yU – The Earn | Album Review

DMV-bred emcee yU gained a pretty big following for himself as 1/3 of the group Diamond District along with emcee X.O and producer/emcee Oddisee.  In addition to being a member of the group, yU also released a solo album, Before Taxes, which many believed was one of the best albums of 2010.

Now yU returns to the scene with his sophomore album, The Earn, which is a little more personal and a clear progression for yU as a solo artist.

In an interview with Al Lindstrom, yU explained the progression of the album by saying, “I’m a firm believer in legacy, so the purpose sonically with The Earn was to start where Before Taxes left off, sustain the feeling and then explore new territory.  I’m growing and fine-tuning as a person, MC, and producer, so the sound is reflection of that.  One thing I didn’t want to do was to hit a ceiling where sometimes artists literally put their ALL into their earlier projects, and don’t leave room to grow sound-wise, recording on the best equipment money can buy.”

With that being said, the first track on the album is “Flipping Channels/The EARNtro,” which is the album intro.  After a few sound bites that depict a vintage vibe with clips about time and money, which is a recurring theme throughout the album in one form or another, yU spits a verse about that very idea. 

The intro gives life to the next track, “First.”  The song includes good production laid out by 00Genesis.  Despite the track being short, yU manages to incorporate the word “first” several times throughout the song — becoming a parent for the first time, people gravitating towards his music, his first place, etc., making this a pretty personal track.

On “Bonafide,” yU tells listeners why he is bonafide: “I need quiet.  Peace of mind is a high to me, obviously because I feel driven, like most high’s guiding me, molding me.  Showing me the steps cause’ I was told to reach for the sky, so I do.” On the same track, yU also tells listeners the root of why we are living in these tumultuous times: “Now let me see.  Jealousy, greed, lust, gluttony, hate, envy and doubt.  That ain’t the route that I’m about.”

The first leak from the album, “If U Down” was the first song listeners heard for obvious reasons.  The bassline and piano keys on the track that Slimkat79 and Drew Kid laid out make it a definite highlight not to mention, yU’s intensity on the song that works out perfectly.

With “The Earn,” yU lays out essentially the perfect title track, speaking about working hard to get what he has earned and deserves.  The hook drives home this point: “They’re going to give me what I’m worth, nothing less.  I work hard, plus my bond is my word, you heard? The Earn.  No regrets, breaking a sweat it’s just another lesson learned I’m on the verge, The Earn.  Life’s full of twists and turns, your grips gotta be firm, they’re going try to discourage you from The Earn.  Feeling that burn after doing my reps, I benchpress stress, so yes, the word’s The Earn.” This track gives the perfect introduction to, “Money,” which is again a short track but details the crazy things people will do for a little money, or realistically, the negative effects money has on some people.  The production on this track laid out by Slimkat78 is smooth, yet an epic head-nodder.

“I Believe” is a rather optimistic track telling people to always believe in yourself and what you are doing despite people’s negative opinions.   The lyrics of this song are stellar in particular, “I am a writer with a lighter walking in infinite darkness.  We gotta keep that flame lit, while they talking the same shit.”  Not to mention Duff’s hook, the optimistic appeal of this song is all over this track, definitely an album highlight. 

For “Delay,” yU’s Diamond District counterparts producer/emcee Oddisee and X.O join him.   For this track, yU takes the production credits with Martin McDonald on guitar, and it’s perhaps the most different type of production as it doesn’t sound like anything else on the album or in Diamond District’s discography. However, they sound great on this track.

“Better Man” is that feelgood song, making listeners want to sway back and forth with their loved one drinking some liquor and smoking a cigarette.  An odd visual, however, it has a vintage vibe thanks to the sample, the cuts on the track by DJ 2 Tone Jones and the husky vocals of Duff.  Basically, with this song, yU is detailing how he is on the route to being a better man, which he may not have always been — it’s very mature. 

The album closer, “Highlights of Life Pt. 2,” speaks of what the title alludes to — memories about yU’s life and where he is now.  The production on this song by yU himself makes for a good vibe, and a great closer to an already great album.

Overall, yU has managed to create the perfect sophomore album, and honestly, a great Hip-Hop album.  With this album, yU definitely returns to the roots of hip-hop, which was and should still be, real lyricism.  The production on the album is a very diverse canvas for yU allowing him to paint beautiful pictures with his words.

yU – The Earn
Released: December 6, 2011
Label: Mello Music Group
Buy: ITunes/Amazon