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Young Money Shines A Spotlight On Their Roster In ‘Rise Of An Empire’

Quite a bit has changed since the massive success of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III pushed his Young Money roster into the public eye. His Canadian protégé became exactly who we thought he’d be: a colossally accomplished Billboard regular blurring the lines of rap, pop, and R&B into a millennial culture soup; his female doppelganger proved to be as enterprising as she is adept sharing his knack for eccentricity; and the rest of his cast confirmed their roles as bottom tier placeholders just getting in where they fit in. The Young Money camp is perhaps the most clear cut platform for rap classism simply because it cartoonishly juxtaposes its elite, A-list stars next to its bottom feeders. However, there has been a growing disparity between the two ranks as the individual brands of the household names begin to mash the Young Money imprint into insignificance. As the power players seemingly become less involved the role players are left to pick up the slack, and on Young Money’s latest compilation, they are withering beneath the large shadows cast by their contemporary titans of industry. Rise Of An Empire, Young Money Entertainment’s sophomore album, is marred by its lack of star power.

Upon a first listen, it’s easy to cast aside Rise Of An Empire’s blaring issues simply as byproducts of the inherent baggage all compilation albums carry: inconsistency, lack of identity, varied levels of creative control, etc. However, a closer look reveals Rise Of An Empire is just muddled by mid-level talent. The stars shine brightly but their presence is spotty at best. The rest of the roster just doesn’t produce in their absence. While We Are Young Money was a semblance of roughly disjointed but mildly enjoyable posse cuts loaded with artists willing to just make their presence felt, Rise Of An Empire feels almost entirely like an album pitching stand-ins as the next wave of world conquering MCs to no avail. It’s significantly less fun than the first outing and its camaraderie often feels incredibly forced in comparison. The compilation is less about the rise of an empire and more about the comprehensive documentation of its stagnation as a unit.

In the aftermath of the crew’s debut and the success that followed for its star-studded trio of mainstream representatives it’s clear what value the Young Money triumvirate now places on these gatherings: they are a mandatory obligation built to pacify loyalists. Drake makes one appearance. Nicki two. Wayne three (on the standard issue), one of which is rather obviously a Carter V throwaway. Their disinterest is palpable. The bulk of the workload is left for the rest of the crew – Euro, Tyga, Lil Twist, Gudda Gudda, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine – and it’s not that they succumb to the pressure its more so a matter of them being ill prepared to shoulder a burden of this magnitude. They don’t possess the collective charisma required to fill the void left by three of rap’s indomitable personalities.

Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire isn’t without brief moments of genius, however. Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin’ Ass Nigga,” a sharp critique on male ego; Drake’s “Trophies,” the boisterous Hit-Boy-produced loosie that crept into the fold; and Lil Wayne’s “Moment,” a sing-songy return to form, all showcase what makes each aforementioned artist such a tour de force. XXL Freshmen alums Lil Twist and YG link for “One Time,” which feels rather derivative of the DJ Mustard wave surging through urban radio right now, and it’s infectiousness is anchored by the rather steady Tyga verse sandwiched in between. “Senile” is far and away the best thing the album has to offer, and it molds itself in the image of We Are Young Money’s stellar “Roger That,” serving up yet another devastating Tyga/Nicki/Wayne combo. Its chemistry is refreshing. Despite the highlights, though, Rise Of An Empire simply cannot muster enough to save itself from its aptitude deficiency.

Young Money has been divided into two factions: the mega stars and the emerging artists still searching for their place within the musical landscape. With Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake growing increasingly distant from the collective these compilation albums are going to become increasingly less interesting, and the filler artists left to pack them will most likely fade into obscurity. Rise Of An Empire doesn’t carve out a lane for its lesser-known artists to excel it simply reminds us that Young Money’s pillars have outgrown the brand. Without them, the brand is a shell of itself.—Sheldon Pearce

  • HipHopHead999

    I agree that it needed more Wayne, a bit more Nicki and a LOT more Drake… He didn’t even sing a hook on a song besides his lone track… Euro is a decent newcomer but they should have let Caskey hop on some joints, replacing Lil Twist would have been great.

  • FeelSorry4YMSpittas

    In all honesty they fkd up with this one. I don’t think they showcased Euro as much as they could have, like he had some sick lines but nothing that makes me want to go out and search him and plus there isnt much on youtube anyways.

    Lil Twist did good one One Time and I think he should stick to singing more than rapping like Chris Brown and just do club songs and songs for chicks. They should’ve had PJ Morton do his thing and write and produce a song for Twist and one for Shannel instead of putting him with rappers and kind of ruining PJ’s Talent.

    As for the rappers Young Money has enough power and money you think they’d be able to hook up some of their rappers like Cory Gunz, Gudda, and Flow with rappers that they might do good with.

    I could honestly see Schoolboy Q and Cory Gunz making some dark ass bangers. Hook up Flow with Mac Miller and his drugger out crew to branch out into. If Gudda worked on singing or whine singing like Wayne he could be sort type Kevin Gates.

    I just don’t understand how Wayne has all these true ass spitters like Cory Gunz, Gudda, Millz, and Short Dawg who isn’t even on the album and he don’t try and hook em up with hot rappers out right now. South is making a rise go put Short Dawg on with KRIT or Killa Kyleon. Go hook up Chance the Rapper with Shannell’s singing ass for some songs. Too much wasted talent on Young Money.

    And someone tell Mack to tell YM too stop using their garbage club beats. Real rap is coming back if they didn’t know.

    • Eric Diep

      You can read up on Euro here, man. http://www.xxlmag.com/rap-music/2014/03/the-come-up-euro/

      Totally agree with your assessment on Young Money. Jae Millz and Meek could do some damage on a track too. It’s time these guys break some new stars and not rely so much on Drizzy, Nick and Tyga.

      • FeekSorry4YMSpittas

        I agree. And I don’t understand there thoughts on Short Dawg both major songs, Me and My Drank and Pass the Dutch did prettty good for being Short Dawg’s first mainstream songs. Ab-soul, Bun B, Z-Ro havea all made songs with him. They should just put him on some more current southern rappers. Like if Wayne fk with 2 Chainz so much why he haven’t had em link up. 2 Chainz may suck but if you give him just a verse on a sick ass beat he’ll add hype to his song and get his name out there. I don’t know though maybe Wayne just don’t need the money haha don’t wanna invest in rap no more.

      • NYCkthechef

        Jae Millz and Meek Mill, both Mills both ex battle rappers, they’d lay some serious bars. Jae Millz and Busta on some 90s shit for another track. Cory Gunz and Schoolboy on some bangers for sure. Cory and Ferg would be another good link up.

  • Cocaine Howie

    yall still listen to YMCMB?