MELANIE J. SIMS
Young Money, "Rise of an Empire" (Cash Money/Republic Records)
Lil Wayne isn't just the founder of Young Money Cash Money Billionaires, he's the rap squad's captain, too. And on "Rise of an Empire," Weezy plays his role well, anchoring a winning compilation from the camp, and making up for last year's lackluster "I Am Not a Human Being II."
"All y'all that lashed out, I'll come see what that's 'bout, but you don't need to call the fireman, to put a (expletive) match out," Wayne rhymes on "Moment," his singular solo contribution to the group's latest release.
Weezy is energetic on the D.A.-produced "Senile," trotting out what sounds like a Drake-inspired flow, while Tyga dishes up a solid but forgettable verse in addition to his duties on the hook. Nicki Minaj drops in on "Senile," too, but she's best on another single, the ruthless "Lookin (Expletive) (Expletive)." The song pleased Minaj's Barbz, but the colorful rapper drew heavy criticism when she used a photo of Malcom X with a rifle in his hands and juxtaposing it with a racial slur for the track's artwork.
That song, along with Drake's Hit-Boy-produced single "Trophies," certainly got fans buzzing about the new album, but the group's top-billers aren't the only ones doing their part.
Newcomer Euro holds his own as the only other YMCMB star commanding a solo track on the compilation, and he proves himself deserving of the honor. The Dominican Republic-born rapper deftly narrates his rise from "ripped shoes. to water views," establishing himself as one to watch on "Induction Speech."
YMCMB regulars Gudda Gudda, Jae Millz and Mack Maine pull their own weight, too, muscling up on "Fresher Than Ever," also featuring Birdman and Flow. Gudda, Millz and Maine also appear on "You Already Know," featuring and produced by Maroon 5 keyboardist and YMCMB signee PJ Morton. But while both the producer and rappers seem to be doing their respective jobs, the collaboration doesn't quite pay off.
Lil Twist sends his croaky vocals cruising over the laid-back beat of "One Time," featuring Tyga and hot-right-now rapper YG, who has a Top 40 hit with "My Hitta." Twist -- who was arrested for investigation for driving under the influence behind the wheel of pal Justin Bieber's car last year -- fits right in on "Bang," in which he brags about "leaving jail in Givenchy."
Though Wayne, Drake and Minaj are the star players, their bench-warmers keep it hot.
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