Although Yelawolf has been buzzing in the South since the release of his critically acclaimed Trunk Muzik mixtape (which has since been rereleased on Interscope Records as Trunk Muzik: 0-60), he didn’t capture the attention of most of the U.S. until his show – stealing Cyphers in consecutive years at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Combine that with his union with Eminem and Slaughterhouse, and Yelawolf suddenly has one of the most hyped releases this 4th quarter. With Radioactive, his official first offering from his Shady Records release, Yelawolf seems to be aiming more so for the crossover appeal than the normal trunk-rattling songs that he’s known for.
Don’t get it twisted by any means; Radioactive still has a few songs that resemble his older music, such as “Get Away” (with Shawty Fatt and Mystikal), the speaker-friendly “Hard White” with Lil’ Jon (because you really don’t realize how much bass that song has until you have speakers), and even “Throw It Up” with Gangsta Boo and Eminem. However, most of the songs here are more content-driven than in the past, and they may be what in the end makes or breaks Radioactive.
Songs like “Growin’ Up In The Gutta” and “Made in the U.S.A.” have strong social commentary, from Yelawolf narrating about a girl being exposed to physical contact too early by her stepdad, to illustrating the different facets of life in the United States. The most potent of the bunch comes with an assist from Killer Mike: “Slumerican Shitizen” serves as a sharp, pointed view a little more extreme than the previously mentioned topics, although it’s in the same vein.
Yelawolf never waivers in his flows and seems to mesh with whatever style of beat that the track requires him to (and the production switches heavily throughout Radioactive), and the features are solid as well. Not too many people can say they’ve had Eminem, Gangsta Boo, Kid Rock, Mystikal, and Fefe Dobson on the same album in their lifetime, if any.
However, the amount of chances (ahem, radio singles) that Yelawolf and Shady Records take on this album is almost maddening. There never seems to be a flow to the album, and it comes off as more as a schizophrenic compilation of songs than an actual Shady Records project. Yelawolf is definitely one of the best rappers to come out of Alabama in a very long time, and is one of the best technical rappers I’ve heard in the last few years (check the feature on Travis Barker’s “Let’s Go” for proof of that), but I’m not exactly sure if this is the album that his fans had in mind when he signed with Eminem.
Being from Alabama myself, it’s hard to levy criticism at Yelawolf, since I’m a fan of his music and have been for some time. The fact remains, Radioactive has a couple of incredible songs, but the tracklisting is also full of home-run swings that don’t connect as often as they should, and it’s sure to disappoint some of his fans that wanted more (me included). With the deviation from his older content for the majority of the album, and the awkward mix of songs in general, it’s definitely a different look from Yelawolf that could just as easily lose him fans as quick as they could win them over due to the amount of chances (or, radio singles?) that they take. I guess there’s more than one reason why it’s called Radioactive…
Yelawolf's "Radioactive" debuts November 22 on iTunes and in stores.
K1ng Eljay is the founder of his site, K1ngEljay.com, as well as a contributor to GoWhereHipHop and editor for RapGenius.com. Follow him on Twitter at @K1ngEljay for more.