Yelawolf – Radioactive [Review]

From his first appearance on TV in 2005 on Missy Elliot’s reality show to being one of the XXL Freshmen of 2011 to signing with the biggest rapper in the world shortly after, it’s clear Yelawolf’s career is going from strength to strength. Now even though Radioactive isn’t officially his debut he still has a lot to prove now he’s in the limelight more then ever. Let’s see how he goes…

1. Radioactive (Intro)
Produced by WillPower
Cue the creepy recording of a PSA about a nuclear attack on North America from North Korea. Let slow tempo begin and allow Yela to spit bars and here you have the intro. Even though the song’s flow is very slow compared to Yela’s normal rapid-fire flow it’s a great way to ease the listener into the album. Since things are slowed right down Yela’s lyrical skill is shown in full effect.

I’m hotter then the bottom side of a whistlin’ kettle/They threw a mountain at me, I got hit with a pebble/They sent me to hell and I shit on the devil

Not to forget the gem of a line:

Fuck you ‘til you can’t take a shit!

2. Get Away
Featuring Shawty Fatt & Mystikal; Produced by Phonix Beats
Phonix Beats speeds the tempo a little bit to get Yelawolf fired up on this one. Thought it was a little early in the album to already have two features but it still works. All three MCs do their thing and do it with aggression. Plus how crazy is it that Mystikal is featured? This is probably the first song I’ve heard that features Mystikal since his release from prison. Pretty awesome track.

3. Let’s Roll
Featuring Kid Rock; Produced by The Audibles, Mr. Pyro
Take this track as Yela’s welcome to his part of the world (The South for the people who didn’t already know). It’s great to hear a MC repping where they’re from to the fullest. We’re treated to hearing about pick up trucks, D-boys, 808’s, car races, and a mix of white trash delights. Yela’s enlists none other than Kid Rock himself to hold down the chorus. Bump this if you’re about to show up to a white trash party.

4. Hard White (Up In The Club)
Featuring Lil’ Jon; Produced by Tha Hydrox

…They’re so quick to compare me/But fuck the critics wit’ a spiked dick when it can fit barely!

Wooooo! Even though this beat is generic and features Lil’ Jon don’t think that this is another radio song. Sure it’s aimed at the clubs. Come on, labels need to promote the albums they’re paying money to make. But Yela doesn’t let that sacrifice his lyrical ability. The subject isn’t all that deep but it’s still great to hear lyrics on the radio again. Yela’s talent is put on display, a first single is achieved, and without letting multi-syllable lyrics go out the window. Plus deep down you know it’s good to hear Lil’ Jon on just one radio song again for old times sake.

5. Growin’ Up In The Gutter
Featuring Rittz; Produced by WillPower
The beat sounds like it should be played in the club but the subject matter says different. Spat in a creepy, slow, whisper Yela starts the song with the telling of a story of an abused girl. Rittz comes in for the second verse extending his tales of living below the poverty line. Things become more personal in the last verse with Yela opening up about past experiences. You could look at this track as Nirvana meets Lil’ Jon mixed with Eminem.

6. Throw It Up
Featuring Gangsta Boo & Eminem; Produced by WillPower
Speaking of which, look who’s features on the next song. It’s surprising how White Dogg (Em’s nickname for Yela) can manage to keep his rapid flow intact over a beat that’s somber as the anniversary of 2Pac’s death. WillPower’s dark piano and thumping bass manage to compliment each other. Gangsta Boo does her thing in the middle of the song while Slim rounds out the song with his current speedy flow. His verse is nothing spectacular and seems like a leftover from the Bad Meets Evil album. Still it’s good to see the Shady Records CEO getting behind his artist. Plus check the skit at the end of the song. Pretty funny shit.

7. Good Girl
Featuring Poo Bear; Produced by The Audibles
After listening to this song a few times I have a feeling The Audibles were aiming at Drake as a potential buyer of the beat and hook. This is Yela’s “ride or die chick” anthem. He slows down his flow to kick game to the bad girls trying to be good. This is a new side of Mr. Wolf that maybe the fans weren’t expecting but I don’t think this is being aimed at the radio (Famous last words). Just seems like a new subject is trying to be touched on, not necessarily an attempt at radio play. Not the greatest track on the album but at least there’s a track you can play while you’re riding around with ya girl.

8. Made In The U.S.A.
Featuring Priscilla Renea; Produced by Emanuel Kiriakou & Blaqsmurph
Seems like it’s one anthem after the other. Now this one if for the working class listeners. From the sound in his voice it’s obvious this topic means a lot to Yela so you know the gusto is brought. Plus it would seem more fitting for Em to feature on this track more then the previous one he was on. Especially coming from a place like Motor City. Regardless Yelawolf does his thing to the extreme while Pricilla Renea does her best Rihanna impression for the hook and bridge. Here’s some of Yela’s great lyrics:

We some gun toting, church going
Eighteen wheel rolling
Bag slangin, flag waving
At the dinner table praying
Old school yard fighting
Beer drinking, hell-raising
Hard working, blue collar
Earn it all, due paying
Illegal weed smoking
Dope cooking dirt dealers
On the corner Bible preachers
Hollywood dream seekers
Money what I’m swimmin in
Rock and roll all the time
Straight from the assembly line

The only problem with the song is that it’s too short.

