Yelawolf’s road to stardom wasn’t paved in gold. The Alabama native trudged through back roads, dark clubs and, at times, a whiskey-induced haze, to make his way to the top. On his proper debut, Radioactive, Wolf combs deep into his past experiences, backed by slick production by way of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Diplo and Jim Jonson, among others, to twist a tale that’s every bit as satisfying as poppin’ the top on a cold one after a long day.
Throughout Radioactive, Yelawolf utilizes a barrage of double-time rhymes over brooding beats with bottom-heavy drums. He impresses on the Fefe Dobson-assisted “Animal,” a pocket of lyrical bravado. “Trashy White, pass the mic, Yeah I’m doing em dirty,” he spits over the bouncing synths. “Fists start pumping when I’m in the lights, like I’m rapping in Jersey.” On the menacing “Throw It Up” with Eminem and Gangsta Boo, Yela doesn’t yield on the mic. “I got two cars in the yard that don’t run, so why the fuck would I break shit down for you,” he sneers before moving out of the way for Em, who puts on a rhyming clinic. “My, Yelawolf and Gangsta Boo came here to, show you a thing or too/About sign language, middle fingers aimed at you, so we don’t have to scream at you.”
Next to another veteran, Mystikal, Catfish Billy slows his flow, for a measured take on life (“Get Away). Likewise on “Slummerican Shitizen,” with Killer Mike. Here, the two swap stories on depravity and second-class citizenship. “I’m on the sidewalk with this fuckin’ skateboard and these dirty ass jeans,” Yela raps. “I’m the boy that stole a pack of Twinkies And a bottle that’s green.”
Overall, Radioactive is sonically cohesive; in addition to the bigger names, Ghet-O-Vision in-house beatsmiths craft a dynamic set. At times, however, Yela revisits themes, (“Good Girl,” “Hardest Love Song In The World”) and feels like the secondary participant on a number of tracks. But more than not, the album is a standout effort that introduces the full-range of his talents as an MC with crafty songwriting abilities and deft ear for a sonic palette. Hazmat music. —Jayson Rodriguez