Ever since the signing of super group Slaughterhouse and the up and coming Yelawolf to Shady Records, many hip hop fans were expecting a new era to emerge in the industry. Dubbed Shady 2.0, the MC’s wasted no time beginning their dynasty by featuring Slaughterhouse on a bonus track for Eminem’s highly acclaimed Recovery album, as well as releasing a track featuring the 6 rappers titled 2.0 Boys. Now after the success of the Bad Meets Evil album and a show stealing cypher at the BET Awards, the Shady crew looks continue its dominance with the release of Yelawolf’s debut album, Radioactive.

Production: 8.8

One of the things I most looked forward to in the SH/Yela signing was the excellent production the Shady affiliation would get Yela and the Four Headed Monster. With the majority of the production coming from Will Power, Radioactive is one of the best sounding albums this year. The album starts out very aggressive, tracks like the “Radioactive Introduction,” “Hard White (Up in the Club),” and “Growin Up in the Gutta” show the aggressive energy that Yela’s long time fans know all too well. The second half of the album, however, is almost a complete 180 degree turn from the beginning. As the songs get more introspective and more content influenced, the beats slow down and show a side many people didn’t not know Yela possessed. I could even see tracks like “Animal,” “Let’s Roll,” “Write Your Name” and, of course, “Radio” getting decent radio play. Standout Tracks: “Radioactive Introduction,” “Get Away,” “Made In the USA,” “The Last Song.”

Lyrics: 8.5

The majority of the songs have Yela spittin’ his signature fast, high pitch flow. While he has a ways to go till he can compete with his fellow Shady 2.0 members, Yelawolf is definitely in the top percentile of MC’s in the game. Many casual listeners may mistake him as just a more redneck Slim Shady, but his Alabama influenced style is much more gritty, while still precise and fluid. I think my initial disappointment with the album as a whole came from the expectations set by the first track, “Radioactive Introduction.” I could feel my jaw literally dropping as the warning siren faded into an emergency broadcast which transitions into a soft, monotone Yelawolf, which is gradually joined and then replaced by his signature flow. Except for the intro no other tracks really knocked my socks off lyrically. Not saying they weren’t good, just not near as good as the intro. Standout Tracks: “Radioactive Introduction,” “Get Away,” Eminem and Gangsta Boo assisted “Throw it Up,” “The Last Song”

Songs/Content: 9.2

Easily the highlight of the album – the diversity of tracks as well as the number going out of Yelawolf’s comfort zone are what makes this album so good. It has lyrical tracks, songs for girls (“what ya mean… for like bitches?” – “nah girls, like love songs….bitches like love songs” <- dead.), clubs songs, radio friendly tracks, introspective joints, tracks with social commentary, its got just about every type of track you could think of. I’m not a big fan of  “Slumerican Shitizen” or “Radio,” but I do not think they hinder the album in any way, they’re just not my cup of tea. While we all would have loved to see a Slaughterhouse feature on the album, the features that it does have are not disappointing. With appearances from the likes of Kid Rock, Eminem, Mystikal, Killer Mike and even Gangsta Boo (as well as numerous small name female singers), Yela found a good balance with his guest appearances. Standout Tracks: “Lets Roll” feat. Kid Rock, “Growin Up in the Gutter” feat. Mystikal & Shawty Fatt, “Made in America,” “The Hardest Love Song in the World,” “Everything I Love the Most.”

Conclusion: 8.9

This album is – in my opinion, one of the top 5 albums of 2011 and tied with Cole World as the best debut album of not only this, but the past few years as well. While the album is far from perfect and probably not a classic, it is still a very solid album. I believe Yela not only met, but surpassed the expectations of those who have been following his career in the rap game. He’s one of those artists that isn’t for everybody, but fan or not you have too respect his talent and work ethic. While I can only guess how well Radioactive will sell, I know most hip hop heads will enjoy this album. The only thing that I’m interested to see is if Yelawolf will catch the same virus Stat Quo, Obie Trice and Bobby Creekwater caught. My gut tells me no, but you never know in hip hop.

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Yelawolf’s Radioactive is available for purchase on iTunes now.