Every artist has them: the posse, the entourage, the crewmembers, the hangers-on, the yes-men, the down-since-day-one homies, the distant relatives - all of which happen to rap. Eminem has D12, Jay-Z has Memphis Bleek, Ice Cube had Da Lench Mob, the list goes on and on. For some reason, major artists always feel the need to throw these people a bone (or more fittingly, a major label-recording contract), regardless of how talented they actually are. And while much of hip-hop’s incestuous history has been built upon artists putting on other artists, only once in a great while do we see true talent emerge from affiliation. In the case of Tony Yayo’s Thoughts Of A Predicate Felon, that time isn’t now.
Original member of 50 Cent’s infamous G-Unit, ironically Tony Yayo is the last one to get his album out, as each 50, Banks, Buck, and defected member Game, have all had releases preceding Yayo’s debut. Why the delay? Remember those “Free Yayo” t-shirts that were so big a few years ago? It was because Tony Yayo got locked up on weapons charges, unable to join his fellow G-Unit brethren in the spotlight. But Tony’s out now, ready to let the world hear all those raps he wrote in jail. With all that time sitting in the state pen, he’s probably got some fire, huh?
The first clue that he doesn’t comes from the album cover, which curiously borrows the concept from the cover of the first Lifer’s Group album, that is the prisoner (in this case, Tony) holding a mirror from inside the cell, the reflection revealing his face. But, hey, B.I.G. bit Nas’ shit and still made a classic album, so we’ll look past it - and who bought the Lifer’s Group album anyway? The second clue that this album just might suck is when he blatantly jacks the intro from Ice Cube’s The Predator LP (which was borrowed from American Me) - you know the one: “spread your cheeks and give me two good coughs”. But as the dope beat from Domingo kicks in on “Homicide”, let’s put the nerdy 90′s biting accusations behind us and get ready to hear Tony rip it. The first words out of his mouth? “Yo, turn me up in the fuckin’ headphones!” God, has hip-hop become this redundant? Indeed it has, and Tony Yayo’s Thoughts pretty much exemplifies everything that’s wrong with hip-hop today.
Tony Yayo’s production isn’t exceptionally bad, and in all fairness, even if not that well, he can put words together and make them rhyme just like the next guy, the problems is, it’s mostly the voice the gets you down. The mush-mouthed rapper has a hard-time picking a style, let alone a cadence, as he struggles through the album’s massive seventeen tracks. It’s hard to pinpoint what he’s going for when he randomly raps off-beat: “there’s a body, there’s a body, there’s a hole, there’s a hoooole” on “Homicide”. While like most rappers, dude can’t hold a note, he for some reason makes an effort to drive that point home when interpolating New Edition’s “Mr. Telephone Man” (“Eastside Westside”) and Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” (“G-Shit”), except changing the lyrics to make them about DRUGS! Yawn.
For a hardcore dude that’s got a lot of guns and the feds watching him, he sings a different tune when it comes to wooing the ladies. Both “Project Princess” and “Curious” (hardly a good title for a love song from a dude that’s been in jail) are interchangeable summertime-with-the-top-down-bullshit, as is the predictable “Pimpin’”, which confesses he doesn’t really love the hoes. The excruciating “Dear Susie” is yet another female dedication from this hardcore fellow that thanks his prison pen pal. Hey, at least “So Seductive” bangs in the club. Sort of.
Thanks to the strength of the obviously 50-penned “So Seductive”, the album does have a moment or two of merit, but in most every case it’s strengths are drawn from Yayo’s collaborators. While Eminem’s track on “Drama Setter” is of the usual fare, surprising show-stealer Obie Trice kills it, showing much improvement since his debut. Both G-Unit posse cuts, “We Don’t Give A Fuck” and “I Know You Don’t Love Me”, aren’t incredible, but are light years ahead of much of the rest of the album’s monotonous solo offerings.
Sure, some people will find Tony Yayo’s debut entertaining, but this is hardly the next shit. Instead, Tony joins the ranks of Junior Mafia, The Outlawz, The Murderers, and other half-talents with popular friends that you’ve already forgotten about. If street/jail cred makes a good record to you, then disregard this critic’s thoughts of a predictable album.
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