yungjoc.jpgBelieve it or not, “hustlin’” used to actually mean selling drugs. Today, it’s just a motivational term rappers arbitrarily toss around. This shift in definition explains why College Park’s crossover king, Yung Joc, with his deep, singsongy flow and mind-numbingly catchy hooks, can feel comfortable naming his sophomore set Hustlenomics. After enjoying the spoils of his platinum-selling debut, New Joc City, and getting Tom Cruise to do the motorcycle dance, Joc splits his follow-up between the pop life and half-hearted assertions of his street cred.

The cartoonish Don Vito–produced lead single, “Coffee Shop,” a song about hustlin’ “by any means,” is Joc’s most whimsical kiddie pop yet, thanks to a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: “Hey, kids, don’t do drugs!” Unfortunately, the Block boy can’t resist trying to play with the big boys on tracks like the predictably menacing “Cut Throat” (featuring The Game and Jim Jones) and the title track, where he deals almost exclusively in drug clichés. Despite his hollow criminal threats, the best defense of Joc’s credibility comes with a lighthearted wink and a smile on the Cool & Dre–produced synth swirl “Play Your Cards” (“I’m sure a lot of niggas wish this life was yours/But since it ain’t, y’all niggas said I can’t/You laughed about my dance, and I walked it out the bank”).

While the painfully formulaic sex tale “Living the Life” oozes unforgivable punch lines (“Call me freaky Jason/Get to stabbin’, man”), Hustlenomics is still replete with irresistible pop. Take the psychedelic club anthem “Bottle Poppin’,” which features Joc and Gorilla Zoe harmonizing with Don P.’s dark melody. “B.Y.O.B.” finds Yung J channeling Lil Wayne’s enunciated flow over the Neptunes’ screeching drum pattern, and on the breezy “Pak Man,” he cleverly trades bars with his helium-voiced inner thug.

Despite his limitations, Joc squeezes by with hip-pop concoctions that make listeners simultaneously bob and shake their heads. Maybe he’s a hustler after all. —BRENDAN FREDERICK