Bankroll Empire
Bankroll Empire

At this point, you should know that anything Young Thug is involved in when it comes to music will revolve around him. His star power is too burgeoning to be ignored now, his rockstar status too radiant. He can't be overshadowed on a track because he's doing things no other rapper can do. That alone makes him the center of attention.

So it is on Bankroll Mafia, the debut album from the sprawling crew of rappers under T.I.'s wing. It was released independently, seemingly in order to skirt any problems with label hold ups that Tip or Thugger might have and despite it being a little too long with 17 tracks, the project works in ways that it shouldn't on paper.

Members like Shad da God, London Jae and PeeWee Roscoe, who hold important roles within the group but don't have as much exposure as Thug or T.I. to the public, play their roles extremely well on the LP. There's a five-song stretch in the middle where Thug is nowhere to be found and though the project plateaus around here, tracks like "My Bros" and "No Color" showcase how each member knows their strength and sticks to it. In fact, despite Thug's headlining presence, Bankroll Mafia is really a showcase for Shad, as he's featured on 16 of the album's 17 tracks while Thug is only on seven songs.

But even on less than half of the songs, Thug's sonic power still looms over every one. Take "Hyenas," the album opener. He's the first voice heard on the project, his melody sets the tone for one of the best tracks featured and he has one of his strongest hooks he's delivered in quite some time. At the latter end of the album, Thugger moonwalks all over his "WCW" verse with a clear, enunciated style, which we rarely get from him.

T.I. adds a couple of crucial hooks, including the excellent closer "Bankrolls on Deck" and guests like 21 Savage, Quavo and the late Bankroll Fresh make for excellent cameos. The production is also diverse and dynamic, thanks to key contributors like Wheezy and Isaac Flame, letting rappers skate freely or bear down on the beat.

At first glance, Bankroll Mafia shouldn't work -- too many names without enough star power to carry an album that's over an hour long. But the more time you spend with it, the more you learn the eccentricities of every member in the crew. They each contribute with a sensitivity to the next one's style, allowing room for each other while still letting themselves mark their territory. It's the way these puzzle pieces fit into the larger picture that makes the album such an enjoyable listen.

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