youngbuck.jpgIn a climate where rap albums sell like opera tickets in the hood, 50 Cent’s regime has been one of the hardest hit. The once-Teflon tough army is now crucified over anything less than a million units sold. After the unimpressive numbers posted by Mobb Deep and Lloyd Banks, the pressure falls on Young Buck, who has the distinction of being the next G-Unit member in line to drop a full-length.

Unlike his brethren, Buck seems immune to nearly all G-Unit bashing. Perhaps it’s his penchant for sticking it to haters at awards shows that commands respect, but smart money would credit his gimmick-free music. Never overly lyrical or progressive, Buck covers true-to-life topics in a manner reminiscent of Pac, because of the amount of emotion he allows to leak out the speakers. But when fans heard the poppy, Jazze Pha–laced “I Know You Want Me” as a buzz setter, Buck wasn’t exactly positioning his crucial follow-up, Buck the World, for a warm welcome. Fortunately, that was not a sign of what was to come.

Eager to prove he’s more than up for the challenge, the Southern soldier comes out swinging right from jump. “You know what we do if you snitch, what we do to tattletales/Cut off your bottom lip, send it to you in the mail,” he warns on the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League–produced heater “Buss Yo Head,” a riotous symphony of sweeping electric guitars and organ strikes. The animosity continues on the chest-beating “Clean up Man,” a scathing letter to all G-Unit naysayers, and once again over the choir-chant goth of “Say It to My Face,” a monstrous collaboration with Bun B and 8Ball & MJG. Buck’s anger finally boils over on the lyrical vent session “Lose Your Mind,” where Eminem’s thunderous heavy-metal sound track inspires YB to scream, “It ain’t no stopping me, I’m outta control/Like a nigga locked up that just got outta the hole.”

Buck elevates himself and his music beyond pure griminess by unexpectedly offering up compelling revelations. Over Jake One’s intense organ arrangement on the title track, Lyfe Jennings helps Buck recall his darkest days (“My rent due, baby need food and shoes/I’m dead broke, but still I refuse to lose”). Effective nods toward the opposite sex further prove his versatility, particularly on the Dr. Dre–tracked “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” But it’s Buck’s introspection that truly opens eyes (and ears). With producer Doc’s rapid-fire keys sounding like a funeral procession on acid, the bleak “Slow Your Roll” is a moving platform for Young B to draw his personal curtain: “Just when you think my life getting better, my auntie just find out she got AIDS/It’s fucked up, ’cause her life’s gonna end/And it’s fucked up twice, she gonna die in the pen.”

In his quest to win, Buck Marley is a bit overzealous. With 19 tracks worth of material, he leaves the window open for a few filler tracks. For instance, “Dead or Alive,” featuring a generically raucous Three 6 Mafia instrumental, basks in forgettable tough-guy talk, while the sophomoric “Money Good” matches a bland Lil Jon beat with B-level raps. And the generic “Puff Puff Pass” is yet another weed anthem. But with barely a handful of blanks in this extended clip, Buck puts the spotlight back on the Unit and fires a shot that will be heard around the world. —MATT BARONE