Rise of an Empire is a peculiar name for an album when your empire is seemingly plateauing. That’s not meant as a diss. Young Money Cash Money Billionaires have two of the only four platinum hip hop artists since 2006 (Drake and Nicki Minaj) and their commander in chief Lil Wayne is one of the most prolific emcees of the 2000s. Young Money is kind of like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They just had the best regular season record of all time, won the NBA Championship, and all of this is following Michael’s hiatus from the NBA, proving that Jordan is just inherently better at basketball than everyone. YMCMB aren’t plateauing because their artists are wack, it’s just that they’ve already won the championship. Nicki just came back from “American Idol” and she’s feasting on all other emcees. How can you be rising when your already the champs?
Well, on Rise of an Empire the goal is to let the role players get some playing time. With Drake, Nicki, and Tunechi only getting one solo track each (which were all released prior to the album dropping) the bench has the opportunity to flex their lyrical skills, or lack thereof. Euro, Lil Twist, and Tyga get featured heavily, and surprisingly enough, Rob Dyrdrek’s homegirl, Chanel West Coast, even hops on “Hittin Like” with Shannell (two completely different Chanels/Shanells by the way, YMCMB is cornering that piece of the game). This may sound like a disappointment at first. I mean, Chanel West Coast, for real? Yes, it’s real and it’s not that terrible.
The role players do their jobs without Young Money’s three heavyweights. On “One Time,” Lil Twist, Tyga, and YG keep it wavy with an incredibly pertinent and catchy hook (“I’ma mack on this hoe, one time / Mack on this motherfucking hoe one time“) Then there’s “Induction Speech,” Euro’s solo track, which features his signature I’m-kind-of-rapping-but-really-just-speaking-a-tad-off-beat flow, and quite frankly that shit’s hot as fuck. Euro proves that rappity-rap is overrated and talkity-talk is pretty ill, on occasion.
The greatest achievement without the holy trinity of YMCMB is “Fresher Then Ever.” With a total of five rappers on the track (Gudda Gudda, Jae Millz, Flow, Mack Maine, and Birdman,) it’s really a joint sermon on how fresh YMCMB is with a crazy beat. All rappers kill their respective verses but Mack Maine goes berserk, something I never thought I’d say, making it the rarest track of 2014.
I need the cover of the Forbes before I leave my corpse / Streets say that I’m abusive, I always whip the Porsche / You ain’t in the streets you just jumped off the porch / You’s a sidewalk nigga, for that sidetalk nigga / I’ll barbecue your ribs when the fire spark nigga / And tonight I’m in the six I left the five parked nigga / I smoke that Tokyo until a nigga look Asian / Bitch I ball hard. Sugar Slim my sports agent / Young Paul George. I’m Indiana Pacing.
That verse reads like something my man Drizzy would pen, illustrating that YMCMB’s bench players are taking pointers from the starters. You may be upset that there’s only one Drake song on Rise of an Empire, but after listening to the album through a few times you’ll hear Drake in a lot of these tracks.
If you saw the tracklist for Rise of an Empire and thought that it was underwhelming I completely understand. I felt the exact same way. But before you write off YMCMB’s sophomore release, just play it through on Spotify and see if you don’t end up running back at least three or four tracks that aren’t Drake, Nicki, or Wayne. Rise of an Empire proves the bench can definitely play some minutes, and Young Money’s reign ain’t over yet.