Yelawolf – Radioactive | Album Review

Whilst Eminem’s legacy goes beyond being dope for a white guy, many of the follow up Caucasian emcees have unfairly been swallowed into the black hole of not matching up to Slim Shady’s standards. Things just might be about to change, with the emergence of Alabama’s Yelawolf. Possessing not only enough raw talent to carve out two careers but the 31 year old double timer is also having his career guided by the Detroit great. A ferocity in his deliverance plus a mentor in Hip Hop royalty, Radioactive just might contain enough explosive elements to form an album which propels the ‘wolf to meteoric heights of rap’s elite and America’s next musical hero.

Within the first few seconds of the debut, the ominous settings of the “Radioactive Introduction” give a quick preview into what is to be expected from Yela’. The rapper is quick to get things going; with an animated/maniacal tone, Yelawolf’s welcoming address is tinged with dart like punchlines and shocks to keep the listeners grasping to every word.

Although embracing a fiendish way of rhyming, Yelawolf still retracts to a signature styling of those from the southern hemisphere of America. The heavy bounce, slow burning offerings on “Get Away” pens the lofty ambitions of escaping the desolate surroundings, and features Shawty Phatt and the recently released Mystikal to add some extra grit to the fire. Roping in rock superstar Kid Rock to lace vocals on his ode to Alabama, Yelawolf channels a vintage Dirty South flow on “Let’s Roll“, taking listeners on a tour of his beloved state, resulting in a potential crossover hit.

Although it’s the flow which outshines his lyrical offerings, Yelawolf gives spectacular performances which bounce all over the often dirty instrumentals on hand. The Lil JonHard White (Up In The Club)” is a surprisingly solid offering considering the cliched ‘club boss’ motif has been stale since 2002.

But the most sought after feature, the anticipated and most expected collaboration with Eminem fortunately births arguably the definitive highlight of Radioactive; “Throw It Up,” which also features fiery female rapper Gangsta Boo, takes a rather mellow piano serenaded WillPower production and is pummelled mercilessly by the trio’s venomous lyrical onslaughts. Whilst fans are yet again treated to another show stealing performance from Mr Mathers, Yelawolf’s scattergun assault ensures lyrical compliments are shared with the empirical rhymeslayer.

Yela’s narrative mainly remain close to home, lyrically exploring the haunting scenarios present in his home state on the nightmarish “Growing Up In The Gutter” as well as proudly boasting of his redneck, tatted up demeanour which is alien to Middle Class America on “Slumerican Shitizen” (with Killer Mike). When constructing more ‘universally’ appealing material, the results are varied. The ghetto romantic “The Hardest Love Song In The World” is carried out with few flaws, whilst the 8-bit, dirty bass bomb that is “Animal” is a raucous club erupting anthem.

But when opting for the all too familiar stylings of others, the momentum drops significantly. “Radio” bears many similarities of the radio friendly, Hip Hop-meets-blues constructions of Eminem. With a forlorn chorus and a tame Yelawolf giving a mellow performance, it is all too familiar to tracks like “Beautiful” and “Space Bound.” The most obvious resemblance, and arguably the most disappointing track on the project, is the Justice League produced “Write Your Name” which sounds like a demo of Rick Ross‘ “Aston Martin Music.” Add that to another uninspired rap performance and it results in a track which easily could have been left off for something from a previous mixtape.

Whilst the formula at times dissolves into patchy, unwanted material, Radioactive is constructed with all the right components to define the ‘wolf as one of the most promising acts to date. Instead of being weighed down by the burdens of being affiliated with Shady, Radioactive celebrates all of the punk-meets-rap-meets rock attributes of the XXL Freshman, who, if for a few moments, remains comfortably in his distorted surroundings. Yelawolf is a refreshing, easy on the ear emcee, whose enigmatic performances only resemble his elder influence’s style in the passion evoked in them. Should a transformation occur and the southern state repper is refined and repackaged to appeal to the masses, Radioactive will be fondly remembered for its resistance to chasing instant success and instead letting the inner lyrical beast run ragged for some time.

Yelawolf – Radioactive
Released: November 21, 2011
Label: Shady Records/Interscope
Buy: iTunes UK / iTunes US / Amazon UK / Amazon US

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