Yelawolf: Radioactive


In the profiteering world of mainstream hip-hop, it's shocking to hear a record devoid of cynicism. Yelawolf's uncompromising Radioactive draws on the music he loves most, horror-movie crunk unsuitable for radio. "Hard White (Up in the Club)," produced by Lil Jon, nods affectionately to circa-'98 Three 6 Mafia. Mystical rises from the blunt ashes to deliver an astonishing verse on "Get Away," while "Throw It Up" resurrects the long-forgotten Gangsta Boo. These are not the decisions of a rapper angling for commercial success. Three years ago, Yelawolf was lifted from Gadsden, Alabama, with the career-breaking mixtape Trunk Muzik. Here he swaps canned rock guitars for club music with extra horsepower, a natural fit for his superhumanly dexterous flow. Most impressive, Yela's appeal ranges truly wide, from sweaty ATL clubs to the Appalachian foothills. He is the frequent author of vignettes about rural ruins, bottomed-out farms and the piping heat of a meth lab, but the MC's righteous sincerity aligns him with urbanites like the Dungeon Family. It's that intertwining of hood parables and red-state politics that propels Radioactive. (4 out of 5 stars)