Young Money
We Are Young Money

Beats: XL
Lyrics: L
Originality: L

From the Ruff Ryders’ scattered 1999 debut, Ryde Or Die, Vol. 1, to Shady Records’ inconsistent 2006 effort, Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, collaborative albums created by rapper-helmed labels rarely help break new talent. But despite the trend, We Are Young Money—the first group project from Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment—actually manages to help the YM roster make a solid first impression.

The formula for success here is simple: From the catchy lead singles, “Every Girl" and "Bedrock,” to the clever Friday-inspired “Ms. Parker” to the album’s best effort, the carefully-orchestrated “New Shit,” Wayne appears prominently on everything. And by doing this, he gives you enough reason to listen as he lets the rest of the label shine, too. On “Roger That,” for instance, YM’s female MC Nicki Minaj steals the spotlight, while the label’s crowned jewel Drake flows best on the money-grubbing “Fuck Da Bullshit.” Even New York native Jae Millz drops a few memorable gems on the street-wise “Streets Is Watchin’.” None come close to matching Wayne but they all get opportunities to have their moments.

In fact, the only members of the clique who don’t get their money’s worth are teen rappers Lil Chuckee and Lil Twist. They struggle through the cheesy “Girl I Got You,” which, not coincidentally, is the only song on the album that doesn’t feature Wayne. But the album’s final track, “Finale,” puts We Are Young Money in perspective best as each artist reps their region before Wayne finishes things off by using his verse to explain why each of them belong on the YM team. “Gudda tough, Nellie nice, Nik nasty/Streetz bad, Tyga ill, Drake magic,” he raps. “Millz Harlem, Chuck wild, Twist Dallas/And Mack Maine rap, sang and manage!” Say hello to Lil Wayne’s little friends. —Chris Yuscavage