9. Animal
Featuring Fefe Dobson; Produced by Diplo & Borgore
Things seem to start off a bit slow and melodic but of course that’s just a teaser. The beat goes into full throttle along with Yela’s lyrics. The beat reminds me something Jay-Z & Kanye could have used for Watch The Throne but this is very much Yelawolf’s track. As the beat builds so does his pace. A lyrical marathon if there ever was one.

10. The Hardest Love Song In The World
Produced by WillPower
Man, the song title alone should put a smile on your face. For the second time on this album we get another ride or die chick anthem. Either one could have been used but probably not both. Since this one is second in line the skip button could get the dust wiped off it.

11. Write Your Name
Featuring Mona Moua; Produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League
Holy hell this sounds so much like Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music”. Of course the subject matter is completely different but I can’t help but make the comparison. That aside it’s cool to hear Yela’s style vary from song to song. Things are slowed right the funk down while the subject matter delves into things like family matters, teen pregnancy, and middle class angst. Yela is just rapping about what he knows which has to be admired. It’s obvious to see why something like Eminem signed the guy. He doesn’t come off fake or try to talk about things he doesn’t know about and this song proves his honesty.

12. Everything I Love The Most
Produced by WillPower
Ok now this is evidence that Yela has the ability to write a catchy song. Not that he hasn’t proven that before but if there were any doubters out there please vacant the area. This is a song for the good times ahead. If you can’t feel good after listening to this song then I really feel sorry for you bro. Everything about this song is great: The hook, the beat, flow, and lyrics. 10 out of 10.

13. Radio
Produced by Jim Jonsin
Radio is exactly what Yela is aiming at here. Not for radio play but taking shots at what it stands for and what people do to get on it. Plus it aims something close to me, censorship. It’s not exactly a rage filled, spit fest but more like a song questioning radio politics and how easy it is to become famous with modern day internet. It’s basically a song about how there was more focus on talent from an artist instead of controversy and instant success via the net. Ironically guys like Yela are bringing back the idea of a skilled rapper being introduced to the mainstream.

14. Slumerican Shitizen
Featuring Killer Mike; Produced by WillPower
O snap! Who saw this coming? White Dogg and Killa Kill (or is it Mike Bigga???) doing a song together. Either way you know since Mike is on here that the ruckus is brought. Use this song if you’re feeling the pressure of the falling economy or just feel plain fed with the bullshit you’re fed. Just be careful, you may punch your boss after hearing this song. Yela’s aggression is expressed 10 fold with his crazy fast tongue. Mike sums up the theme perfectly saying:

This ain’t even about race! It’s about who got it and who ain’t got it! So if I’m on the bottom and you’re on the bottom, we’re the same color! Dirt fucking poor!

15. The Last Song
Produced by WillPower
To top things off we’re treated to a very personal account of Yelawolf’s life. Seems pretty fitting as a last song right? But it doesn’t come off as a cliché, which I think Yela realized is a trend with the naming of this song. It comes off as an authentic story of going through hardships and growing up from those experiences. Yela needs to be appaualed for this honesty. He could have made another wildin’ out track over a crunk beat but instead got WillPower to provide him with some cloudy keys which Yela matches with stories of his family blues.

Yeah I was only ten but I felt like a man and I had to let you go
All I wanted was for us to be rich, tear drops in my cereal bowl
So I turned into an asshole young and dumb smoking weed
Vandalizing, robbing houses, stealing cars, that was me
But everything I did I had to see
Feel the pain, had to grieve
To become who I am and I’m proud of the man I came to be
What I’ve learned cannot be taught
What I’ve earned cannot be bought
Justified deserve it all
So don’t be concerned it’s not your fault
I never counted sheep I count my blessings

Bottom Line:
Now it’s not like Yelawolf has reinvented the wheel here but he has done something else that might be even better, he’s taken things back but still managed to keep his ideas fresh and modern. I can see why he’s made it now; he’s just so damn true to himself and where he’s from.

A song like “Made in the USA” is evidence of Yelawolf’s depth and passion for where he comes from without trying to ham up his image or try to come off as something he’s not. One thing I was anticipating was song after song constantly filled with Yela’s rapid flow. Not to say that sound isn’t good but it could get annoying but lucky for us he slows things down when needed.

The beat selection was right on point and another interesting thing was that race wasn’t mentioned too many times on here and that’s the way it should be. Sure it was cool to hear guys like Em talk about being the odd one out but now it’s 2011 and does anyone really care anymore? Yela knows this so doesn’t push the race card too hard on this album. He just shows and proves.

I know he put two girl tracks on the album when he could have had just one but the other songs out weigh that. Yela is one of the new fresh-faced MC’s that is creating a great example of how to make great songs just from what you know. No fabrication, no filler (Not much anyway). and just straight up no bullshit.

Solid effort. Watch this space.

nappyPicks: “Animal”, “Everything I Love”, “The Last Song”, “Slumerican Shitizen”