Daily $wagg grades reviews based upon the Grade Point Average scale. Identical to the system used by most schools to measure academic excellence, Daily $wagg grades an album track-by-track on a scale of 0-4 (F-A) then adds them and divides by the number of total tracks leaving an overall average somewhere from 0-4. Albums will also receive grades for Lyrical Preformance (flow, voice, etc.), Lyrical Content (what they rap about), and Production (beats, instrumentals, etc.).
Nearly 2 months ago, up and coming southern rapper Yelawolf dropped his major label debut, Radioactive. Yela, nicknamed Catfish Billy, has been one of the most controversial rappers to throw his hat into the ring within the last year. With high points like opening for Raekwon internationally and opening for Wiz Khalifa’s “Waken Baken” tour and low points like being booed off stage during some of these shows, Yela has undoubtedly garnered the mass’s attention. I mean, when’s the last time you listened to anybody from Gadsen, Alabama rap? Let alone, an underprivileged fatherless Cherokee and Caucasian guy whose spent time as an attempted professional skateboarder and charter fisherman and was birthed when his mother, a bartender, was only 15 years of age attempt to rap? I’ll go out on a limb and guess never. Then, to top all that uniqueness, the godfather of all white rap, Eminem, signed him to his own Shady Records. Maybe, the most interesting figure in rap within the last few years, Yelawolf’s story has intrigued many. With all this attention, Catfish Billy’s (what rapper has ever had a nickname like that?) debut album was looked at as an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong, and cement his spot amongst talented up-comers as more than just a man with an intriguing American Idol-esque sob story as well as chance to avoid the virtual limbo of simply being an interesting but talentless rapper.
While many receptive outcomes were possible, Radioactive has been moderately successful, selling 50,000 copies in its first week and peaking at #27 on the Billboard 100. After listening to Yela’s major label debut 2 or 3 times, the album garnered a 3.39 on Daily $wagg’s GPA grading system. Radioactive was an album I initially slept on. I purchased it on clearance and popped in a buddie’s car as background music thinking it really to be nothing more. However, when I listened deeper into it, Yelawolf’s ability to merge country, hip hop and rap, alternative rock, punk rock, and melodic love ballads all into one cohesive album should be considered nothing less than impressive, even claiming “You’ll never see rock n’ roll do hip hop like I did!” on party anthem, “Hard White (Up in the Club)” featuring Lil Jon. Catfish Billy also hosts a vast cast of featured emcee’s and singers incorporating little name artists such as Shawty Fatt, Rittz, Poo Bear, Priscilla Renea, Fefe Dobson, and Mona Moua mostly for hooks as well as big name legends and rap heavyweights Eminem, Mystikal, Kid Rock, Lil Jon, Gangsta Boo, and Killer Mike. Most of these guest appearances are well placed and succeed barring a few misses. Despite this long list of guests, Yelawolf’s patented flow, some-what an unintentional blend of Twista and Eminem, shines throughout the entire album, making this a fantastic solo effort. Yelawolf’s lyrical performance ranks among the best of 2011. His unique flow combined with his easily identifiable voice makes for an incredible performance as well as his lyrical content. Yela’s lyrical content could be the highlight of the album and maybe even highlight of his career, telling stories about growing up in poor backwoods Alabama, rapping the usual party antics, and even throwing in a few charming and charismatic love songs throughout. Though Radioactive’s production boasts some big names such as the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Jim Jonsin, and Eminem, Catfish Billy tends to be at his best when he sticks to the majority producer, Willpower and other little name producers. Overall, Yelawolf’s performance puts his debut on the cusp of a classic, a very solid start to say the least. Now his only challenge will be his pace of musical output, as the Alabama artist is already 32 years old.