Young Money’s ‘Empire’ needs some restructuring

Star-studded release focuses too much on established hitmakers

With the release of its latest collaborative effort, “Young Money: Rise of an Empire,” the Young Money Entertainment record label has solidified its place in the hip-hop and rap industry. It’s clear from this LP the group of young, talented artists intends to make sure we know their names and their mission as they aspire to be the best gang of rappers and hip-hop artists on the planet — a goal they are well on their way to achieving.

Under the leadership of rap artist Lil Wayne, this rap music collective houses several artists who have topped the charts in the past decade — from Nicki Minaj and Drake to Tyga and Austin Mahone. Though each artist in the collective has pursued solo projects, every few years has brought a reunion and new collaboration. Young Money saw its first big hit in 2009 with smash hit BedRock, a song is similar to what “Mercy” was for Kanye West and his G.O.O.D. Music collective: an extremely prolific rap song with a star-studded roster of rappers to boast.

But with its latest album comes a mixed bag of rap and hip-hop tracks with a few clear standouts. The two front-runners are Trophies, fronted by Drake, and Lookin A** by Nicki Minaj. “Trophies” is an extremely well-written track with equally impressive instrumentals, while “Lookin” marks Minaj’s return to (relative) normalcy — made clear in the music video as she swaps the color pink and the ridiculous makeup and costumes for a real focus on rapping. Her decision to record this track was a smart one.

Other notable songs on the album include “Senile,” led by Tyga, and “Back It Up,” which heavily features Lil Twist.

One of my main issues with the album concerns Young Money’s unequal distribution of talent. Every song released as a single has had the same four headlining artists — giving disproportionate attention to the few megastars in the bunch, who have strong fan bases regardless. Similar to Kanye West’s release with G.O.O.D. Music, which really should have been titled “Kanye West Featuring Lesser Artists,” the more unknown talent gets little time in the spotlight here. While rappers like Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga are fantastic at what they do, it seems a bit silly to create a collective album and not give any newcomers or lesser-known artists prominent features in songs ready for radio promotion.

Still, if you’re looking to get your hip-hop fix until Young Money’s all-stars release their next solo albums, I would recommend giving this one a listen.

Published April 3, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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