Artist: Tony YayoTitle: Thoughts of a Predicate FelonRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Houston Williams
Tony Yayo can set the tone of an album.
“Ain’t nobody talkin’ when I’m talking fellas so shut the f**k up,” barks a prison corrections officer in Any Jail, U.S.A. In the intro to Thoughts of a Predicate Felon (G-Unit/Interscope), the G-Unit soldier’s first album, Yayo courses through a person’s introduction to a stretch in jail from a full cavity search to being stripped of all personal items.
From the first track, the Domingo-produced “Homicide,” the G-Unit enforcer paints haunting imagery of the blood splattered streets of New York. But, with the pressure of following in the sales successes of 50 Cent, Young Buck and The Game, it begs the question – can Yayo maintain?
When Yayo acts as the gruff, brutal and seasoned thug that he seems to be, he crafts nothing but hood hits. This is proven on songs like “Homicide,” the Eminem-produced “Drama Setter,” “G-S**t and “Live by the Gun,” which uses Dr. Dre’s dramatic backdrop. On “Drama Setter,” which features Eminem and Obie Trice, Yayo spits, “I’ll poke you man I’m Riker’s Island Pokemon/I got C.O.’s bringin me filet mignon/ But now a n#### home looking frail in a drop/With a b#### shotgun that’s inhaling the c###/I got rocks on my neck the size of bottle tops/And got glocks in the Lex so we ride behind cops.”
Other joints like “Love My Style” give G-Unit something that typically escapes Lloyd Banks or Young Buck, but that’s a niche that makes Yayo unique in the group. He’s not afraid to scream his ad libs. Hell, he’s even doing a 2005 version of the Flavor Flav dance on stage. Yayo is no overblown hypeman, but his does bring the vigor of one.
With all the jail imagery in the album art of Thoughts, one might wonder why there are so many songs about topics forbidden in jail (like women, weed and more women). Obviously, the subject matter is almost mandatory in this particular era of rap. Nevertheless, this is where the tone of Yayo’s debut goes flat. There are roughly three straight R&B/Hip-Hop songs that detract from Thoughts of a Predicate Felon and what is otherwise a solid effort. Songs like “Pimpin” are actually catchy, but lose strength when preceded by street bangers like “We Don’t Give a F**k.” Sonically, producers like MegaHertz, DJ Khalil, Studio, Havoc of Mobb Deep and Punch give Yayo all that he could ask for in beats.
Tony Yayo isn’t the best lyricist in the G-Unit, but he’s got a certain charisma that goes with experience and raw street aggression. What he may lack, he more than makes up for in personality. He’s certainly most comfortable bawling obscenities at Fat Joe than he is schmoozing with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. But, that’s why he is the capo to 50’s mob boss position. Thoughts of a Predicate Felon is a worthwhile debut, but Yayo will need to think of a different lane to speed in if he wants his career to take flight.