YoungBoy’s latest is still muddled by inconsistency but proves he’s an ascendant rapper not to be slept on.
YoungBoy Never Broke Again needs you to understand just one thing: that he is a deeply misunderstood character. The blogs, the media, and the industry at large just want to see this man fail; that’s clearly the only reason why he’s not obtained superstar status when he’s regularly pulling millions of views from YouTube and receiving the illustrious Birdman co-sign. Suffice it to say, YoungBoy’s life — more specifically, how one is encouraged to perceive his life based on headlines — revolves around a lot of drama; he’s a rather flagrant figure, one who says little (when he’s not screaming threats at his enemies via his Instagram Live sessions) and chooses to express his anger, sorrows, and joy through aggrieved, nasally howls that make up the majority of his discography. Outside of the pained attempts to come off as sympathetic, he has a strong ear for melody that’s separated him from his peers; he can switch in and out of vocal deliveries with little difficulty, utilizing a barked snarl for the strictly “rapping” portions of his music before going into a full-on croon.
38 Baby 2 serves as another reminder that YoungBoy is not an artist to outright ignore, as his gifts for producing sticky harmonies (“Nawfside” and “Al Nash”) and menacing deadpan inflections (“Don’t give a fuck ’bout where you from, you tote that flag, you a slime” he passionately declares on “I-10 Baby”) continues to impress; he hasn’t become Fortnight-ers favorite musician by pure luck. His songwriting still leaves much to be desired, as the few moments of outright pathos fall decidedly flat: a guest verse from his own mother about how he’s the wind beneath her wings feels clumsily assembled (they already got his father for the emotional voicemail intro that kicks off the project), and tracks like “I Choose You” reek of disingenuous, sad-boy venting with lines like “I’ve been payin’ all these hoes for them to not post me on IG.” YoungBoy’s appeal, particularly for his younger fans, is fueled by this brand of Juice Wrld-styled misogyny, and 2Pac-esque claims that the world is against him, which rings as somewhat false considering his aforementioned insane streaming numbers. When DaBaby, arguably the biggest rapper in the world right now — and another larger than life figure with plenty of legal/media issues of his own — shows up for a phoned-in feature, it feels less like YoungBoy has “made it” and more that others see his viral clout and are looking to cash-in. For now, that’s about the best someone in NBA’s current position can possibly hope for.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 1.