)’ sounds like a parody of Lil’ Jon and his clichéd catchphrases. While listening to the chorus, it seems as if they put no effort into making the song sound original or good at all. I mean, if your idea of a good rap song is hearing Lil’ Jon yelp “UP IN THE CLUB, DON’T GIVE A FUCK
” four times in a row, then by all means, this is right up your alley. I don’t think I’m making a huge leap though when I suggest that most people will not be impressed by this. These are only a few examples of terribly executed guest spots ruining what would be an otherwise tolerable album; I could continue to list the various disasters sprinkled through this album, but that would be almost as tedious as giving this monstrosity a full listen (which takes nearly an hour for some reason).
It really is a shame because Yelawolf is a young artist bursting with potential. Like I previously mentioned, his rapping is mostly great, which is what one would expect. There are times when I find myself beginning to groove to certain verses on this album, like his first on ‘Throw It Up,’ but as soon as I’m getting into the zone and starting to enjoy what I’m hearing, a cheesy chorus or obnoxious guest-spot appears and ruins the mood. Yelawolf and his producers went so over-the-top in the making of this album that anything enjoyable is ultimately overshadowed by cliché production techniques and gimmicky interludes. For an example of this, see the incredibly tacky skit with Eminem at the end of ‘Throw It Up’ in which Eminem tells Yelawolf that the one thing missing from the album is “a song for girls, a love song, bi
tches like love songs.” What’s worse is that the next song is exactly that! It’s a “love song” that seems unsure whether it wants to take the genuine and sweet approach or the hard gangster angle. The result is, yet again, a gimmicky mess.
Very likely this album is simply a case of a young artist’s talent and vision being compromised by the wishes of his new bosses to make an album that can relate to the general public at every possible level, or something. If this is the case, I still see hope in Yelawolf’s future. He is no doubt a skilled rapper and his flow is pretty unique and has the possibility of appealing to a large number of hip-hop fans. Producing a great album is within his reach, but this isn’t it. Yelawolf needs to learn about some quality control and cut down on the eye-roll inducing gimmicks and poorly executed guest-spots, and maybe his next album will be worth a serious listen or two. For now though, Radioactive
is one of the most overproduced and tacky hip-hop albums I’ve heard in a long time, and one of the biggest disappointments of the year.