Review: Young Money, 'Rise Of An Empire'
Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will
It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening. Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid. There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess. Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”. Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!
“We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly. On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.” Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea. Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”). Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.” Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!
“Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake. If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks. “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’. The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either. All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done. Contextually, it is better than the opener. But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?
“Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job. Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here. Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome. Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson. Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money. Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs. True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.
“Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work. In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.
Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”. Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.” So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up. Fair enough. Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is. Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.
“One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG. What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will. Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks. Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.
Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice. Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!
“Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine. Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$. Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!” Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”. Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”). Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever! I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.
“Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation? Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!
“Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL. Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”). On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).
“You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton. Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes. Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about. Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.
So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album. Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate. Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation. Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.
“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”
Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014