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Yelawolf – Radioactive – Review

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Yelawolf – Radioactive – Review

In 2011, after years of hard work on the mixtape circuit building a devoted underground following, an XXL Freshman releases his debut studio album with the co-sign of one of the greatest MC’s of all time. Not only does the album receive overwhelmingly positive reviews, it’s better than the release earlier in the year from aforementioned legendary MC. And despite the many notable debut albums to drop this year, this description can only be applied to one rookie. No, not J. Cole. It’s (surprise!) the pride of Gadsden, Alabama: Michael Wayne Atha AKA Yelawolf.

Yelawolf is 31 years old,

which is a ridiculous age for a rapper to be releasing his first album. And he knows it better than anyone. I’d feel dirty if I wrote three paragraphs about this album without using the term “pissed off.” How else can you describe someone who claims to be “the American Eagle” who got “sent to hell and shit on the Devil?” If Take Care is the rare rap album that can be described as beautiful, Radioactive is the equally rare hip-hop disc that can be described as legitimately terrifying.

Don’t be fooled by the Wolf’s seemingly patriotic declaration. The economic state of the working class, especially in Yelawolf’s hometown of Gadsden, comes in for quite a lyrical beating from the (second) best white rapper in the game (spoiler alert: #1 isn’t Mac Miller). “Growin’ Up In The Gutter” tells the story of a little girl who sleeps with “blood drop stains on the twin box springs” after nightly beatings from her father. I made the mistake of listening to this song as I walked home alone late at night and nearly pissed myself when Yelawolf’s distorted chorus came in along with the horror movie guitar chords and attacked the creepy heartbeat-in-a-jail-cell drum machine. “Made In The USA” describes the “manufactured dream” of American living with almost 40 descriptions, maybe two of which you’ve ever heard a presidential candidate use in a stump speech. Also, there’s a track called “Slumerican Shitizen,” which, believe it or not, Yela jacked from JFK’s inaugural address.

Yelawolf deserves applause for the impressive showing he elicits from a roster of guest spots made up of “who-are-they?’s,” “I-forgot-about-them!’s,” and Eminem. “Let’s Roll,” which is a great example of the ONLY way to make “redneck rap,” is easily the best track Kid Rock has appeared on since 1999. It’s not immediately clear why Lil’ Jon shows up on “Hard White,” though I imagine Yelawolf sitting in a studio listening to the track and thinking “yeah this shit is awesome… the only way I could make it any harder is to get Lil’ Jon to yell ‘Up in the club, don’t give a fuck!’ on it like fifteen times… yeah that’s a good idea.” Of the numerous female singers who provide hooks, only one actually appears on any of the ballads that dominate the last third of the track listing. Does “Write Your Name” sound like “Airplanes?” Maybe. Is Yelawolf a significantly better rapper than B.o.B? Yes. I see no problems.

There was a time many years ago, specifically eight years ago, when being Eminem’s protégé automatically made you the Hottest Thing in Hip-Hop. Ask 50 Cent. For whatever reason, however, Yelawolf hasn’t gotten the buzz or airplay that fellow rookies Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, J. Cole or even Mac Miller have enjoyed (Mac Miller? Really? Ugh.) And while Yelawolf’s debut may sell fewer copies than his fellow Freshmen’s, there’s little question in my mind that Radioactive makes him 2011’s Rookie of the Year

Yelawolf – Let’s Roll ft. Kid Rock (Official Music Video)

Yelawolf – Hard White (Up In The Club) ft. Lil Jon (Official Music Video)

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